Jessica Williams, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Jessica Williams, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
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on July 22, 2014 at 3:14 PM, updated July 22, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Only 11 percent of poor students met benchmarks on the national ACT, while 26 percent of students did overall.
Nationally, high school students perform poorly on the ACT. But low-income students are even further academically behind than wealthier peers, a new study finds.
The study, recently released by ACT and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, further examines 2013 performance on the national college readiness test. Of all students taking the ACT, only 26 percent met benchmarks for college readiness. But only 11 percent of students from low-income families met those benchmarks. Researchers defined low-income students as those from families making less than $36,000 a year.
ACT tests students in four subjects: English, reading, mathematics, and science. To be deemed college-ready, a student must score at least an 18 of 36 possible points in English; a 22 of 36 in both reading and math, and a 23 of 36 in science.
The wealthiest students did the best on the national test, with the majority of test-takers from families earning $100,000 or more meeting standards in most subjects. That hasn't changed much over time: in 2009, 61 percent of richer students met most standards, while in 2013, 62 percent of these students did. The less money a student had, the worse they did, data show, a fact that also hasn't changed much in the past four years.
One reason for the lower scores? Low-income students are less likely to take ACT's recommended core curriculum in high school, which consists of four years of English and three years each of math, social studies and science. When those students did take that curriculum, they had better results, researchers found.
The study's authors also noted that low performance did not equal low motivation: low-income students actually had a greater desire to go to college than their wealthier counterparts; though, most often, they lacked the necessary tools to get there.
In Louisiana, scores also remain low. A student must score at least an 18 across all subjects to receive a TOPS scholarship to a two-year college, and a 20 to get a scholarship a four-year college. But only 43 percent of Louisiana students scored a 20 or better this year, according to state data. About 68 percent of Louisiana's public-school students are from low-income families, though both public and private-school students take the ACT. But researchers explanations for general low scores don't hold much weight in Louisiana, where even the most basic high school curriculum falls in line with ACT's recommendations.
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Source: The Times-Picayune