Middle School Students Who Get Off College Track, Cannot Get Back On

A new study from ACT focuses on the extent to which students who are academically far-off-track for college can catch up within four years. Researchers examined multiple cohorts of eighth-grade students whose EXPLORE (a test administered by ACT) scores were more than one standard deviation below benchmark scores associated with being on-track. Ten percent or fewer students who were far-off-track in the eighth grade attained ACT College Readiness Benchmarks by 12th grade. A separate analysis using state test scores for students in grade four and their EXPLORE scores in grade eight obtained similar results. For both fourth and eighth grade cohorts, the overall percentage of students catching up was lower in high-poverty schools. Even at more successful high-poverty high schools, fewer than 20 percent of far-off-track eighth graders attained College Readiness Benchmarks by 12th grade. These results indicate policymakers must emphasize prevention over remediation. Prevention strategies should be conceived more broadly — for example, giving every student access to a content- and vocabulary-rich curriculum in the early years, or implementing programs and strategies that improve student attendance and academic behaviors. Efforts to close academic preparation gaps should begin as early as possible, be more intensive, and take as long as necessary. Based on the study’s results, policymakers should not assume that rapid catching up is possible if only educators try harder.
See the report: http://www.act.org/research-policy/policy-publication

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