African-American students are less likely than their peers to meet college readiness benchmarks even when they complete the recommended high school courses, according to a national report issued Monday.
“The report shows that even when they are doing what they are supposed to do in terms of taking the recommended college preparatory curriculum and earning a high school diploma, too many lack sufficient preparation for first-year college courses,” said Jim Larimore, chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners at ACT.
The Iowa City, Iowa-based group oversees the annual exams that measure college readiness.
Louisiana officials announced earlier this month that, while still low nationally, the average composite score rose in 2015 from 19.2 to 19.4 out of 36. Where the state ranks nationwide will be announced on Aug. 26.
Under a 2012 state policy change, all high school students in Louisiana have to take the ACT.
The report by ACT and the United Negro College Fund says problems remain amid a 12 percent rise nationally since 2010 in African-American students taking the test.
ACT officials have long said that students who take the core curriculum — four years of English and three each of math, science and social studies — are better prepared for college than those who do not.
The exam includes minimum scores in each of the four subjects for students to have a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in a first-year college course on the same topic.
The report said 36 percent of African-American students who took the core classes or more met the college readiness benchmarks in English in 2014 compared with 67 percent for all students, 19 percent in reading compared with 47 percent for all students, 15 percent in math compared with 46 percent for all students and 11 percent in science compared with 41 percent of all students.
In addition, 62 percent of African-American students in the 2014 graduating class met none of the college benchmarks, double the rate for all students.
At the same time, 86 percent of African-American students said they planned to earn a postsecondary degree, according to the study.
“The findings of this report demonstrate that a vast majority of African-American students desire a postsecondary education but they’re clearly not prepared for it,” Michael L. Lomas, UNCF president and CEO, said in a statement that accompanied the review.
The report said possible answers include better alignment of classes to college-ready standards, allowing all students access to key preparation courses and more spending on early childhood education.
In the 2014 review for Louisiana, 34 percent of African-American students met the college readiness benchmark for English compared with 56 percent of all students, 10 percent did so in math compared with 27 percent of all students in the state, 13 percent in reading compared with 32 percent statewide and seven percent in science compared with 24 percent of all students. That generally mirrors national trends.
Figures on how African-American students in Louisiana who completed core courses fared on the ACT last year were not available.
Asked about the report, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday that one of the keys to improving ACT results is for Louisiana to set academic standards “that are as high as anywhere in the country.
“We still have an achievement gap between white students and their black counterparts,” White said. “However, African-American kids are making faster progress than are other students statewide on the ACT in Louisiana and on the NAEP,” which is known as the nation’s report card.
Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said the report points up the need for White, his department and others to better align tests for students in grades three to eight so they can improve on the ACT exams. Doing so, he said, would be preferable to the “roller coaster ride we’ve been on in regards to assessments in Louisiana over the past few years.”