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Jul 21, 2014 - 4:00pm

Will Common Core Make College A Reality for More Low-Income Students?

Senior Manager, Communications, Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A new report by ACT reveals that 95% of low-income students aspire to go to college, but only 59% actually enroll upon graduating from high school. While low-income students do face more obstacles to postsecondary access, part of the challenge is that the secondary system isn’t adequately preparing them for college-level work.

Last week, I wrote about what it means to be ‘college and career ready’ upon graduating from high school, illustrating the specific skill sets needed to be successful. On Thursday, ACT released the report on the college readiness for students from low-income families in the United States. “The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013” analyzes the results from more than 420,000 low-income high school graduates in 2013 who took the ACT test.

Here is some of what they found:

The percentage of students from low-income families (less than $36,000 a year) that met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark is as follows:

  • 45% in English
  • 27% in reading
  • 24% in mathematics
  • 18% in science
  • 11% in all four subjects

Of the low-income students that took the ACT test, nearly 50% did not meet the benchmarks in any subject.

The report also illustrates how unprepared low-income students are for jobs in high-growth fields.

How do we increase the college readiness of students from low-income families? In part, ACT recommends the following:

  • Essential Standards – “We have called for states to adopt education standards that prepare all students for the rigors of college or career training programs. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by 43 states and the District of Columbia, most states have taken that first step on the road to ensuring all students are ready for college or career.”
  • Common Expectations – “All states—especially those that have adopted the Common Core State Standards—should align college and career readiness standards to a rigorous core curriculum.”
  • Rigorous High School Courses – “Having appropriate and aligned standards, coupled with a core curriculum, will adequately prepare high school students only if the courses are truly challenging.”

This is good news. The states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are on the right path to ensuring that ALL students are college and career ready. Conversely, the states that have pulled out of the Common Core and have gone back to lowering their state standards aren’t doing their students any favors.

Former Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa sums it up perfectly in today’s Wall St. Journal, “at a time when only one in ten low-income children is earning a four-year college degree and two out of three jobs of the future will require one, change is needed.”

Read more of our education coverage here, here, and here

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About the Author

Mark D'Alessio
Senior Manager, Communications, Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

D’Alessio manages all aspects of the program’s communications, including the website, blog, social media, marketing, internal communications, and strategy to promote the Center for Education and Workforce's initiatives.

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