How the class of 2014 did on the ACT

The new standardized test results from the ACT released Wednesday suggest that most graduating high school seniors are not prepared to succeed in college.

That's the big take-home message from the ACT's release of its test results. A record 1.8 million high school seniors took the test which represented 57 percent of all graduates in the class of 2014.

The average ACT score for the 2014 graduating class was 21 out of a maximum score of 36. The score nudged up just one-tenth of a percent from last year.

Most students aren't prepared for first-year college courses

The ACT annually analyzes the data in the subjects that it tests -- English, reading, math and science -- to determine how many graduating seniors are ready for the rigors of college. The ACT concluded that only 26 percent of high school seniors were prepared to handle first-year college courses in all four areas.

According to the ACT, students who meet one of its college-readiness benchmarks have a 50 percent chance of earning at least a B in that subject and a 75% chance of earning at least a C.

Students struggled the most with the science section which only 37 percent of the seniors scored high enough to be judged ready for entry-level science courses without remediation. The seniors did the best with English, which includes questions on grammar, punctuation and sentence structure, with 64 percent deemed ready.

The latest batch of scores continue to show large gaps in racial achievement. Here are the breakdowns of average ACT scores for five ethnic/racial groups:

  • African-Americans 17.0
  • American Indians 18.0
  • Asians 23.5
  • Hispanics 18.8
  • Whites 22.3

Since 2010, the composite scores of these groups have remained essentially the same except for a full point drop for Native Americans.

Observers offer a variety of reasons to explain why scores are stagnant.

The ACT notes, for instance, that the number of high school graduates who have taken the test since 2010 has increased by 17.7%. Part of this can be attributed to the partnerships that the ACT has with 13 states and many school districts across the country that tests all students and not just those who are college bound.

Bob Schaeffer, the public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) suggests that test-driven educational policies, including the controversial No Child Left Behind federal program and statewide efforts, have contributed to the lack of upward movement.

Eighty-six percent of high school seniors who took the ACT said they aspired to go the college, but the reality will no doubt be different. Among last year's high school seniors, 87 percent said they wanted to attend college, but only 69 percent enrolled.