This week, the results of The ACT® assessment for the South Carolina 2016 high school graduates were released, showing that 14 percent of high school graduates are meeting the college ready benchmarks in English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science. The average ACT composite score of 18.5 for SC students fell short of the national average score of 20.8. While the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks is low, 83 percent of South Carolina’s 2016 ACT-tested graduates stated they aspired to attend postsecondary education.
|College Course||ACT Subject Area Test||ACT College Ready Benchmark||SC Average Scale Score 2016||% SC Students Meeting Benchmarks 2016|
According to Melanie Barton, Executive Director of the EOC, there are benefits to requiring students to take the ACT before 12th grade. An additional 1,369 students this year met all four benchmarks of college readiness, compared to last year. If a student wants to pursue postsecondary education but did not score well enough on the ACT in the 11th grade, the student can retake the ACT and improve their score. Ninety-five percent of African American students who tested at least twice and who first tested in their junior year increased their score by one point and scored three points higher than 11th grade African American students who tested only once. In SC there were 7,087 fee waivers issued and 5,295 of those were used. ACT provides students fee waivers to provide more access to students.
In addition to South Carolina, there are 19 other states where at least 94 percent of graduates are tested using The ACT. Many of these states use the results of the assessment for accountability purposes, to measure whether students are college ready.
|State||Percent of Graduates Tested||Average Composite Score on The ACT|
Barton asserts that South Carolina’s low level of achievement on the ACT as compared to our peers in the region, is not attributable to poverty. According to the SREB Fact Book on Higher Education, 2015, published by the Southern Regional Education Board, the poverty rates for children in our region are comparable for states that assess all students using The ACT. Poverty level is defined as a four-person family with an annual income at or below $23,834.
|State||Poverty Rates Among Children (2013)|
All high school graduates do not need to be college ready, according to Barton. However, all students need to graduate college or career ready. National and state data show that by 2030 two-thirds of all jobs in South Carolina will require at least a two-year or postsecondary degree or credential. Studies predict that if the percentage of students not ready for postsecondary education does not significantly increase, there will be shortages in the following industries: health care, management, education, computers and mathematics, and business and financial operations. Barton states that it is also concerning that half of the jobs of the future are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The recent ACT report states that only ten percent of South Carolina students met the STEM benchmark as compared to 20 percent of students nationally. The STEM benchmark is an average ACT score of 26 on the mathematics and science portions of the test.