60 Percent of 2012 High School Grads Are at Risk of Struggling With College and Their Career

The high-stakes ACT test offers a gloomy prediction for this year's high school graduates.

ACT test results offer more evidence showing our students are falling behind.  (Photo: Fuse/Getty Images)

Aug 22, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He is particularly interested in politics and policy.

According to the ACT report The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012, 60 percent of high school graduates are at risk of not succeeding in college and careers.

This year's report is especially significant because a record number, 1.66 million college-bound students (52 percent of the 2012 graduating class), took the ACT college and career readiness exam this year.

The report bases its claim on the number of students who failed to meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Benchmarks are calculated for each of the test sections (math, English, reading, and science) by comparing the college grades of ACT-tested students against their ACT results.

According to the report:

[The ACTs] specify the minimum score needed on each of the four ACT subject tests to indicate that a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area.

The College Readiness Benchmarks are updated annually, and are supposed to reflect the likelihood of a student succeeding.

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Each subject on the ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36. The benchmarks are not set particularly high, and the score per subject are as follows: 18 for English, 21 for math, 22 for reading, and 24 for science.

The most disappointing finding: 28 percent of test takers failed to meet the benchmarks in all four subjects.

Other significant findings in the report included:

  • 15 percent of students met the benchmark in only one subject
  • 17 percent of students met the benchmark in only two subjects
  • More than half of African American, American Indian and Hispanic students failed to meet any of the benchmarks
  • The majority of Asian and White students exceeded the benchmark in all subjects except science

John Whitmore, CEO of the ACT, went a step further stressing the economic implications of students' struggles.

Far too many high school graduates are still falling short academically, we need to do more to ensure that our young people improve. The advanced global economy requires American students to perform at their highest level to compete in the future job market and maintain the long-term economic security of the U.S.

While test score do not always translate into economic preparedness and success, there is no economic downside to having a more educated population.

The reported added that "ACT research points to the importance of early monitoring and intervention to identify students who are at risk."

Do you think standardized test scores are useful in determining college and career success? Tell us in the comments.