The Daily Illini

Illinois Board of Education: State college readiness is low

By Aaron Navarro

The composite ACT score is only a starting point of data to determine college readiness. The ACT organization has determined benchmarks that specify college readiness by subject. The benchmark for the English portion is 18, Mathematics is 22, Reading is 22 and Science is 23.

(https://illinoisreportcard.com/State.aspx?source=Trends&source2=ReadyforCollegeCourseWork&Stateid=IL)According to the report card, only 25 percent of students passed the college readiness benchmark in all four subjects.

The report also found that 54 percent of students are from low-income households as compared to 48 percent of students in 2011.

(https://illinoisreportcard.com/State.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&source2=LowIncome&Stateid=IL)Jennifer Delaney, associate professor in education, said she correlated the percentage of college-prepared students with not only the increase of low-income students, but also with the obstacles first-generation students face.

“We worry about low-income, first generation students whose parents don’t have post secondary schooling and don’t have the networking or relationships with those to help the rather complicated, navigated process of applying and enrolling in education,” Delaney said.

Delaney also said the increase of minority students in Illinois could affect the increase of low-income students; about 51 percent of the public school students identify as a minority. (https://illinoisreportcard.com/State.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&source2=StudentDemographics&Stateid=IL)

Julia Nadler, a high school administrator at Prairie Ridge High School who facilitates standardized tests, said the problem of inequities is not new.

“Every couple of years a new standard of measurement is implemented that just redefines the same problem,” Nadler said. “The interrelationship between race and income unfolds as educational outcomes become unevenly distributed in geographic regions.”

Timothy Brewer, a graduate student and teaching assistant in educational policy studies, said the same problems in Illinois exist across the nation.“What that suggests is that we have less of a ‘schooling problem’ in the US and more of a systemic poverty and inequality problem,” Brewer said. “Research has proven time and time again that a student’s socioeconomic status is the leading factor in academic outcomes.”

In addition to measuring college-preparedness, an ACT score of 21 has been used to determine readiness for a four-year university but not necessarily readiness for a community college.

However, recent state budget cuts, have raised concerns that the free ACT test may not be available to students in the future.

“When the state picks up the tab for the test fee, it means that everybody can take the test. (For) students that don’t necessarily think college is in their future, not having that price barrier in order to take the ACT makes a real difference,” Delaney said.

With the 27-32 average ACT score for the University’s class of 2019, Delaney said she doesn’t see the low state-wide preparedness as an issue.

“In the short term it probably doesn’t change very much of U of I’s applicant pool,” Delaney said. “But we’re also an institution that does a lot of out-of-state recruiting for students and internationally. We’re not just looking at those coming out of public high schools in the state.”

Nevertheless, Nadler said she doesn’t think the standardized benchmark should be the sole factor that determines which students are college ready.

“Standardized test scores are one piece of the puzzle and cannot be used as a stand-alone metric to determine if students will be successful in college,” Nadler said. “A student with a 30 on the ACT versus a student with a 21 on the ACT is not necessarily more ‘college ready.’”

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