WASHINGTON (AP) - Almost a third of this year's high school graduates who took the ACT tests are not prepared for college-level writing, biology, algebra or social science classes, according to data the testing company released Wednesday.
The company's annual report also found a gap between students' interests now and projected job opportunities when they graduate, adding to the dire outlook for the class of 2013.
"The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired," said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company's education division.
Sabrina Fitzgerald, left, and Katelyn Felegy help as freshmen students move into the dormitories at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., Wednesday.
The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.
Just a quarter of this year's high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they'll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.
The report's findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they'll be forced to take remedial courses - often without earning credits - to catch their peers.
The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams - including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.
In terms of careers, the report found a chasm between what students want to study and where they might find jobs down the road. ACT compared federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projections with their own questionnaires and found insufficient student interest in the five fastest-growing industries with workers who require some college.
For instance, the government estimates that 17 percent of job openings in 2020 will be in education fields but only 6 percent of test takers told ACT they wanted a job there. Computer and information technologies will account for 11 percent of openings in 2020, but only 2 percent of students indicated they want a career in that industry.
The government estimates 9 percent of job openings will be in sales and marketing, community services and management fields. ACT reports that 2 percent of test takers are interested in sales and marketing, 7 percent in community services and 6 percent in management.
The ACT report is based on the 54 percent of high school graduates this year who took the exams. Roughly the same percentage took the SAT - the other major college entrance exam - and many students took both tests.