Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Minorities and the ACT college-entrance exam

Far more Hispanic students are taking the ACT than ever, but their scores continue to fall short of levels considered necessary for strong performance in college. Scores released by ACT Inc. for the graduating class of 2010 show that the number of Hispanic students who have taken the college-entrance exam during high school grew 84% in the past five years. Participation by Asian-American students rose by 63% and by African-American students 55%, compared with a 29% rise in the number of white students. But stubborn score gaps persist among racial and ethnic groups. Hispanic and black students were the least likely to reach ACT score levels that are predictive of college success. Only 11% of Hispanic students and 4% of black students met the ACT’s benchmarks for college readiness in all four subject areas tested, compared with 30% of white students and 39% of Asian students. The exam, which is scored on a 36-point scale, covers mathematics, English, reading, and science. The gaps were even more stark on individual subjects. In math, for instance, 13% of black students and 27% of Hispanic students met the college-ready score of 22, compared with 52% of white students and 68% of Asian students. Hispanic and black students were also far less likely than their white or Asian counterparts to have received the high school preparation that ACT research says equips them to thrive in college. About two-thirds of Hispanic and black students had taken four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies, compared with three-quarters of white students and eight in 10 Asians.

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