High Schoolers Suck at Sucky ACT Tests


If acing the ACT is an accurate prediction of future academic and professional success, high schoolers — especially black high schoolers — are fucked. But it’s not, because (extremely biased) test scores clearly don’t equal merit. So why is the ACT’s popularity growing?

Only a quarter of this year’s high school grads who took the ACT tests have the reading, math, English and science skills they need to “succeed in college or a career,” according to data the testing company released Wednesday (via the AP).

The numbers are way, way worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent are fully ready for life after high school, according to The ACT Gods. Maybe that’s because standardized tests are biased?

More info from the AP:

Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.
Of all ACT-tested high school graduates this year, 64 percent met the English benchmark of 18 points. In both reading and math, 44 percent of students met the readiness threshold of 22 points. In science, 36 percent scored well enough to be considered ready for a college biology course, or 23 points.
Only 26 percent of students met the benchmarks for all four sections of the ACT test.

“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.

Alternatively, consider The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) public education director Bob Schaeffer’s thoughts in a press release announcing stagnant ACT results and growing racial score gaps in 2012: “Rational policy-makers would look at the evidence and change course. Yet, instead of abandoning what is clearly the wrong track for improving U.S. schools, policy-makers are actually putting more weight on standardized tests.”

FairTest, which places “special emphasis on eliminating the racial, class, gender, and cultural barriers to equal opportunity posed by standardized tests, and preventing their damage to the quality of education,” points out that over 815 four-year colleges and universities across the U.S have ditched the SAT or ACT when it comes to admissions decisions. The ACT doesn’t have to mean shit, even if you want the traditional college experience!

But for many kids, it’s still a vicious cycle: politicians pass laws that force schools to focus on test prep and pressure them into pushing out low-scoring kids. Students are less engaged in actual learning if they’re fixated on passing standardized tests. Students of color are hit the hardest.

More states and school districts have begun requiring students to take the tests, the AP reports; about 22 percent more students took the ACT test in 2013 than in 2009.


Image via Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin