Seniors across North Carolina have a lot of work to do, especially in science, to be ready for college, results of the first-ever statewide ACT testing show.
Just under one in eight of last years juniors, or 12.8 percent, met the benchmark scores considered a predictor of college success in English, math, reading and science. Last year, the state started requiring all 11th graders to take the exam.
Students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools fared slightly better, with 14.8 percent meeting all four benchmarks. Results varied dramatically by school. Five schools had 30 percent or more of their students hitting benchmarks in all four subjects, with Providence the highest at 40.5 percent. Nine CMS high schools and two Mecklenburg charters had fewer than 5 percent clearing that bar.
The science portion of the college readiness exam was the biggest hurdle for students across the state, with just over 16 percent hitting the score considered a predictor of success. Results were stronger in English (with 39.5 percent of N.C. students hitting the benchmark), reading (33.8 percent) and math (30.4 percent).
North Carolina is one of 10 states requiring all students to take the ACT as part of a move toward a new school rating system.
Our goal in using the ACT as North Carolinas college readiness measure is to give students a clear picture of how well prepared they are for education beyond high school, State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a prepared statement. By giving the ACT in 11th grade, students have an entire year of schooling left to strengthen their preparation.
North Carolina, like most states, is using a new common core approach to teaching reading and math this year, with a goal of moving toward higher-level instruction and national standards. In CMS, Superintendent Heath Morrison plans to release his plan for the district later this fall. He has said a key goal will be not only boosting graduation rates but alsomaking sure graduates are ready to enter college without remediation.
Each portion of the ACT is scored on a 36-point scale. The Iowa-based nonprofit group that administers the exam sets scores that indicate a high probability of success in college, defined as approximately a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course. In English, for instance, a score of 18 or better is considered a predictor of success in English composition, while it takes a 24 in science to be considered ready for college biology.
Many college-bound students also take the SAT, but it is not required. That exam has reading, writing and math sections, with a possible of 800 points per section. In 2012, the SAT administrators also set a benchmark, saying a total of 1,550 out of a possible 2,400 signals a 65 percent likelihood that students will achieve a B grade point average or higher during their first year of college. Only 38 percent of N.C. students who took that test hit the benchmark score.