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ACT report: No amount of educational investment works to close achievement gaps unless students challenge themselves

LatinaLista — For some reason, everybody is finally noticing that there exists an educational crisis in this country. Achievement gaps among students of different ethnicities are widening, the drop out rate is worsening and the United States is falling behind other countries in producing students who can read at grade level and do math and science.

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As a result of this sudden enlightenment, different organizations around the country are sponsoring programs or making announcements having to do with education: All week long, NBC is hosting Education Nation; Target announced they were giving $500 million to education; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he was giving $100 million to revamp the failing Newark, N.J. public school system; The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National League of Cities announced $12 million in grants to fund innovative proposals to boost college completion rates in four cities; and on Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Bush Institute will announce a nationwide education initiative “when fully operational, will be the largest in U.S. history to improve the performance of America’s school principals.”

Yet, no amount of money can ensure the individual college success of students who are now considered “at-risk” unless something very fundamental changes — the kinds of courses the students take to prepare themselves for higher education.

A new ACT report entitled Mind the Gaps: How College Readiness Narrows Achievement Gaps in College Success found that at-risk students are not challenging themselves by taking “rigorous” class loads.

The report’s researchers found that when at-risk students challenge themselves with these kinds of classes that’s when results were achieved.

The study analyzed the postsecondary outcomes of tens of thousands of students who had taken the ACT college admission and placement exam in high school. The college outcomes considered included enrollment, need for remediation, first- to second-year retention, course grades, overall grade point average and degree completion.


ACT data show that gaps exist between underrepresented minority and white students and between lower family income and higher family income groups in each of those areas. However, the gaps are significantly reduced, in some cases by two-thirds or more, for students who are college and career ready as evidenced by their meeting or exceeding all four College Readiness Benchmarks (English, math, reading, and science) on the ACT exam.

However, as the report points out, it’s not high school when these students have to start preparing themselves for college — it starts in kindergarten. High school is the point where these students can no longer be allowed to take “easy” classes but be enrolled in the kinds of classes that don’t just prepare them for college success but for tomorrow’s workforce.

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