This year’s ACT scores reveal that 75% of those who take the test will require remedial assistance in at least one subject during their college enrollment. This disturbing statistic certainly has major implications for curriculum development throughout the country.
This college entrance exam is more curriculum-based than the SAT, as it contains math, reading, writing and science sections. Nationally, more students take the ACT than the SAT, although the latter exam is more popular on the East and West Coasts. However, the expansion of the SAT that occurred since 2005 has affected the number of students taking the ACT. More students are opting to take both exams, as colleges will accept either test. This year, a record 1.42 million students took the ACT. That figure represents a 9% increase over last year’s number. According to the Star Ledger of New Jersey, “At least a third of that expansion came from states that traditionally saw college-bound students take only the SAT, with the percentage increases rising by double digits in New York, Connecticut, California, Oregon and New Jersey.” Students interested in majoring in either math or science sometimes choose to take the ACT. In fact, some educators and college administrators question whether some high-achieving students are actually propping up average scores nationally.
The perfect ACT score for each of the four sections is 36. The national composite score for this year’s graduating class was 21.1, a slight decrease from last year’s scores. USA Today reported that “ACT scores continue to show huge gaps remain between the preparation students receive in high school and what they need to succeed in college. Only 22% met a benchmark score for college readiness in all four subjects — English, math, reading and science. According to an ACT spokesman, part of reason for the reason for the poor test performance is that many students taking the test have not completed four years of college preparation courses. They maintain that “Students who take a four years of English, and three each of math, science and social studies — are significantly more likely to meet benchmarks.” The test developers also stress that these courses need to be rigorous. “Among 2008 graduates who took the minimum core curriculum in math — algebra I and II plus geometry — just 14% met the math benchmark.”
No single test can indicate a student’s success in college. However, high schools will better serve their students and the nation if they challenge their students.