While test scores have increased slightly, the news still isn’t good.
According to newly-released ACT scores, 28% of this year’s high-school graduates did not score high enough on the standardized test to meet the standards for expected college success. Nearly three in 10 test takers (28%) failed to meet any of the benchmarks in the four core subject areas of English, math, reading and science.
That percentage, unchanged since last year, means that when the class of 2011 gets to campus this fall, many will need to take several remedial courses to make up for their lack of preparedness.
“Too many students are still falling through the cracks,” Jon Erickson, interim president of ACT’s Education Division, said in a press release. “It’s important that we work hard to ensure that all young people graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college and career.”
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But while more than a quarter of students were unprepared for college, another 25% of test takers successfully met the college-readiness standard in all of the four core subjects. That’s a slight increase over last year’s 24%, according to the Associated Press, and the third straight year of such improvement from 2007, when 23% of students met all four benchmarks.
What is especially disconcerting about this year’s scores, though, is the ever-widening achievement gap between the top-scoring students — Asians and whites — and the lowest scorers — blacks, Hispanics and American Indians — grew slightly wider between 2007 and 2011, according to the Washington Post.
For example, while composite scores among Asian students (the very highest performing group) improved slightly from 2007 to 2011 — from 22.6 in 2007 to 23.6 in 2011 — scores among black students (the lowest performing group) remained at 17 for both years. The national average composite score for 2011 was 21.1. (All scores are out of a possible 36.)
Additionally, 41% of Asian students met the college benchmarks in all four subject areas and 31% of whites did, while just 11% of Hispanics and 4% of blacks met all four benchmarks, according to NPR.
While the ACT scores are cause for concern, researchers have long questioned the effectiveness of standardized tests as a measure of future academic success. Indeed, a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found the science and reading portions of the test have “little or no” ability to help colleges predict whether applicants will succeed.
The study found, however, that the two remaining sections, English and math, were “highly predictive” of college success, meaning that graduates who failed to meet the benchmark in those subject areas might want to hit the books.
Kayla Webley is a Writer-Reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley or on Facebook at facebook.com/kaylalwebley. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME .