College and Career Readiness

What does ACT mean by "college and career readiness"?

ACT defines college and career readiness as the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.

Every year, ACT reports on the college and career readiness of ACT-tested high school graduates at both the national and state levels. The report informs policymakers and practitioners about the readiness of students using selected indicators of effectiveness. See The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013 (ACT, Inc., 2013).

ACT's research finds that the academic standards associated with college readiness are also necessary to prepare students to take advantage of opportunities in the work place. Thus, the level of achievement necessary to be college ready is also necessary to be career ready. See also Ready for College or Work: Same or Different? (ACT, Inc., 2006).

Identifying College and Career Readiness of Public Schools in our Partnership States: 3 Steps

1. Linking to ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks

ACT has compiled an extensive database of course grade and test score data from a large number of first-year students and across a wide range of postsecondary institutions. These data provide an overall measure of what it takes to be successful in selected first-year college courses. Data from 98 institutions and over 90,000 students were used to establish the Benchmarks. The data were weighted so they would be representative of two and four-year postsecondary institutions nationwide.

The College Readiness Benchmarks for EXPLORE and PLAN were developed using about 150,000 records of students who had taken EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT. First, ACT estimated the probabilities at each EXPLORE and PLAN test score point associated with meeting the appropriate Benchmark for the ACT. ACT then identified EXPLORE and PLAN scores on English, reading, mathematics and science that corresponded most closely to a 50 percent probability of success at meeting each of the four Benchmarks established for the ACT.

ACT then estimates the probabilities at each grade on the state assessment associated with a 50% probability of meeting the EXPLORE, PLAN, or ACT benchmark score. This is called ACT's College and Career Readiness Target.

2. Backwards-mapping ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets

Scores in Grades 3–6 are then identified through an approach commonly referred to as "statistical moderation", which identifies the comparable score in each grade and subject based on their location in the statistical distribution relative to the average score in that grade and subject. We now have ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets and Benchmarks for Grades 3–12. This trajectory is known as ACT's College and Career Readiness Ramp.

At the district and school levels, ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets allow educators to monitor the percentage of students on track to being college and career ready by graduation.

3. Establishing Students' Yearly Growth Goals

At the student level, ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets determine who is and who is not on track to being college and career ready by the end of high school.

We then identify yearly growth goals that a student must achieve in order to be on the ACT College and Career Readiness Ramp. These yearly goals are known as ACT's Growth Goals and define a path for a student to reach the CCR Ramp within four years.

Why use ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets?

  • By using ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets, educators can advocate for higher standards which will greatly increase the likelihood that a student will be prepared for college-level course work or skilled career training by the end of high school.
  • These CCR Targets give educators and parents an opportunity to identify, much earlier than in high school, whether or not students are academically on track to graduate ready for college or skilled career training programs.
  • ACT's College and Career Readiness Targets help educators shift the focus to early intervention. As ACT's research indicates, if a student is not on track to being college and career ready by Grade 8, then the likelihood of the student reaching College and Career Readiness by graduation is minimal. See The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students are on Target for College and Career Readiness by High School (ACT, Inc., 2008).
  • Educators planning for school improvement  can use information about the percentage of students meeting these targets to indicate whether a school or district system is getting and/or keeping students on the ramp to CCR.

©2014 Act, Inc.