Policy Publications

See below for Issue Briefs and Case Studies

Policy Reports

2014

Catching Up to College and Career Readiness: The Challenge is Greater for At-Risk Students
How many “far off track” eighth graders from disadvantaged student demographic groups catch up to college and career readiness before they graduate? How many “far off track” disadvantaged fourth graders catch up by eighth grade?

Building Momentum: The Condition of Progress Toward College Readiness
This report provides a look at the progress toward college readiness made by middle school students and students at the midpoint of high school who took ACT Explore® and ACT Plan® during the 2011–12 school year.

The Condition of STEM 2013
The Condition of STEM 2013 reviews the ACT-tested 2013 graduating class in the context of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-related fields. It also highlights four ACT-defined STEM categories related to highly skilled STEM careers and majors as well as areas where a two-year degree and/or certification are needed. The report provides data on the measured and expressed interest levels of students in STEM majors and occupations while aligning the data with student aptitudes in math and science. ACT uses the data to project actual student counts for each of the designated areas within each state and across the nation.

2013

College Choice Report: High School Class 2013
ACT created the College Choice Report to provide enrollment managers and other college administrators with information about students’ patterns during the college choice process of the 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT® college readiness assessment. The focus of this year’s report is students’ selection of a college major or program of study.

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013
Using ACT® test scores and the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, the Condition of College & Career Readiness reports provide national and state snapshots of the college and career readiness of the graduating seniors of the class of 2013 who took the ACT in high school.

The Condition of Work Readiness in the United States (PDF; 33 pages)
In this report and its Executive Summary (PDF; 4 pages), ACT highlights the levels of work readiness for various subgroups of ACT WorkKeys examinees in the United States and provides work readiness standards and benchmarks for selected groups of targeted high-demand and high-wage occupations.

Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks (PDF; 20 pages)
ACT defines “work readiness,” presents a framework for aligning education and training to current job skill requirements, and describes what individuals must achieve to secure in-demand jobs and to transition throughout their careers.

2013 Reality of College Readiness Report
This national report and the series of state reports trace the enrollment, retention, and transfer patterns of 2011 ACT-tested high school graduates.

College Choice Report: High School Class 2012
ACT created the College Choice Report to provide enrollment managers and other college administrators with information about students’ patterns during the college choice process of the 2012 high school graduates who took the ACT college readiness assessment. This report covers such topics as students’ migration patterns, the time in which they first took the ACT, their participation in ACT’s Educational Opportunity Service (EOS), and their score-sending behavior. The information provided in this report will give institutions insight into their current enrollment management practices and offer effective strategies for improvement.

College and Career Readiness: The Importance of Early Learning
The report reaffirms the importance of early learning and addresses the growing need of a system to support early learning in schools, as well as the obligation of educators and policymakers to promote public awareness of the advantages of early learning.

Readiness Matters: The Impact of College Readiness on College Persistence and Degree Completion
What is the importance of college readiness for persisting in college to timely degree completion?

2012

Catching Up To College and Career Readiness
How many "far off track" fourth and eighth graders catch up to college and career readiness before they graduate?

2012 Reality of College Readiness Report
This national report and the series of state reports trace the enrollment, retention, and transfer patterns of 2010 ACT-tested high school graduates.

Changing Lives, Building a Workforce (PDF; 4MB, 16 pages)
This report uses ACT's accumulated education and workforce data sets to examine workforce pipeline gaps that community colleges will need to address to (1) meet workforce development demands and (2) reach their full potential in preparing community college students for jobs and careers.

The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2012
Using ACT test scores and the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, the Condition of College & Career Readiness reports provide national and state snapshots of the college and career readiness of the graduating seniors of the class of 2012 who took the ACT in high school.

Raising the Bar: A Baseline for College and Career Readiness in Our Nation's High School Core Courses
This study examines the effectiveness of high school English, math, and science courses in preparing students for college and career.

Enrollment Management Trends Report 2012
A snapshot of the 2011 ACT-tested high school graduates

A First Look at Higher Performing High Schools
This report provides the results of a survey of educators at high schools across the country that have demonstrated strong progress towards college and career readiness.

The Core Practice Framework: A Guide to Sustained School Improvement
This report provides an overview of the Core Practice™ Framework, an evidence-based approach schools or districts can use to develop a long-term and systemic strategy for improving student performance.

2011

A Better Measure of Skills Gaps
This report proposes a simple definition to describe the increasing mismatch between labor market supply and demand in America and sets forth detailed and specific measures to analyze skills gaps in four major industry sectors.

The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2011
Using ACT® test scores and the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, the Condition of College & Career Readiness reports provide national and state snapshots of the college and career readiness of the graduating seniors of the class of 2011 who took the ACT in high school.

Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?
This report examines how performance standards in reading and math on PLAN® compare to performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide assessment of 15-year-old students' academic achievement.

Breaking New Ground: Building a National Workforce Skills Credentialing System
This report introduces the need and associated benefits for establishing a national workforce credentialing system, as we know of no other set of activities more important than getting a critical mass of state, national, and public and private workforce leaders to co-construct this foundational framework to address our national workforce challenges.

The 20 Non-Negotiable Characteristics of Higher Performing School Systems
Discover the 20 hard-hitting characteristics that make school systems successful at preparing students for college and careers.

More Policy Reports

Issue Briefs

2014

Missing the Mark: Students Gain Little from Mandating Extra Math and Science Courses
The report suggests that changing high school graduation requirements alone may have little effect on college and career readiness for students.

