ACT results troubling for underserved learners

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The latest annual score report from ACT was released today, and the numbers are, to say the least, upsetting. They reflect an ever-expanding base of information that shows we still have a seriously alarming achievement gap in the United States that simply isn’t shrinking fast enough.

The ACT, now the most widely administered college admissions test in America, measures how well students have mastered high-school-level content and their likelihood of success in college courses. The nonprofit that develops and administers the assessment measured the achievement of underserved or disadvantaged students against their peers for the first time this year.

Of the comparison, ACT chief executive Marten Roorda said, “We knew it was bad, but we didn’t know it was this bad.”

The gist is this: only 9 percent of students who came from low-income families, whose parents did not go to college, and who identify as black, Hispanic, American Indian or Pacific Islander are strongly ready for college. Conversely, students who did not fall into any of those categories showed a strong readiness rate six times higher or 54 percent.

 

Applying ACT results to Texas

So what does that mean for Texas? Well, in a state that enrolls over 3.5 million minority students, approximately 75 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, it’s extremely likely we have a large number of students who fit in the “underserved learner” category defined by ACT.

That doesn’t mean all is lost. If nearly one in ten underserved learners is achieving at the same level as the majority of their non-disadvantaged peers, someone held them to high expectations and helped them achieve lofty goals. It’s time all 100 percent get a high-quality public education and leave high school prepared for a successful future.

College may not be the best option for every high school graduate, but it is imperative we make sure their education provides them the opportunity to choose their path: regardless of income, family history, or race/ethnicity. And as we have long said, our policymakers must address “gross systemic inequities.” It is our job as Texans to demand they do.

Some folks will say we push “doom and gloom” too often in the education reform movement. But with numbers like we keep seeing, many students are likely to be “doomed” and that makes us pretty darn gloomy. So we’ll say it again; there’s too much at stake to keep pretending everything’s just fine.

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