When Will They Learn?

The Wall Street Journal published an article dealing with the lack of educational achievement as indicated by ACT test scores.

Only about a quarter of the 2009 high school graduates taking the ACT admissions test have the skills to succeed in college, according to a report on the exam that shows little improvement over results from the 2008 graduating class.

The Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT said 23% of this year’s high school graduates had scores that indicated they were ready for college in all four ACT subject areas, or had at least a 75% chance of earning a grade of C or better in entry-level courses. Last year, a similar ACT analysis found that 22% of the class of 2008 was college-ready.

About 1.48 million of the 3.3 million members of the high school class of 2009 took the ACT, typically in their junior year. ACT said its report was based on comparing students’ ACT test scores in English, reading, math and science with the grades they earned in related courses during their first year in college.

The report comes as budget concerns are forcing many state universities to cut back on slots for new students and raise admission standards. Many are also eliminating remedial courses, making it tougher for unprepared students to stay in school.

Among single subject areas, the level of preparedness was worst in science, where only 28% of students were ready for college-level biology. Another problem was math, where 42% were deemed prepared for college algebra.

.A Department of Education report in April on the results from the National Assessment of Education Progress found that U.S. high school students haven’t made any significant progress in reading or math for nearly four decades.

ACT said about 40% of 2009 test-takers were unable to use the correct adverb or adjective to form a sentence, or couldn’t use the correct preposition in a phrase. The same proportion couldn’t solve multi-step math problems involving percentages and fractions.

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, an antitesting advocacy group, said the class of ’09 was in the 5th grade when the NCLB law passed. “No Child promised to improve college readiness,” he said. “The data show, in fact, that scores have been stagnant that achievement gaps are essentially unchanged.”

I disagree with Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education who is quoted in the article as saying, “The only way you improve these numbers and get them higher is by improving your secondary schools.”  No, the only way to get these numbers higher is by having the colleges not accept students who are not prepared to do college work.  If students and high schools are made aware that colleges will not accept substandard high school work maybe both parties will work harder.