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New ACT Scores Show Troubling Race Dynamic

act scoresAs the representation of minorities in American public education system grows with every passing year, the situation with higher education, at least according to the latest ACT scores, remains more or less unchanging.

Of all the students who took the ACT college admissions test in 2013 only 39% can be considered ready to enter college, which is already a pretty discouraging figure; but for the representatives of minorities this percentage looks even less promising: only 11% of African-American and 18% of Hispanic students meet the requirements presented by the testing company, while 49% of white and 57% of Asian students have passed the test.

According to Lee Baker, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University, this statistic shows that despite all efforts education in the United States is still not equal for everybody. In addition to that, public education is funded by local taxation, while in rich neighborhoods local schools often receive considerable donations from private parties. In addition to that, access to high-quality private schools is available only to the more well-to-do families.

Jon Erickson, ACT president, has also expressed his concern over the situation – although in 2013 the composition of ACT test-takers was more diverse than ever before, actual percentage of successes remains more or less the same, even though the participation of minorities grows steadily.

It should be taken into consideration that the ACT scores are by definition higher than average performance across American senior students in general, because the test is mostly taken by students who are already going to apply for college and were likely to prepare themselves to this task more or less extensively.

The percentage of graduates taking this test, however, grows steadily and saw 18% increase since 2010, which means that higher education keeps getting more desirable, while the actual readiness is lagging behind. On average, the proportion of students who met the ACT benchmarks in all four tested disciplines (English, science, math and reading) increased by about 2% across the nation.

What is to be done about this problem? Some, like Georgetown University professor Anthony Carnevale, believe that the criteria presented by the ACT test are too high, and in order to increase the percentage of success we should lower the standards. He calls the public attention to the fact that ACT is, essentially, only a probability statement, it cannot define with complete certainty whether this particular student is or isn’t going to successfully graduate.

The representatives of educational system are calling for action, but it is rather hard to understand what measures they consider to be acceptable and how they are going bridge this achievement gap. After all, privileged or unprivileged status is not the only thing one’s racial background comes with. There is also culture, traditions and mentality which, to a very large degree, define how an individual behaves in life. Asian minority, for example, is just as foreign for the United States – so why is it doing so much better than all the others?

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