As the Texas Senate approved a bill to reduce state-mandated exams in public schools, business leader Bill Hammond decried the measure.
Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, said, “We already graduate only 25 percent of students who are career- or college-ready. I don’t understand why many of our lawmakers are dead set on running away from strong requirements meant to increase that number and put in place standards that will do just the opposite.”
Are all but a quarter of Texas high school graduates unprepared for jobs or college?
Association spokesman Robert Wood emailed us a 2012 report from ACT, a nonprofit organization that administers a nationwide college admissions and placement test, about Texas’ graduating class of 2012.
Among the 110,180 high schoolers in Texas who took the ACT that year — accounting for 39 percent of the graduating class, according to the report — 24 percent met the group’s “college readiness benchmarks” in all four subjects tested (English, reading, math and science), compared with 25 percent nationally.
Thirty-two percent of Texas test-takers hit none of the benchmarks — or, put another way, 68 percent of the students hit at least one.
ACT’s report said its benchmarks indicate preparedness for careers as well as college. The benchmarks, according to ACT, are “based on actual grades earned in college by ACT-tested students.” ACT calculates, for each subject, the minimum ACT score that indicates a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or a 50 percent chance of earning a B in a first-year college course in that subject, the release said.
ACT spokesman Ed Colby noted that Hammond was citing the percentage of Texas graduates who missed the benchmarks in all four subjects.
Colby offered a less stringent measure. In ACT’s view, he said, students who hit three out of four benchmarks “still have a good chance of succeeding in college.” So a student could miss one of the benchmarks without being considered by ACT “at risk of not succeeding in college and career,” he said.
Last year, 39 percent of ACT-tested Texas graduates met at least three of the benchmarks, Colby said. “We would argue that is a fairer figure to quote when talking about overall college and career readiness, but that is open to interpretation,” he said.
The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT college admissions tests, also sets a benchmark for “college and career readiness” — a score of 1550. College Board reports for Texas show that among students who took the SAT tests, 33 percent in the class of 2011 and 32 percent in the class of 2012 hit the benchmark.
The Texas Education Agency cites its own indicator of how well high school graduates are prepared for college. Spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told us, “Based on the state 2012 Academic Excellence Indicator System report, 52 percent of the class of 2011 graduates met the college-ready criteria in both ELA (English language arts) and mathematics.”
So three varied ways of calculating suggest that 32 percent, 39 percent and 52 percent of students in recent years were prepared for college.
Hammond agreed there are other ways of measuring college readiness. Even ACT’s own data “is saying two different things,” he said, referring to the four-part ACT measurement he initially cited and the three-of-four approach offered to us by the ACT spokesman.
Hammond offered for perspective a statistic from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board indicating that about 30 percent of Texas high school graduates who went straight into a Texas college or university in fall 2011 needed catch-up classes in math, reading or writing.
Our ruling: Hammond said only 25 percent of Texas high school graduates are college- or career-ready. While there is a method behind his conclusion, even the purveyor of that figure, ACT, says it prefers a lower threshold for gauging whether students are college- or career-ready. Besides, there are at least two other indicators, one from the company that runs the SAT and the other from the state of Texas, suggesting that up to half of the state’s high-school graduates are ready for college. Hammond’s claim fails to reflect the variety of college-readiness indicators. We rate it Mostly False.
Statement: Says only 25 percent of Texas high school students graduate prepared for college or careers.