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Report: More-low income kids take ACT, but results are stagnant

Craig Clough | July 20, 2015

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graduateThere’s a little good news/bad news in a new report analyzing the college-readiness of low-income students who took the ACT test.

More low-income students than ever took the test in 2014, according to the report, and a high level of them expressed a plan to attend college.

But the bad news: performance by low-income students on the test remained stagnant for a fifth straight year.

The report from ACT and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships — The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: Low Income Students — found that a high-level of low-income students, 96 percent, who took the test had plans to attend college, compared with 86 percent of other students. However, half of the low-income students did not meet any of the four key ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared with 31 percent of all students.

“We’ve known for a long time that family income and educational success are strongly correlated, and these data confirm that,” Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners, said in a statement. “Our hope is that these findings will bring more attention to the urgent need to improve the academic quality of instruction these students receive and the rigor of courses offered at their schools.”

The report analyzed the results of the 1.8 million students who took the test in 2014. During registration, students were asked to provide information about parental education, family income, high school courses taken and college aspirations.

About 24 percent of ACT-tested graduates in 2014 were low-income, with family income below $36,000, compared with 34 percent of students who reported a family income of $60,000 and higher.

The report also found that students who take ACT’s recommended core curriculum of four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies are much more likely than those who don’t to show readiness for college coursework.

The struggle to get low-income high school students enrolled in and passing the proper courses to prepare them for college is a struggle that LA Unified is well-familiar with. With an estimated 80 percent of its students living at or below the poverty line, the district rolled out an ambitious plan called A-G a decade ago that made a lineup of college-prep courses and earning a “C” or better a graduation requirement.

But the plan fell apart, as district data collected earlier this year indicated that only 39 percent of students in the Class of 2017 were on track to meet the standards.

In response, the LA Unified school board voted to make a “D” acceptable for graduating, despite the likelihood that it would decrease students’ chances at being accepted to any California public university.

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