This report, entitled "The Forgotten Middle", examined the level of preparation for eventual success in high school that 8th graders had exhibited on the basis of their scores on ACT's EXPLORE (the 8th-9th grade precursor to PLAN and the eventual ACT). The data showed that "fewer than two in ten eighth graders are on target to be ready for college-level work by the time they graduate from high school." The report goes on to state that, under current conditions, "the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school."
So, what's the best predictor of college and career readiness by the time students reach high school graduation? It's where they are just BEFORE they enter high school. In other words, their eighth-grade academic achievement will provide the plot line for each student's academic story played out in grades 9-12. It's worth reiterating that academic achievement for this research data is determined by the four EXPLORE scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science. The benchmarks achieved on these measures turn out to be much more powerful predictors of college and career readiness at high school graduation than any other factor - including students' family backgrounds, high school coursework, or high school grade point average. Of course, delve deeper into the report (second opportunity to click on the green word) and you'll find out why.
A few years years ago, the State University of New York (SUNY) system conducted a study to determine the predictive power of SAT scores in determining college graduation rates. An essay (go ahead - click on it) written by the former SUNY Provost revealed that there was a significant difference between those SUNY schools that raised the bar on SAT scores for admission versus those that didn't. What's the significance of this? It points to the level of preparation an entering student has achieved (yes - as determined by performance on a standardized test that students may choose to take more than once) that determines the extent to which each student can take advantage of the academic opportunities made available to them in subsequent years. And it predicts pretty accurately if s/he will earn a college degree. Read the essay for the proof.
So, what's the point? Aside from giving a nod to the ACT's primary competitor in the standardized testing business (kind of like the old days when the opposing political party would get equal TV time) it's that college readiness can be measured by the SAT (or ACT) and that one's relative readiness will predict college completion (career readiness?). The same may be said of high school readiness as measured by benchmark scores on EXPLORE. High school readiness comes before college readiness. In fact, it appears that the latter doesn't come without the former. So, college readiness should not be mentioned without an explicit reference to high school readiness as a precondition to the former becoming a reality. If students show up not ready for high school, then - according to the ACT research reported in "The Forgotten Middle" - it's likely they won't be ready for college, either, when that time arrives four years later for students to walk across the stage and be handed their high school diplomas.
This is simply a reminder - we can't forget the middle child in our discussions if we want them to eventually grow into successful adults.