Michael Q. McShane

Piggybacking off of Brittany Wagner’s post on ACT results, I wanted to direct your attention to the ACT’s recently released college readiness report on Missouri’s Class of 2015. It has numerous interesting data points on how well Missouri’s most recent crop of graduates performed. Let’s look at a few that stand out.


The report shows that 31 Missouri students scored a perfect 36 on the entire test. Within individual tests, 197 students scored perfect on the English section, 108 scored perfect in math, 368 scored perfect in reading, and 289 scored perfect in science.

College Readiness

ACT sets a “college readiness” benchmark on its exams that (they claim) correlates to a 50 percent chance of a B or higher or a 75 percent chance of a C or higher in the first-year college course in that subject. For English, it’s an 18 (out of 36), for math and reading it’s a 22, and for science it’s a 23.

Across the class of 2015, 71 percent of Missouri students scored college-ready in English, 44 percent scored college-ready in math, 51 did so in reading, and 42 percent cleared the bar in science.

Unfortunately, those groups weren’t always overlapping, because in total, only 30 percent of the class of 2015 scored college-ready in all four tested subjects.

If that wasn’t bad enough, breaking down the scores by racial groups shows even worse performance. While 34 percent of white students and 43 percent of Asian American students scored college-ready in all four subjects, only 20 percent of Hispanic students and 6 percent of African American students did.

Everywhere in Missouri, we have room to grow.

Course Access

The ACT also collects information from test takers on the courses that they have taken.

Probably the most eye-catching figure to me was the finding that 6 percent of the students who took the ACT in the class of 2015 took fewer than 3 years of math in high school. Not surprisingly, only 9 percent of those students were ready for college math. (For those students who took 3 or more years of math, 54 percent were college-ready.) The report also shows that 17 percent of the class of 2015 took fewer than 3 years of natural science courses. Preparing students for the 21st Century means preparation in math and science, and in too many places the courses simply aren’t there.

The findings from this report are a challenge to Missouri to step up its game. We won’t be an engine of economic growth, a vibrant cultural center, or a flourishing democracy if so few of our students are prepared for higher-level schooling. We have to do better.

About the Author

Michael McShane
Senior Fellow of Education Policy

Mike McShane is Senior Fellow of Education Policy for the Show-Me Institute. He is a former high school teacher and earned his PhD in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to the Show-Me Institute, Mike worked at the American Enterprise Institute as a research fellow.