This report from ACT (makers of the college entrance exam) seeks to explain the factors most related to college and career readiness. In other words, which variables make the biggest difference in whether high school seniors are ready to tackle credit-bearing college courses or land a decent-pay job? The study's authors considered a number of potential indicators including family background, students' coursework, high school GPAs and more. What mattered most, it turns out, is what students know and can do by the end of middle school (as conveniently measured by an eighth-grade assessment also offered by ACT). The study then examines student data from 24 middle schools and identifies factors related to strong eighth grade achievement, like disciplined study skills, good behavior in school, and positive relationships with school personnel. It's an easy read with an appendix offering all the technical detail that a card-carrying policy wonk could want. Find it here.