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Another test report shows flat results

Graduating seniors in Colorado and the nation performed about the same on ACT tests in 2013 as their predecessors did in recent years, according to the study released Wednesday.

The national study came out a week after Colorado reported its 2013 TCAP scores and growth data, which also were largely flat (see story).

The annual report from the testing service found 39 percent of 2013 graduates meet three or more of the four ACT readiness benchmarks, and 31 percent met no benchmarks. The benchmarks indicate students’ chances of success in first-year college courses.

In Colorado only 25 percent of test takers met the benchmarks in all four subjects, compared to 26 percent nationwide.

Colorado’s 2013 average composite score was 20.4, compared to a national average of 20.9. Some 56,027 Colorado graduates took the test.

National and state benchmark performance and composite scores have been in pretty much the same range every year since 2009.

College and career readiness problems persist ,“with the majority [of students] ill-prepared for success at the next level,” according to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013.

The report also found significant gaps between white students and others, both in Colorado and the nation. No more than 48 percent of African American, Hispanic and American Indian students met any of the benchmarks nationally.

The ACT calculates that students who meet the minimum benchmark scores in English, math, reading and science have a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical first-year college credit course.

Here are percentages of Colorado test takers who met benchmarks in individual subjects, with the national percentage in parenthesis:

  • English: 62 percent (64 percent)
  • Reading: 42 (44)
  • Math: 39 (44)
  • Science: 36 (36)

The ACT report also provides details about the effects on scores of taking core academic courses and a rigorous curriculum in middle school, and about the relationship between student goals and overall student engagement and test performance.

Colorado is in the middle of a years-long effort to improve student readiness for college, using steps mandated by a 2008 law. Those measures include new academic content standards, in effect this year for all school districts; new high school graduation guidelines (see story), and creation of a new diploma that signifies college readiness (see story).

The Department of Higher Education also is revising college admissions requirements and remediation policies (see story).

Nationwide, some 54 percent of 2013’s 1.8 million high school graduates took the ACT tests. In 29 states 50 percent or more of grads took the tests, and 12 states had participation of 90 percent or higher. Colorado requires all high schools juniors to take the test, regardless of whether they plan to attend college. About 57 percent of state high school graduates went on to college in 2011, the most recent data available.

For 2013 ACT benchmarks were adjusted up one point in reading and down one point in science on the 36-point scale. The 2013 report also includes scores from students who received accommodations in taking the tests, which wasn’t the case in the past.

Annual national and state results for the other major college entrance exam, the SAT, usually are released in September. The 2012 report found that about 43 percent of high school graduates were ready for college. In the past Colorado students have scored higher than the national mean on the SAT tests. But only about 17 percent of Colorado students took the test in 2012, and only 14 percent of students who graduated from public high schools.

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