Few high school students college ready despite slight ACT gain
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Prepping for ACT

Despite a slight gain in high school college entrance readiness scores, Mississippi students by and large aren't prepared for higher education. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Two years ago the Mississippi legislature provided funding for all public high school students to take the ACT, the college readiness exam. The average score for public and private high school grads has risen slightly from 18.4 out of a possible 36 last year to 18.6 in 2017.  The national average is 21. The Mississippi Department of Education reports more than 82 percent earn a diploma. Still, the testing organization finds only 12 percent of grads are college ready in English, math, reading and science. Rachel Canter is with the education organization, Mississippi First. 

"When you look at what is required for students to graduate high school, they don't have to be proficient on those state exit exams in order to get a diploma. They just have to pass and in some instances they don't even have to pass if their grade is high enough. There's a gap between what is required to exit high school and what is required to be successful at the next level," said Canter. 

Canter says, learning standards were raised during the 2014-2015 school year. Some schools are still transitioning. Whitman Smith, with University of Mississippi admissions, says requiring students to take the ACT is an important step. 

"It puts college on the mind of students in Mississippi. While there are certain students in the state who from the first day they could understand words knew that they were going to college, there are a lot of students that don't have that expectation and maybe don't have that same hope. They realize college can become a possibility for them," said Smith.  

Rachel Canter says high school students must be prepared for post-secondary education. She says some students don't know they're academically behind until they reach college and end-up dropping out.