Underserved students, who represent nearly half (46 percent) of ACT-tested 2017 U.S. high school graduates, are defined as students who would be the first generation in their family to attend college, come from low-income families and/or self-identify their race/ethnicity as minority. Research suggests students with any of these three characteristics are less likely than others to have access to high-quality educational and career planning opportunities and resources.
Only 9 percent of ACT-tested graduates who possessed all three underserved characteristics showed strong readiness for college coursework, meeting three or four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (English, mathematics, reading and science). Even among students who met only one of the underserved criteria, just 26 percent showed strong readiness. In comparison, the majority (54 percent) of graduates who were not underserved showed strong readiness for college.
Conversely, the majority of underserved students—including 81 percent of those with all three underserved characteristics—achieved only one or none of the four ACT benchmarks. Those students are likely to struggle in college-level coursework.
While it’s no surprise that underserved students fall behind their peers due to the inequities that exist, it is extremely alarming and concerning to see how large this achievement gap really is. The gap presents a major risk to our nation’s goals for postsecondary completion and economic competitiveness. We must work harder to ensure these students have access to quality coursework and information to assist them in planning for the future.
Last year ACT launched the ACT Center for Equity in Learning to help do just that. The results are based on the more than 2 million 2017 graduates—60 percent of the national graduating class—who took the ACT.
The new ACT report includes ACT score results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 16 states that required all students to take the ACT as part of their statewide testing programs and another four states that funded ACT testing on an optional basis. It also includes the results from more than 1,100 individual school districts across the country that administered the ACT to all students.
View the ACT Condition of College and Career Readiness for California report summary at this link.