Communicating College and Career Readiness through Proficiency Standards
The report describes how three states (Kentucky, New York, and Florida) and the District of Columbia have already transitioned their state assessments to reflect college and career readiness and how they have correspondingly determined performance and proficiency standards to match. Lessons learned from these examples may help other states currently negotiating their own transitions.

Chasing the College Dream in Hard Economic Times (PDF; 162KB, 6 pages)
College degrees have considerable value for young adults, including access to better jobs, higher wages, and more stable employment. However, hard economic times strain the resources of students and their families to pay for a college degree. Hard economic times like the Great Recession highlight the challenges of paying for college when costs are rising and family financial resources are declining.

2013

What Are the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks? (PDF; 53KB, 3 pages)
The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are the minimum ACT test scores required for students to have a high probability of success in credit-bearing college courses—English Composition, social sciences courses, Algebra, or Biology.

STEM Educator Pipeline: Doing the Math on Recruiting Math and Science Teachers
The report uses data from the ACT college readiness assessment to examine the feasibility of meeting the federal STEM Teacher Pathway program goal of producing 100,000 new, high-quality math and science teachers in the next decade.

Student- and Teacher-Reported Behavioral Measures: Do They Agree? (PDF; 162KB, 12 pages)
This brief addresses key questions about the academic behaviors of middle school students.

Noncollege-Bound Students: A Closer Look (PDF; 104KB, 12 pages)
This brief examines the academic preparation of high school students who do not plan to go to college.

Early Monitoring and Long-Term College Success in Oklahoma (PDF, 429KB, 14 pages)
This report describes the differences in early and long-term college outcomes for Oklahoma ACT-tested students between those who were monitored early with ACT Explore and ACT Plan and those who did not take these two assessments prior to taking the ACT Test.

2012

Help Wanted: Many Youth Lack Education for Modern Workforce (PDF, 300KB, 6 pages)
Over the past decade, educational attainment of youth has been stagnant with large, persistent gaps in attainment by race/ethnicity, gender, and 8th grade test scores. This study shows that growing workforce demand for well-educated workers will leave many young workers with frequent unemployment spells, chronically low wages, and low wage growth.

Measuring Progress in Core High School Courses: Insights into Value-Added Measures of Teacher Effectiveness (PDF, 336KB, 14 pages)
This brief, a companion to Principles for Measuring Growth Towards College and Career Readiness, demonstrates a district-level value-added analysis for measuring progress in high school Algebra 1 and Biology courses, and delves into methodological conditions and considerations of using value-added models to measure individual teacher effectiveness.

Principles for Measuring Growth Towards College and Career Readiness (PDF; 397KB, 14 pages)
This paper develops five principles educators and policymakers should consider when designing assessment and accountability systems that use growth models for the purpose of improving the college and career readiness of high school graduates.

Rising to the Challenge of College and Career Readiness: A Framework for Effective Practices (PDF; 1.4MB, 16 pages)
This paper examines how district, schools, and classroom educators can implement the Core Practice Framework to help students master a content-rich curriculum and better prepare them for college and careers.

Staying on Target: The Importance of Monitoring Student Progress toward College and Career Readiness (PDF; 266KB, 12 pages)
This report supports the need for an integrated, longitudinal data-driven system to prepare all high school graduates for college and career.

Making Effective Use of ACT's Longitudinal Assessment System (PDF; 740KB, 14 pages)
This report examines how middle and high schools are using ACT's longitudinal assessment system for student and school improvement and provides recommendations for ramping up the quality of implementation and maximizing the benefits resulting from using the system.

Do Race/Ethnicity-based Student Achievement Gaps Grow Over Time? (PDF; 700KB, 10 pages)
This brief investigates race/ethnicity-based growth in achievement gaps for ACT-tested 2011 high school graduates.

2011

What Are ACT/NCEA College and Career Readiness Targets? (PDF; 887KB, 4 pages)
This report discusses ACT/NCEA College and Career Readiness Targets, indicators of a student's college and career readiness level for Grades 3–7. By linking to ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks, the Targets and Benchmarks define a path to College and Career Readiness throughout the Grade 3–12 experience.

2010

The Advanced Placement Program Benefits Mainly Well-Prepared Students Who Pass AP Exams
This brief, a summary of recent research by ACT's National Center for Educational Achievement, shows that having more students enrolled in AP courses does not necessarily mean more students having success in college.

More Issue Briefs

Case Studies

Case Study Series

These case studies are part of a larger study on effective practices and policies, conducted in 2007–2008.

2010

"You Can Go to College": Foster High School (PDF; 113KB, 14 pages)
This case study highlights the achievements and advancements made by Foster High School, a Texas school with a substantial enrollment of minority students, and the policies and practices that have contributed to these achievements.

2009

Readiness and Success: Statewide Implementation of EXPLORE and PLAN (PDF; 107KB, 13 pages)
EXPLORE®, PLAN®, and the ACT® allow teachers, counselors, and students to track academic progress from eighth through twelfth grades on skills directly related to college preparation.

Statewide Administration of the ACT: A Key Component in Improving Student Access to College and Work (PDF; 107KB, 13 pages)
Statewide administration of the ACT provides all students, including those who have never considered college as an option, with the opportunity to identify academic strengths and weaknesses, explore educational and career interests, set high standards for academic achievement, and prepare to meet their educational and career goals.

More Case Studies