Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?

In this report, ACT researchers show that
“college and career readiness,” at least as defined by the ACT itself, is
indeed an internationally competitive standard. (They speak of the level of
preparation a student needs in order to succeed in a first-year,
credit-bearing course at a two- or four-year institution.) To prove this point,
researchers conducted a linking analysis of PISA scores for fifteen-year olds
in reading and math and college and career readiness benchmark scores for
fifteen-year-old tenth-graders taking ACT’s PLAN test. The purpose was to
determine whether the standard of college readiness for U.S. students is
competitive with those of other high performing nations. (In other words, if we
succeed at getting our average student to college and career readiness, will we
then be holding our own with the world’s academic leaders?) They find that the
benchmarked scores in both reading and math fell within the average scores of
most of the highest performing nations, and thus college and career readiness is in fact an
internationally competitive standard. The researchers then unfortunately
insinuate that, since the Common Core’s definition of college and career
readiness was informed by that of the ACT, and the ACT and Common Core
standards have been mapped onto one another, the Common Core standards are also
internationally competitive. This conclusion might be true but it’s
problematic on several levels: The ACT is attempting to compare assessment
frameworks (ACT/PISA) with standards (Common Core); we don’t have tests, much
less cut scores, for the Common Core yet; lots of folks (including Fordham)
think that PISA leaves a lot to be desired, hence isn’t worthy of benchmarking;
and ACT—though well respected in education—clearly has skin in the Common-Core
game. Bottom line: this paper appears to be more about advocacy and self-promotion
than research.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on the ACT report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


ACT, Inc., “Affirming
the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive
” (Iowa City, Iowa: ACT, Inc., 2011).