Estimates suggest only 10 percent of AZ juniors are on track for success
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Estimates suggest only 10 percent of AZ juniors are on track for success

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  • Rebecca Lindgren/Helios Education Foundation

Apollo High School Students And Faculty Members Celebrate Their Excelling Label In October 2008. Photo Courtesy Of Glendale Union High School

Recently, Helios Education Foundation contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago, a national research firm, to examine data and provide statewide estimates of mean ACT achievement and college readiness.

Based on the report, only 10 percent of Arizona’s high school juniors would be considered college and career ready as identified by the four subject-area benchmarks tested by the ACT.

Estimates suggest only 10 percent of AZ juniors are on track for success ArizonaStudentsHP

Apollo High School students and faculty members celebrate their excelling label in October 2008. Photo courtesy of Glendale Union High School

In addition, the study highlighted that the low college and career readiness rate is not evenly spread across our student population. The data showed that about 22 percent of White students in 2013 met all four benchmarks, while only four percent of Hispanic/Latino students met all four benchmarks.

For the past seven years, Helios Education Foundation has supported ACT testing in 14 Arizona school districts in order to have a greater understanding of college readiness for Arizona students. Led by Dr. Hedberg, NORC at the University of Chicago examined data from these 14 districts over three years to determine predicative college and career readiness rates.

College readiness for any one subject (i.e., English, reading, mathematics and science) is based on ACT test score thresholds that have been shown to be predictive of college success in related subjects. At a national level, ACT college entrance examination data reveals that only 31 percent of ACT test takers are ready for college. However, it should be noted that in most states, only college-bound students take the ACT. Therefore, the college readiness rate of all students is likely lower than 31 percent.

“The statistical adjustments are important to consider, because the choice to take the test is not random,” said Hedberg.

“We show in our analysis that rates of readiness without these adjustments provide a more optimistic picture than what we believe are the facts on the ground,” said Hedberg, now a professor at Arizona State University in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

According to Charles Hokanson, Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at Helios Education Foundation, “These findings should be of particular importance to Arizona stakeholders and policymakers because they only reinforce the need for us to develop strategies to help increase the college and career readiness rate for all students in Arizona – not just students who are high academic achievers.”

The ACT college entrance examination has four core subjects: English, reading, mathematics and science. Each of these subjects has an associated threshold for college and career readiness.

NORC’s best estimate for 2013 is that only 10 percent of Arizona’s high school juniors would have met all four ACT subject-area benchmarks. Perhaps more alarming is the estimate that the vast majority (59 percent) of Arizona’s juniors would have met no benchmarks.

This low college and career readiness rate will have dire consequences for Arizona’s future economic growth and development. This research indicates that Arizona’s future workforce is unprepared and that will negatively impact Arizona’s ability to attract and sustain business growth.

In addition, with Latino students making up the largest population group in Arizona’s K-12 system, we must increase the college and career readiness rate of this demographic group or we risk being a second-tier economy.

“We are very concerned about these numbers and the fact that our students are not prepared to succeed in college and career,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “This data reinforces the fact that we need to increase rigor in our classrooms and continue to work to close the Latino achievement gap.”

Click here to learn more about this research and download NORC’s report.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Lindgren at 602.381.2294 or

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectation, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida. Through a decade of strategic partnership and investment, Helios has identified Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness and Postsecondary Completion as the three most critical reform priorities in achieving our long term goal.

As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its expertise and financial resources to better prepare students for college and career and to compete successfully in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $155 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information about the Foundation, visit