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Connecticut Shocked At Scores On ACT College Admission Test

GRACE E. MERRITT

March 27, 2009

Results from the 2008 ACT college admission test show that many Connecticut high school seniors are "appallingly" unprepared for college-level work, according to a state report.

Of the 8,159 students who took the test, 35 percent of white seniors, 18 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of African Americans were ready for college-level work.

"It's an appalling figure to look at," said Frank W. Ridley, chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education. "Basically it says that, at the very best, only one-third of our students are succeeding." Ridley said he was disgusted by the low numbers, which were included in a state report about racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. He said the disparity in the scores of whites and minorities underscores the state's struggle to close the stubborn "achievement gap."

And, he said, the poor scores by all groups show that too many students are arriving on campus poorly prepared and must enroll in remedial classes to catch up.

"One of my concerns is that we're spending far too much time and energy on remedial efforts in the college setting," Ridley said.

In an effort to address the issue, the board of trustees for the Connecticut State University System voted earlier this month to raise academic admission standards.

The ACT, a lesser-known counterpart to the SAT, is a more curriculum-based college entrance exam. It essentially tests what students have learned in high school, as opposed to the SAT, which measures students' aptitude for learning.

Among the Connecticut students who took the test in 2008 in all four subjects English, mathematics, reading and science the numbers were better for individual subjects, such as English, and worse for others, such as science. In English, for example, the numbers of students ready for college-level work ranged from 87 percent to 49 percent; in science, the range was 41 to 11 percent.

The ACT is more popular in the Midwest, but is gradually becoming better known in Connecticut, where 19 percent of students took it last year. The SAT still dominates, however; last year 36,085 Connecticut students took the SAT.

Asked about the dismal ACT test results, Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the State Board of Education, agreed that the numbers sounded appalling, but pointed out that relatively few students take the ACT. He said Connecticut students continue to score well on the SAT, but agreed with Ridley that the state must raise its academic standards.

The Department of Education has developed a proposal now before the legislature that would require high school students to take four years of math and three years of laboratory science and conduct an independent project.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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