This graph, which I developed from data in the Kentucky Department of Education’s news release 11-067 about the 2011 ACT scores, tells the tale (click on it to enlarge).
Also, keep in mind that the benchmarks are developed by ACT after a survey of a number of colleges that use this assessment for admissions. Thus, the benchmarks represent an average level of rigor across a number of different colleges. Students with lower scores might survive in colleges with lower levels of rigor, but their educations will probably be of lesser quality, as well. On the other hand, students will need even higher performance to survive in more demanding schools.
Currently, a little more than half of our students are going on to postsecondary education. It looks like most of them are ready for a freshman college English composition course.
However, in math, only one in four Kentucky public high school graduates is ready for college algebra, generally the minimal math requirement for most degrees except elementary school teachers (and, that is a mistake I have often commented about before).
Only two out of five Kentucky public high school graduates read well enough to survive a freshman social studies course in a typical university.
Less than half of our college bound students are likely to survive in freshman biology or another science course.
Finally, only 14 percent of our graduates are fully prepared for a liberal arts education across all four areas.
As you examine the graph, you will see that progress so far is coming at a painfully slow rate, generally improving by only a percentage point or two over the past three years. We need to jump start this process if we are going to do justice to our kids, who are about to enter a very changed adult world where yesterday’s education simply will no longer do.