Only 26 out of 100 ACT test takers ready for college in all subject areas

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer, you may want to sit down before reading any further.

ACTYou know how your political leaders have been “investing” your money heavily in public education for the past 40 years or so?

Well, yet another report – this one from the ACT college entrance testing company – shows you’re getting a lousy rate of return on your K-12 “investment.”

According to ACT data released on Wednesday, only 26 percent of recent test takers are ready for college in all Big Four subject areas: math, science, English and reading.

“College ready,” as defined by the ACT testing folks, means students scored well enough on their entrance test to stand a 75 percent chance of getting C’s or better during their first year of college, reports the Washington Post.

Things look only slightly better when broken down by subject area, notes the Post. Two-thirds of ACT test takers met or surpassed the minimum score in English. Forty-four percent showed competence in math and reading, while 36 percent are ready for college-level science.

Perhaps the most demoralizing finding is that these lackluster ACT results are slightly worse than previous years. The Post notes, “Overall performance on the ACT has remained virtually unchanged since 2009, with the average score falling slightly this year from 21.1 to 20.9 out of a possible 36 points.”

Bad news like this offers a little something for everyone.

Public school apologists are pouncing on the dismal ACT scores as “proof” that America’s obsession with standardized testing isn’t leading to more learning.

That’s an appealing argument, as a lot of parents have turned sour on standardized testing. However, the apologists’ argument breaks down when one asks how less testing – that is to say, less accountability – would create better learners.

We have decades of pre-No Child Left Behind data that suggests that’s not the case.

Common Core proponents are touting the dismal ACT scores as proof that America’s schools need to adopt the “rigorous” new learning standards, which they claim will develop students’ critical thinking skills.

That’s quite a leap in logic, too, since Common Core has never been field tested in an actual American school. The truth is that nobody knows what effect Common Core will have, either good or bad.

Since everyone else in the K-12 world will eventually use this ACT data to promote their agenda, we might as well, too.

It’s our contention that if Americans are serious about producing students who are college and career ready, they should demand that parents be given the choice about where to send their children to school.

Let parents shop around for the school or academic program that’s going to meet their child’s needs. Some students need the discipline and high expectations of a private school. Some might flourish in a charter school that’s centered on the creative arts. And others might do best in a self-paced online learning program.

Call it an “all of the above” approach to saving America’s education system.

Frankly, it’s the only option that makes sense. Forty years of spending increases and top-down “reform” initiatives clearly haven’t worked.

That’s not just a matter of opinion; it’s a matter of fact.

We’ve got the ACT scores to prove it.

By Ben Velderman at

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