Seeking Greater High School Rigor:
Wisconsin ACT Scores Show College Readiness Gap

Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance [156K PDF Report]:

Wisconsin high school seniors have the second-highest average ACT scores in the U.S. However, ACT finds that only 29% of those tested have a 50% chance of earning a B or a 75% chance of earning a C in each of four college freshman courses: English composition, algebra, social sciences, and biology. Among African-American students, that chance is 4%.
In studying 2007 high school graduates, ACT found that only 29% (boxed in table below) of 46,430 Wisconsin students tested met college-readiness benchmarks in four core subject areas; the national percentage was even lower (23%). In its report “College Readiness: Rigor at Risk,” the ACT testing service concluded that “our high school graduates are in danger of entering college or the workforce without sufficient academic preparation.”

The ACT testing service has urged high schools to offer–and students to pursue–core curricula of sufficient depth and rigor to ensure college success. The minimum core (detailed in the table above, col. 1) includes four years of English and three years each of social studies, math, and science. Unfortunately, ACT has found that the current “quality and intensity–inother words rigor–of the high school curriculum” is not adequate to prepare students for college unless they take courses beyond the core. Calling that “neither realistic nor justifiable,” ACT says it is “essential” that we “improve the quality of core courses that really matter in preparing students for college and work.”
The testing firm goes onto observe that much of the loss in momentum toward college readiness “appears to be occurring during the last two years of high school.” Data in the table support ACT’s concern. The first four columns show the “core” curriculum, as well as a maximal course load (“core plus”) that includes math through calculus. The final two show the percentages of Wisconsin-tested students who met the readiness benchmarks, having pursued one of the two curricula. The need for rigor in all high school courses is reflected in the “collegeready” percentages of Wisconsin students taking four or more years of classes in all areas (“core +”).