With sky-high college dropout rates, more students need to prepare

By on November 21, 2010

by Jessica Corbett
Kaneland Krier Executive Editor

KANELAND—Here’s a shocking fact: 73 percent of current Illinois high school seniors are unprepared for college-level science classes.

What does that mean?

It’s all in the ACT scores: Each subject has a benchmark, or a minimum score a student needs to achieve to be successful in college. A student who meets the benchmark score has about a 75 percent chance of passing first-year, college-level courses with a C, and about a 50 percent chance of passing the courses with a B, according to the College Board.

The science benchmark, set at 24, is the most difficult to achieve—only 27 percent of Illinois students met the benchmark. At Kaneland, only 24 percent of seniors who took the ACT in April met the science benchmark.

The mathematics benchmark is slightly lower—a score of 22 indicates college readiness—but only 40 percent of Illinois students met the benchmark score. In reading, the benchmark is set at 21, and 48 percent of Illinois students met it. In English, the benchmark is 18, and with 64 percent of Illinois students meeting the benchmark, the level of preparedness in the subject was the highest.

These statistics may be scary, but seniors Danielle Thomas and Bobby Thorson weren’t surprised.

Thomas, who took the ACT twice, said students have to prepare themselves to meet benchmarks. Thomas said she prepares for college-level work by taking the advanced classes at KHS.

“The people that take those classes are thinking about college,” she said. “I took AP Chemistry and AP Calculus.”
Thorson, who is enrolled in Honors Accounting, AP French V and AP Statistics, also said he’s making sure he’s prepared for college by taking challenging classes.

“Pick classes that will teach you to think at a higher level, because in college they’re not going to sugarcoat any of the information they’re giving you,” Thorson said. “You’re going to have to analyze the information all by yourself.”

What happens when students don’t challenge themselves enough in high school?

Often, when they reach college, they struggle. The dirty little secret about college is that nearly half of students never graduate—they drop out either because the courses were too difficult or the tuition was too costly. The other shocker? That 60 percent of two–year college students need to take remedial coursework, gaining no college credit and paying as much as $350 per class, according Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor.