Wednesday, March 1

Barely Half of High-School Graduates Have College-Level Reading Skills, Report Says

By ERIC HOOVER, Chronicle of Higher Education

Only 51 percent of last year's high-school graduates who took the ACT examination had the reading skills they needed to succeed in college or job-training programs, the lowest proportion in more than a decade, according to a report scheduled for release today.

Twenty-one percent of black students, 33 percent of Hispanic students, and 33 percent of students from families with annual incomes below $30,000 were prepared for college-level reading, the report said.

The report, which was prepared by ACT Inc., the nonprofit Iowa-based organization, is based on the scores of 1.2 million high-school students who took its popular college-entrance test.

Among other things, the report found that students' reading skills did not develop throughout their high-school years. According to ACT, the percentage of students who were on track to mastering "complex" reading assignments was higher in the eighth and 10th grades than in the 12th grade. The organization also found that more than half of the states defined reading standards only through the eighth grade.

"The states are silent," said Cynthia Schmeiser, senior vice president for research and development at ACT. "When states aren't communicating what students should know, the bottom line is you can't get what you're not being asked to learn."