Only 23% of Georgia High School Graduates Who Took the ACT Prepared for College Coursework, ACT Results Show

August 21, 2013

According to an annual ACT report released today, only 23% of 2013 Georgia high school graduates who took the ACT are ready for college-level coursework in Mathematics, Reading, English, and Science. One-third of test-taking graduates failed to meet college readiness benchmarks in any subject. These figures have remained virtually the same since 2010 when 21% of Georgia students met all benchmarks. Nationally, 26% of public high school graduates met all four benchmarks in 2013.

To determine college readiness, the ACT sets benchmark scores in each subject (English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science) that indicate whether a student is likely to succeed in college courses. ACT developed the benchmarks by tracking a representative sample of students’ actual performance in college courses. Students who meet the benchmark have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher or a 75% chance of earning a C or higher in corresponding freshman-level college courses.

Table 1 shows the College Readiness Benchmarks for each subject area as well as Georgia’s performance in each. Georgia lags the national average for the percent of students meeting the College Readiness Benchmark in Reading, Mathematics, and Science.

The data also show sizable achievement gaps by race/ethnicity in Georgia. Only 12% of Black students and 30% of Hispanic students met three or more benchmarks, while 52% of white students and 61% of Asian students met three or more benchmarks.

Georgia’s average ACT score for high school graduates is 20.7 and has remained flat since 2010. It slightly lags the national average of 20.9, and the gap between Georgia’s average and the national average has closed by only 0.1 points since 2010. Over that time period, the percent of Georgia graduates taking the ACT has increased from 44% to 51%. Historically, as a state’s percentage of students taking the test increases, the state’s average test score decreases. The fact that Georgia’s scores remained constant indicates that increased participation rates may have masked some improvement. Still, 11 states test a greater percentage of students than Georgia but have average scores equal to or greater than Georgia.  In fact, Minnesota tests 74% of its graduates and has the 7th highest average ACT score in the country (23.0).

Thirteen percent of Georgia test takers attend private school. Without these students, the state average drops to 20.3, and only 21% of students met all four benchmarks.

While it is encouraging to see Georgia’s ACT participation rates increase over the last few years, Georgia must address the issue of having three of every four high school graduates unprepared for college coursework in all subjects if it is to meet growing workforce demands.

Released each year, The Condition of College & Career Readiness Report provides an overview of state-level ACT performance and gives a picture of high school graduates’ preparedness for college and careers.

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