August 26, 2014 Leave a comment
For anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to the state of college readiness in the U.S., the numbers in the report released last week by ACT shouldn’t come as a great surprise. According to the report, just 26 percent of the 1.8 million students who took the ACT last year met the college readiness benchmark in all four subjects tested (English, reading, math and science). And 31 percent of tested students did not meet the readiness benchmark in a single subject.
As I said, these numbers aren’t necessarily a surprise – in fact, they haven’t budged at all since the prior year – but they do paint a fairly bleak picture of the state of college readiness among this country’s graduating seniors.
Why does this matter? Students who aren’t adequately prepared to handle the academic load in college (among other factors) often end up dropping out before completing their degrees. Across the U.S., the percentage of students who graduate from four-year public colleges and universities within six years is just 56 percent – which means an awful lot of students are starting, but not making it all the way through. And yet 65 percent of the jobs created in this country by 2020 will require some post-secondary education, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Add to that the significant “skill premium” – the difference in wages between college educated workers and workers without a college degree – that we’ve discussed previously on the blog, and it’s pretty clear that it’s important for both our young people and our economy as a whole to ensure that more students have the skills they need to be successful in college all the way through to graduation.
One of the recommendations ACT’s report makes on how to increase the college readiness is to give more students access to a rigorous curriculum in high school. This is something we wholeheartedly agree with at Mass Insight. We believe that one way to put students on a path to college success is to treat more courses in middle and high school as “Pre-AP,” establishing a level of rigor that will better prepare students for postsecondary experiences. This summer, we provided Pre-AP/Common Core-aligned Strategic Design trainings to almost 600 teachers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Louisiana. The Common Core provides an opportunity to rethink the way K-12 instruction and curriculum happen. Perhaps this will be the venue through which we raise rigor in the classroom, and maybe a few years from now the ACT annual report will tell a story with a happier ending.