Preparation of High School Students
College courses prepare students for the changing workplace and are much more demanding than high school classes. To be successful when they get to college, students must prepare by taking rigorous courses throughout their schooling, especially in high school. The ACT test is one national-level measure of a student’s readiness for college. The graphs below show how Oklahoma high school students perform on the ACT and have generally improved since 2002.
ACT studies indicate that students who score 19 or higher are more likely to be successful in college than those who score below 19. As indicated below, a significant number of Oklahoma high school students are not prepared to be successful when they enter college.
- 68 percent of high school seniors are ready to be successful in college English.
- 32 percent of high school seniors are ready to be sucessful in college algebra.
- 24 percent of high school seniors are ready to be successful in college biology.
If entering high school students are not prepared to be successful in college, they must take remedial classes when they begin college. Remediation rates vary among research and regional universities and community colleges. For example, in 2003 (the most current data available), 13.2 percent of the first-year students at the two research universities required remediation as compared to 35.1 percent at the regional universities and 51.8 percent at the community colleges. Students who are required to take one or more remedial courses are less likely to graduate from college than those who do not require remedial courses.
The State Regents offer a number of very substantial programs to help students better prepare for college. Among the most significant of these statewide programs are:
- The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), offering scholarships to qualifying students who complete the required high school curriculum.
- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), offering scholarships and other encouragement toward college attendance.
- The Oklahoma Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), assessing student performance in preparation for college.
The Oklahoma EPAS program operates across the state and is based on the ACT. Under the EPAS program, middle school and high school students take tests (assessments) in key academic areas that gauge their college readiness. The three assessment tools are the eighth-grade EXPLORE test, the 10th grade PLAN test and the ACT in the 11th or 12th grade. Participation in EPAS by school districts is voluntary, but participation rates have increased dramatically since the program began in 1994. Today, nearly 500 school districts and 85,000 eighth and 10th graders have participated (see graph below).
The State Regents’ EPAS, GEAR UP and OHLAP programs are all designed to help students become better prepared for college and to encourage and facilitate college admission and enrollment. With these programs in place, Oklahoma is realizing some successes. The percentage of high school students who potentially will need remediation in college decreased from 1996 to 2004 in English, reading and science. Math remediation increased slightly, however, despite a modest increase in math scores on the ACT during the last eight years. Math performance gains remain a high priority for State Regents’ student preparation efforts. National comparisons show that additional efforts need to be made, particularly in science and, to a lesser extent, reading.