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Florida's Students Fall Behind in College Preparedness

August 21, 2013 - 6:00pm

Florida students are not ready for college and many fall below the national average in terms of college preparedness after they leave high school, according to ACT college-admissions-test results released Wednesday morning.

A small number -- 19 percent -- of Florida's students were considered "college ready" on all four ACT exams, according to "The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013" report. The ACT covers English, math, science and reading and is a test widely used for admissions into colleges across the country.

Floridas students performed below the national average for all four subjects, and only 30 percent of students in the Sunshine State met three or four of the ACT benchmarks, which are ACT subject area scores that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a "B" or higher or about a 75 percentchance of earning a "C" or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses.

That means that 30 percent of Floridas students have a coin-flip shot at getting a "B" or above in a first-year college course.

This year's number slightly surpassed last year's results, which showed 18 percent of Florida's students were "college ready." Both numbers, however, are still below the national average of 26 percent.

More alarmingly, many of Floridas students -- 40 percent -- are not considered college-ready in any subject, a number that is 9 percentage points higher than the national average.

Interim Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said she was happy students were taking the ACT and preparing for college. Seventy-four percent of the class of 2013 in the Sunshine State -- around 124,000 students -- took the ACT.

The average composite score was 19.6 out of 36, making Florida one of the lowest scores in the country.

The three states whose students scored lower than Florida -- Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee -- all had a greater number of students taking the test, while the state that performed the best on the ACT, Massachusetts, had only 22 percent of its students taking the ACT.

Florida has made leaps and bounds in progress with its public education system over the last decade, but the new report shows that there is still a long way to go in terms of preparing students for college-level classes.

Next year, Common Core will change the way students in Florida learn material in the classroom. Supporters of the Common Core State Standards say theyll better prepare students for college-level classes and beyond.

"This is exactly the reason our state must embrace the more rigorous state standards that are being implemented," Stewart told The Orlando Sentinel. "These standards focus on critical thinking, analytical problem-solving and a much deeper understanding of subject content."

Supporters of the national education standards believe theyll push students to a higher level of learning, causing them to analyze material more deeply, which will help them after high school and in the workforce.

But on top of the daunting report was another finding that there is a gap between students' interests now and projected job opportunities when they graduate, adding to the poor outlook for the class of 2013.

"The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired," said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company's education division (the company producing the ACT test).

Its unclear what effect Common Core will have on the preparedness of students for college-level courses, and the effects of the standards wouldnt be visible for years.

The national standards were, however, strongly recommended to improve college preparedness for students across the country.

Implementing the [Common Core] standards must now be a catalyst for aligning all aspects of state and local systems to college and career readiness, read the national report. Promising practice research shows that systemic alignment of key policies and school activities empowers educators to make notable gains in student achievement. An integrated, systemic approach to education delivery is essential for every state.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at

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