In 2015, 16% of Alabama high school graduates were ready for college, according to ACT data that was released last month. That’s the percentage of last spring’s high school graduates who met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks (English, reading, mathematics, science).
For the first time, this is an accurate indicator of college readiness among the state’s high school graduating class, because virtually 100% of 2015 graduates took the ACT. As juniors, this class of students was the first to benefit from the state of Alabama paying for all students to take the ACT. (As sophomores, they all also took ACT’s PLAN test, and as 8th graders they all took ACT’s EXPLORE test.) In previous years, the only students who took the ACT were those who decided to take it on their own, which most recently was about 80% of high school graduates.
Having this new information means that for the first time, Alabama high school students now have honest, meaningful feedback that gives them an idea of whether or not they are prepared for college, or their “readiness” level.
Of course, now that Alabama is testing all students, the overall percentage of students who are meeting all four benchmarks has dropped. Last year, when about 80% of high school graduates took the ACT, 20% of them met all four benchmarks. As A+ explained in 2013 in a blog post, this was expected:
“In 2015, all of Alabama’s graduating high school students will have taken the ACT for the first time…This larger pool of test-takers will likely result in a decline in the percentage of Alabama students deemed “college ready” by the ACT benchmarks discussed above… In 2013 in Alabama, 38,122 students graduating in public and private schools had taken the ACT, which is 78% of the overall graduating class. Among those students who took the ACT, only 20% met all four ACT benchmarks, or approximately 7,624 students. In the worst-case scenario, if the other 22% of 2013 graduates had taken the ACT and none met all four college readiness benchmarks, only 15.5% of graduating students in 2013 would have been deemed college ready. 
So, the good news is, we didn’t see the worst-case scenario. The bad news is, only 16% of Alabama graduates last year met the college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects.
Without question, we still have a long way to go in Alabama toward providing every child with a high-quality education. However, we now know where we stand, and we have solid data to drive our next steps forward on the path to success.
 ACT Profile Report 2013.
 Calculated using ACT’s data source: graduate estimates from “Data Explore,” Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, http://knocking.wiche.edu/explore?state_id=AL, last accessed Oct. 25, 2013.