This post was written by Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. It is reproduced here with permission.
“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X
Our nation’s high schools are in a state of troubling crisis. Too many of our students are graduating ill-equipped for the academic rigors of college and, ultimately, the challenges and needs of today’s global, high-tech economy.
For many of our high school graduates, earning a college degree will be their first step on the path toward the “American Dream” of the job, the house, and future economic security. And the data consistently point to this traditionally accepted conclusion: Those who earn a college degree are more likely to attain higher skilled, better paying jobs than their peers who only have a high school diploma. But a recent report points to a disconcerting reality, one where insufficient college readiness is cutting off large numbers of students from a critical conduit of future opportunity and success–and because of historic disparities in education between white students and black and Latino students, students of color are impacted in greater numbers.
The ACT testing company, which administers a broadly used, nationwide college admissions and placement test, published a report that showed that one in three students who took the ACT are not ready for college course work. In fact, just over six in 10 students met the ACT’s college-ready benchmarks in English, math, reading, and science. The data points to a disturbing performance gap when you compare the results of black and Latino students to their white peers. For white high school students who took the ACT in 2014, 76% tested competent for college-level English courses, and 52% tested competent for math. Only 34% of black high school graduates tested competent for college-level English courses, and just 14% were ready to tackle college-level math. For Hispanic students, 47% were prepared for college-level English, and 29% were ready for college-level math courses.
As we face a nationwide challenge to prepare all our students for postsecondary academic success, it must be acknowledged that students of color are experiencing the impact of the failure to prepare them in far greater numbers. This failure not only hurts the individual student by curbing job prospects and higher earning potential, it weakens our nation and our standing as a strong competitor in a global marketplace that values the knowledge and skills that come with schooling and training beyond high school.
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