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June 08, 2011
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ACT, Inc., A First Look at the Common Core and College and Career Readiness, (Iowa City, IA: ACT, Inc., 2010).
Though previous work has shown that, in a majority of states, the new Common Core state standards are a vast improvement over current academic standards, no one has yet measured how today’s students may fare when the switch is flipped. Enter this ACT report, which purports to align the Common Core standards to the ACT tests in English, mathematics, reading, science, and writing to estimate current student competency in light of these higher standards. The report matches ACT test questions with related Common Core standards and finds that, as expected, alarmingly few students are college- and career-ready according to Core expectations. Overall, only 40 and 34 percent of them are proficient in reading and math, respectively. The analysis delves further into the standards and finds equally discouraging data—only 31 percent of 11th graders comprehend reading materials on grade-level. For science materials, this percentage drops to twenty-four. Thirty-three percent are sufficient in the categories of “creating equations” and “geometry.” While these results are mere estimates—aligning ACT test items to the standards is by no means an exact science, as few states administer the ACT to all of their students and as yet we have no “cut scores” or definitions of proficiency attached to the Common Core—they are a sobering reminder of the pain that lies ahead as the country moves to higher expectations.