There were approximately 1.9 million high school graduating students who took the ACT exam this year. The results of the 2015 ACT tests show that a majority of students are still unprepared for entering a college institution, with 31% of the recent high school grads that took the ACT are still not ready for college courses in English, Science, Reading, and Mathematics. The ACT tests predict college readiness of a student by determining whether or not a student meets the required “Readiness Benchmark” for a certain subject.

## What exactly is the Readiness Benchmark?

These ACT benchmarks are normalized scores that are supposed to reflect a student’s preparedness for a certain subject. If students don’t achieve the benchmark score, then it is supposed to speak to their inability to perform well in an equivalent college credit class of the same subject. The table below shows the relevant ACT exams and their ACT Benchmark scores along with the equivalent college courses that a student will most likely take in their first year.

College Course ACT® Subject Test The ACT® Benchmark
English Composition English 18
College Algebra Mathematics 22
Biology Science 23

According to the ACT, scoring at the set ACT Benchmark for the specified subject-area test indicates the chances of how a student will perform in an equivalent first year college-credit course. Specifically, the benchmark score indicates that a student would have a 50% chance to get a B or higher in the class and a 75% chance to obtain a C or higher.

## What do the results show us?

The 2015 results reveal that 31% of the students who took the ACT exams did not meet any of the College Readiness Benchmarks. Another way to put that is that it indicates that there are 589,000 students (31% of 1.9 million) who do not fit in that “50% chance of getting a B or higher” in their first year college course. More specifically, while only 28% met the college readiness benchmarks for all subjects. The alarming thing about these stats is that not much has changed in the past couple years. The graph below compares the percentage of students meeting the benchmarks for the ACT subject tests:

Figure 1. Percentage of Students Meeting ACT Benchmarks 2011-2015

A few interesting points to make from this graph. First one being that over the last three years, there hasn’t been much of a change for the “Zero Benchmarks Met” trend line. It’s pretty much stayed stagnant meaning that there hasn’t been much improvement for a large percentage of students. Second point is there seems to be a slight increase in the amount of students who achieve all 4 of the benchmarks since 2014, but that number still has much to be improved. The ideal trend would be to see the “Zero Benchmarks Met” trend line to decrease over time, with the other 4 lines increasing, with an emphasis on 3 or more benchmarks being met.

However, as it stands, the amounts of students meeting the benchmarks are still low and there is vast room for improvement. This could also be an indicator that something may need to change in the way subjects are taught at schools. Data does not lie, and what this data shows is that benchmarks are not being made, which could be directly correlated to instructional methods in the current educational system.

## How to Improve for the Future

This data analysis conducted by the ACT should provide as a wake-up call for teachers and school to reevaluate their classroom standards. Poor performance on meeting benchmarks could serve as an indicator onto which subject areas need more attention and focus.

As a teacher, there are many things that can be implemented to ensure improved performance for students, but below are just a few ideas:

1. Reevaluate your current subject curriculum to ensure that standards similar to the ones on the ACT are being met in your own classroom throughout the year.
2. Establish your own benchmarks. This will obviously vary by instructor, but no one knows the students in the classroom better than the teacher. They know learning patterns and they’re supposed to know the overall strengths and weaknesses of their students. By creating your own benchmarks, you can move at a pace that’s best for your students in the long run.
3. Any and all instructional material given to students must align with goals and standards established by the teacher.

In addition to teachers, school administration should also hold some responsibility in improving student performance. Administration can invest in better student performance by investing in the teachers. Providing opportunities for professional development allows for teachers to learn & gain extra skill sets that can help them be better teachers in the classroom.

Although it may seem like a dire situation, this study conducted by the ACT provides comfort in knowing where weaknesses may lie and provide the necessary insight in how to correct it for the future. Educational reform is on the horizon, so it really is up to the future educational leaders to make the necessary changes to help shape and inspire the future generation to come.

Written by Jake Yap, Co-founder at Omninox