An Alarming Trend?

Education Week reports on the latest ACT exam results, a standardized exam that measures college readiness in the United States. Apparently, this year, the average score in the math section is a 20-year low. More recently, going as far back as 2014, the percentage of students reaching the math college readiness benchmark is actually declining. Thus, the trend is not just toward lower scores but also toward lower number of college-ready high school graduates.

Above copied from Education Week

Above copied from
Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018

And it is not just math. From the above graph, performance in English is also on a downward trajectory.

Adding to this worry is encapsulated by a remark from ACT mentioned in the Education Week article:
In general, test scores tend to decline when the pool of test-takers gets larger and includes more students of varying skill levels. The most recent class of ACT-tested students was smaller, however, and its diversity was unchanged, ACT officials said. The fact that scores declined anyway is cause for serious concern, Roorda said. “We should see this as an alarm bell,” he said.
More troubling, however, is the achievement gap based on race and socio-economic status:

Above copied from
Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018

Included in the list of underserved criteria are: "they would be the first generation to attend college, come from low-income families, and/or self-identify their race/ethnicity as minority." Thus, a child who comes from a family that is low income, has parents that did not attend college, and is black American will fall into meeting 3 underserved criteria. And in this group, more than four in five would have either failed in all subjects or pass only one.


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