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A Better Approach to Readiness

After she left high school, Janie had been waiting tables for two years before she mustered the courage to go back to school. After working a long shift, she stopped at her local community college to learn there were three steps to enrolling.

  1. First, she sat down to complete her online application. Easy enough. 
  2. Second, she contacted her high school to request an official transcript. No problem. 
  3. Lastly, she would need to take a proctored placement test for English and math. A test? Now? 
Walking down the hall to the testing center, she began to sweat a little—her heart beating faster as she contemplated the task at hand. Besides calculating checks and tips, she hadn’t “done math” in the two years since high school.

Three hours later, she learned the bad news. She had just missed the “cut scores” required for placement in credit-bearing classes. Now, her return to school would begin with some remedial courses.

What Janie didn’t know is that the odds of earning her degree just dropped…substantially.

Research shows[1] that only one in five students who take remedial college coursework will attain a degree. Janie will begin her college endeavors trailing behind some of her college-bound peers and paying for courses that earn no credit. If only she could have scored a few points higher.

Janie isn’t alone.

Each year, tens of thousands of students and adult learners returning to school follow a similar path. We know the traditional methods of placement are unintended obstacles to success. In fact, ACT discontinued its own placement assessment program, ACT Compass, several years ago when we determined that it fell short of serving the needs of students and institutions. We strongly felt that a better approach to readiness—focused on helping students learn, rather than shuffling them off to a remedial course—was needed.

That’s why we developed and launched ACT CollegeReady, a solution offering individualized support. After taking a low stakes diagnostic test (online, non-proctored), each student is presented with a personalized study path with rich multimedia learning content to help them overcome their skills gaps. As the student learns, CollegeReady checks their knowledge of each topic. As their mastery expands, their CollegeReady score improves. And as their score improves, they reach the milestones necessary for credit-bearing course placement.

ACT CollegeReady is a turnkey solution for educational institutions, systems, and states eager for better outcomes through a student-centered learning and readiness experience. What’s more, ACT’s subscription model offers students unlimited use of the tool for one year, so learners can continue to take advantage of ACT CollegeReady once they begin their college-level studies. They can use CollegeReady anywhere, anytime, on any device. Equally helpful, instructors and advisors have detailed dashboard reports showing the progress (and struggles) of each student. This provides them the tools necessary for improved support, encouragement and tailored educational intervention.

As more and more colleges adopt new readiness programs such as ACT CollegeReady, our goal is to see Janie’s story as a part of education history that inspired a better approach to learning. The future of student success lies in programs that focus on learning in a personalized and adaptive environment.

[1] Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere. (2012). [PDF]
Washington, DC: Complete College America, pgs. 2-3, 10. Available at:
http://completecollege.org.



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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as a leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality assessments grounded in nearly 60 years of research. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions designed to provide personalized insights that help individuals succeed from elementary school through career.

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