IOWA CITY, Iowa—ACT-tested Latino high school graduates from the class of 2006 were better prepared for college-level coursework and workforce training than those who graduated in 2002, according to a new report released today by ACT.

    The report, State of College Readiness for Latino Students, examines college readiness among Latino students using results from EXPLORE (for students in grade 8 or 9), PLAN (for students in grade 10), and the ACT test (for students in grade 11 or 12). Latino students include Mexican American/Chicano students, Puerto Rican students, Cuban students, and other students of Hispanic origin. The report evaluates student performance in a number of areas, and offers recommendations for continued success.

    According to the report, Latino high school graduates increased their average ACT Composite, English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science scores between 2002 and 2006. These increases are particularly impressive given that 19,026 more Latino graduates took the ACT in 2006 than in 2002. Latino high school graduates also improved their college readiness in English, Mathematics and Science. (The average score increase in Reading was not quite enough to affect college readiness in Reading.)

    More than half of ACT-tested Latino high school graduates are enrolling in a two-year or four-year college. Latino high school graduates who meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks—minimum ACT scores indicating students' readiness for first-year college-level coursework—are more likely than those who do not meet the Benchmarks to enroll in college directly after high school and to re-enroll at the same college their second year.

    Latino eighth- and tenth-graders also showed improvement between 2002 and 2006. Latino eighth-graders increased their average EXPLORE scores in mathematics, while Latino tenth-graders increased their average PLAN scores in all four subject areas. Higher percentages of Latino eighth-graders in 2006 than in 2002 appear to be on target to be ready for college in mathematics, and higher percentages of Latino tenth-graders appear to be on target to be ready for college in English, reading, and science, by the time they graduate from high school.

    Improvements in academic achievement and college readiness among Latino students appear to be associated with the fact that more Latino students are taking challenging coursework. Between 2002 and 2006, there were slight increases in the percentages of Latino high school students taking higher-level mathematics courses (such as trigonometry, calculus, and other advanced math) and higher-level science courses (such as chemistry and physics). Taking higher-level mathematics courses beyond Algebra II and higher-level science courses beyond biology appears to increase average ACT Mathematics and Science scores for all Latino high school graduates, as well as for low-achieving and high-achieving Latino students.

    Taking a minimum core curriculum—four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science, and social studies—also appears to be improving the college readiness of Latino high school students.

    "We're pleased to see that more and more Latino students are becoming prepared for college," said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, president of ACT's education division. "This report shows the importance of rigorous coursework as a solid foundation for college readiness for all students."

    State of College Readiness for Latino Students also points out areas in which Latino students may need to work harder. For example, Latino high school graduates showed no progress in readiness for college-level reading between 2002 and 2006.

    And consistent with observations made of ACT-tested graduates generally, despite their increased levels of college readiness since 2002, fewer Latino students are ready for college by the time they graduate from high school than is expected based on their performance in tenth grade. This finding raises questions about the type and quality of courses that Latino students take in eleventh and twelfth grades.

    "It is encouraging that more Latino students are making strides in acquiring the academic skills to thrive in college, yet there is still much work to be done to meet the goal of college readiness for the majority of Latino high school graduates. By identifying policies and practices that contributed to increased readiness for Latino students, this report is a useful addition to the body of research highlighting potential strategies to put college within the grasp of more Latino students and thus ensure they are prepared to excel in the 21st Century," said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.

    The new ACT report offers the following recommendations in order to continue improving college and workforce readiness for Latino students:

  • Encourage more Latino students to take the core curriculum and higher-level coursework in high school, especially in mathematics and science.
  • Review and evaluate the rigor and content of high school courses in English, mathematics, reading and science.
  • Establish high expectations for Latino students, monitor their progress through high school at becoming ready for college, and encourage more Latino students to test in their junior year, so they'll have the opportunity to reflect on their abilities, and possibly take an additional class their senior year to improve in an area where their test score was low.
  • Provide student guidance. Given the discrepancy between the educational aspirations of Latino students and the high school coursework they are taking, and given the decline in progress toward college readiness between grades 10 and 12 for Latino students, ACT recommends that states, schools, and educators evaluate both their current educational and career guidance programs and the courses students take in high school, especially in 11th and 12th grades.
  • Evaluate and align the curriculum with both high school standards and college and workplace readiness standards.

    About EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT

    EXPLORE, PLAN and the ACT, curriculum-based achievement tests, work together to help educators and students make educational and career plans starting in 8th grade, taking them through high school and beyond. EXPLORE is for 8th and 9th graders, PLAN is for 10th graders, and the ACT for 11th and 12th graders. Each of these programs includes a test with four parts—English, math, science and reading. The programs also provide career planning information based on responses the student provides in an Interest Inventory. Students can use test scores from EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT to find out how well they know the subject matter and what they need to learn next. They can also address academically weak areas to help them prepare for college.