September 9, 2017, Washington Post
Results from this year’s ACT (American College Testing) college readiness standardized test, provided by ACT, a nonprofit of the same name founded in 1959, show that the disparity in measures of educational performance between lower income students and higher income students persists in the U.S., as it does in every nation.
Scores from the ACT show that just nine percent of students in the class of 2017 who came from low-income families, whose parents did not go to college, and who identify as black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Pacific Islander are strongly ready for college.
But the readiness rate for students with none of those demographic characteristics was six times as high, 54 percent, according to data released Thursday.
“That kind of shocked us,” ACT chief executive Marten Roorda said. “We knew it was bad, but we didn’t know it was this bad.”
College Board, a nonprofit formed in 1899, administers its own standardized college readiness test called the SAT. It is anticipated that the 2017 SAT scores, available later this month, will reinforce the ACT findings. College Board, a membership association, including over 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations, also develops and administers curricula used by K–12 to promote college-readiness.
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Approximately 60 percent (more than 2 million) of all U.S. students who graduated high school this year took the ACT. Approximately 1.7 million students took the SAT college admission test in 2016.
The U.S. Department of Education began to research the causes of the disparity in academic achievement between students from different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds when it commissioned the “Equality of Educational Opportunity” report in 1966. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has since provided achievement gap trend data. Attempts by government, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups to improve equality of access to educational opportunities have included affirmative action, interventions to improve school testing, teacher quality and accountability, after-school and summer educational programs, and, of course, major national initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
ACT’s Marten Roorda said of the alarming ACT results just released, “You could argue that those investments should have made a clearer difference, and that’s not what we’re seeing.”
Benjamin Wehrmund, writing for Politico and drawing from the Equal Opportunity Project findings and other reports, says that the nation’s elite universities “admit more students from the top one percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined.” Far from being a “ladder of economic mobility,” statistical evidence shows that higher education has rewarded established wealth for decades.
“We are creating a permanent underclass in America based on education—something we’ve never had before,” said Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.