State News

Report suggests half of Wisconsin students are college-ready

While Wisconsin students performed better on the ACT exams than students in other states, achievement gaps between socioeconomic groups and race widened.

While Wisconsin students performed better on the ACT exams than students in other states, achievement gaps between socioeconomic groups and race widened.

Image By: Creative Commons-Tim Lewis

A recent study released last Friday from the Wisconsin Policy Forum suggested less than half of Wisconsin’s high school juniors meet the ACT score benchmark to show their preparedness for college. 

According to data from the state Department of Public Instruction, every section of the exam — except for reading — saw a decline in scores since the 2014-’15 school year. 

Wisconsin students on average scored a composite 19.6 out of 36 in 2018-’19. The ACT sets its college readiness benchmark at scores of 18 on the English section, 22 in math, 22 in reading and 23 in science. 

Researchers suggest students who are more college ready are more likely to graduate and spend less on remedial courses that increase the costs. As more jobs begin to require college degrees, the importance of being prepared for college grows. 

“It's important that students can go to college and be successful so they are able to access those jobs,” Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher Betsy Mueller said.

Despite the decreases in scores, students in Wisconsin still perform better than a majority of other states that require the test.

The report also addressed gaps in scores between demographics like race and socioeconomic class. 

For example, the English section of the exam had 57 percent of white students meeting the benchmark compared to just 13.3 percent of black students. Similarly, 60.8 percent of affluent students showed college readiness while only 26.8 percent of economically disadvantaged students met the requirement. 

Groups like the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium are working to close some of these gaps. In the Milwaukee metropolitan area, the consortium united 35 different schools to try to create greater fairness between them. 

Department of Public Instruction spokesman, Chris Bucher, emphasized that while other states saw declines in testing, “more needs to be done” for Wisconsin students and the department is working to help bridge the gap. 

“We want to make sure all students go where they want to go in life. And we've built a lot of tools to help schools identify students in need of additional service,” Bucher said.

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