New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years.
The results raise questions about how well the nation’s high schools are preparing students for college, and show the challenge facing the Obama administration in its effort to raise educational standards. The administration won bipartisan support for its education policies early on, but faces a tough fight in the fall over the rewrite and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind program.
While elementary schools have shown progress on national achievement exams, high-school results have stayed perniciously low. Some experts say the lack of rigor in high-school courses is partly to blame.
“High schools are the downfall of American school reform,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. “We haven’t figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”
40 to 49% of Wisconsin High School Graduates who took the ACT met at least three of the four college readiness benchmarks. 50 to 54% of Minnesota’s students met three out of four while 30-39% of Illinois students achieved that standard. Iowa’s percentage was the same as Wisconsin’s.