Education in Omaha & Council Bluffs:

Post-Secondary Readiness

Post-Secondary 1

White students are testing college-ready at rates much higher than students of color.

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Let's Break It Down

College readiness rates range from 36% to 74% depending on the subject.

The ACT reports College Readiness Benchmark Scores to predict whether a student is ready for college. A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to predict a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in their respective college coursework. The following are the local benchmark scores for each area:

ACT Test
English- 18 
Mathematics- 22
Reading- 22
Science- 23

Locally, Hispanic and Black students tested ready at a rate one to two times lower than their fellow White students in 2015. Math and science readiness rates were the lowest for all students when compared to reading and English readiness rates. Because there are very few Black students enrolled in Pottawattamie Schools, their data is not broken out separately to preserve confidentiality.

Historically, local school districts have used 11th grade testing to assess if a student was ready for college. Now, districts are moving towards using the ACT as a primary benchmark for college readiness. Usually, only students planning on attending college take the test, so districts are working to ensure all students take the test regardless of their plans after high-school.

Why Does It Matter?

Job-specific training programs and college degrees both increase earnings and prepare students for a successful career.

Career success often depends on the progress a student made in high school. While the ACT can provide some insight, GPA is also an important indicator of students' ability to be successful in college. Students who are behind when entering college may have to take remedial coursework or be unable to complete their degree. Completing at least one secondary degree provides an increase in average pay. Individuals in the Metro area with a bachelor’s degree earned $18,000 more than someone with only a high school education.

Besides grades and test scores, one of the first steps in preparing for college is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Without the FAFSA, students won't know what type of financial aid they can receive. Local districts are working to ensure all students complete the FAFSA.

For many students, their career interest doesn't require a traditional college degree, but rather vocational or technical training. The Omaha-Council Bluffs area offers a variety of options through community colleges and other job-specific programs that provide this type of training; examples include trade schools such as plumbing, electrical, and welding programs.

It's difficult to obtain career-readiness data. However, there is increased focus on students developing interpersonal skills, sometimes referred to as 21st century skills. These include critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills. As the economy continues to become more complex and globalized, these skills are critical for students to be successful in obtaining and keeping a job. Locally, there are a few school districts that are beginning to measure these skills over time and use the data to make decisions on curriculum and programming within the schools.

How Do We Compare?

Comparison to national test scores varies depending on the subject and school district.

In Douglas and Sarpy Counties, Hispanic students' test results indicate they are less prepared than their national counterparts in all subjects. Black students' tests results show they are more prepared in science, English, and reading than their national counterparts, but not in math.

In Pottawattamie County, comparisons to national data indicate that White students are less prepared in science and White and Hispanic students are less prepared in math.

While test results are a helpful assessment tool, it's important to note that testing does not always indicate actual proficiency and it is possible there are biases within the tests that are used.

Data Source: Nebraska Department of Education, Iowa Department of Education, U.S. Census American Community Survey 2014 5- Year Estimates Table B20004, ACT College Readiness Study


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