ACT’s verdict on the real college readiness rate for Kentucky’s students

We’ve heard a lot of “stuff” about Kentucky’s supposedly wonderful college readiness rates over the past few years since Common Core came along.

For example, last year the Kentucky statewide school report card (access from here) claimed the overall College and/or Career readiness rate was 62.5 percent, a figure Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has been touting at every possible occasion. More relevant to our discussion today, that same report shows for the sub-area of college readiness only, 24,322 students out of 43,722 students, or 55.6 percent of the Kentucky public high school class of 2014, were college ready.

However, one of the most useful measures of college readiness just released its annual report for Kentucky’s high school graduates of 2015, and the “real stuff” shows something very different.

The ACT, Inc.’s “ACT Profile Report, State, Graduating Class 2015, Kentucky” report contains information for all Kentucky graduates from public, private and homeschool sources. However, public school students are the dominant group in this mix, so the data released by the ACT pretty closely reflects what is happening in the public schools in Kentucky (I’ll have more detailed information about Kentucky’s public schools by themselves when I get a chance to review a separate data release due later today from the Kentucky Department of Education).

For sure, what the ACT data tells us isn’t so rosy.

This graph, taken from ACT’s new report for Kentucky, tells the rather grim story.

ACT All Subject Benchmark Performance for Kentucky 2015

Overall, ACT test results show only 21 percent of all Kentucky’s graduates, public, private and home school combined, were fully prepared for a liberal arts college education with adequate skills in English, math, reading and science.

That’s all!

Just 21 percent!

Based on past history, this college-ready number would be even lower if only the public school graduates were considered.

The situation looks far grimmer when we review how Kentucky’s racial minorities fared.

• Only one in 20 black students – just five percent – were fully ready for college. That gruesome figure is unchanged from last year.
• A not much higher percentage of Hispanics, just 14 percent, were prepared, as well.

Overall, these data points just don’t mesh with claims from the Kentucky Department of Education that more than half our kids are being prepared for college. What kind of college are they being prepared for? Certainly not the kind the ACT, Inc. has in mind.

This unhappy news will be no surprise to many businessmen in this state. A recent news report at says business leaders from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce are really upset about the poor quality of recent graduates from Kentucky’s Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) – graduates who just were not ready for careers. Well, the ACT data points to the fact that this lack of readiness probably starts well before our high school graduates enter a KCTCS campus, or even graduate from high school.

One more point to consider: The ACT National Profile Report shows that across the nation 28 percent of all high school graduates in 2015 were fully college ready across the four subjects ACT tests. That is obviously higher than the 21 percent rate Kentucky posted. The national readiness rates for blacks and Hispanics were both a point higher than in Kentucky, as well, though it is clear the Bluegrass State is far from the only place in this country that is under-serving our minority students.

So – Frankfort, we have a problem. Even when we include our home school and private school students in the data, Kentucky’s K to 12 education system isn’t delivering nearly well enough for our state – not for our students, and not for our economy’s needs, either. Let’s stop pushing fantasy numbers and let’s start working to fix our obvious problems.

Stay tuned, because there is a lot more to talk about in the new ACT reports, and the state’s report on the public school only results is still pending, as well.


  1. IMO, KY public schools will never do any better than this, at least not until the feds are out of the picture and school boards and PARENTS have local control. Teachers don’t have the tools: they can’t discipline, they are under pressue to teach to the test, fed money has corrupted the system. Schools and admins are far far too big — students (like citizens) are the peons at the bottom of the pyramid.

    I graduated in 1973 from GRC in Winchester. I skipped 55 days of school my senior year (smoking pot and going to the mall if you must know) and made straight A’s. As a result, I was one of those kids who got to college and couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence to save my life. My college roommate taught me to write and I survived college by the skin of my teeth.

    My husband and I homeschooled our boys K-12. We moved back to KY when they were 17 and 18 and they took the GED. Simple. They hardly studied and passed easily even though we taught almost no geography or sciences, some history, with a big focus on reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

    My point is that in the intervening years from ’73 to 2010, things do not appear to have improved.

    My solution is to remove the feds, KY should take back KY schools, allow all school choice for parents and support them in whatever choice they make: charter, public, private, homeschool.

    Just one of the reasons I’m all in for Matt Bevin for the governor’s seat. With 9 kids, he’s on top of the education dilemma and what that means for our kids’ futures. Conway clearly is fine with the status quo, clueless.

    Thank you, Jim. Much needed info out in the world!


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