College & Workforce Readiness

ACT Scores Show Little to Crow About

By Catherine Gewertz — August 19, 2009 1 min read
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The new ACT scores are out, and they’re, um, nothing to get excited about. Not even one-quarter of last year’s test-taking seniors make the college-ready grade.

In a reprise of Tevye’s memorable speech in “Fiddler On The Roof,” (“on the other hand... ... but on the other hand...”) there is a flip side to the blandness of the report. More students are taking the test, especially minority students. But with so few teenagers ready for college, there is still plenty to worry about.

ACT Inc. tries hard to make the exam a reflection of college expectations (note to K-12 systems: it kinda creates a problem when your high school curriculum doesn’t do the same). Every few years, it surveys college professors and high school teachers to refine and update its concept of what kids should know and be able to do when they get diplomas.

Hmm. So if that is effective at ensuring that the ACT accurately reflects the input and expectations of higher ed, how do high schools get the message and adapt their curriculum and teaching? Isn’t this what we need to start closing the college-readiness gap?

Jon Erickson, ACT’s vice president of educational services, stopped by to see me yesterday morning, so I asked him that question. He said this is actually an area that ACT is working on. They’re designing professional development that would help teachers align their teaching to the curriculum surveys.

A work in progress, worth watching.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.