Reports: Over Half of High Schoolers Not Academically Ready for College

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Work on building your own bridge from high school to college

More news that points to the need for better college prep . . .

Recently, College Board (creators of the SAT) published a piece reporting that just 43% of SAT-takers in the class of ’12 possess “the level of academic preparedness associated with a high likelihood of college success.” (Read the article here.)

ACT, purveyors of the other major college entrance exam in the U.S., released similar findings in their August report The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012 (read the story in Education Week, “ACT Finds Most Students Still Not Ready for College,” here).

Something that struck me in both stories is that the number of students taking these tests is at an all-time high; many in that number would be first-generation college students or do not speak English as their first language. Also, the ACT is mandatory in some states for all high school juniors (raising the question, as Professor Michael Kirst in the Education Week article notes, of how much those students applied themselves to the test). Sobering as the headlines may sound, such information about the test-taking pool is important to keep in mind.

Plus, there is good news for the studious: both organizations note students who take a more challenging curriculum in high school do perform better on the tests (and, I’ll wager, they perform better in the college classroom).

Even so, add these reports to the stack of evidence bolstering what we in higher ed see every day: students entering college, all too frequently, simply are not prepared to make the grade.

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State of the SAT

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Mean SAT Score for reading and math tests, by year

Image via Wikipedia

This article in Inside Higher Ed (“SAT Scores Drop”) offers analysis of the latest news from the College Board. The piece nods to the ongoing debates over standardized testing: what scores really mean, and the role tests ought to play in college admissions. Further SAT-related internet articles in the last two days discuss the achievement gap, who’s taking the tests now, and efficacy of a testing culture, in general.

My own view is that such standardized tests cannot show everything about a student’s ability and knowledge, but they do show something, particularly in the aggregate. So scores dropping over time is, in my opinion, cause for concern.

Remember, though, if the SAT does reflect an individual’s preparedness for college, of course that’s something you can work to improve yourself. Note this part of the College Board report – it’s rather useful and worth repeating:

 “Rigorous High School Education is Critical”: That is, students who consume a healthier academic plate (core curriculum) perform better on the SAT; and the rigor of the courses themselves matters. (For more information, visit the College Board’s website and see “News & Press”:

In other words, students who challenge themselves in their studies end up doing better on tests.

If I might offer related advice: Students who challenge themselves academically before college end up performing better in college, too.

So whether or not a college entrance exam is in your near future, you should study hard and seek out the most challenging courses, the most challenging teachers, and the best extracurricular study enhancements you can.

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