ACT Establishes ACT Center for Equity in Learning

IOWA CITY, Iowa—ACT today announced the establishment of the ACT Center for Equity in Learning. The Center will advance ACT’s nonprofit mission to help people achieve success in education and the workplace through partnerships, research and initiatives aimed at closing gaps in equity and achievement for underserved learners. It will be based in ACT’s Iowa City headquarters and led by Jim Larimore, who previously served as ACT’s chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners.

“The U.S. has an increasing challenge to live up to the American dream,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda. “Educational equity and access are societal issues that impact individuals across the country. The ACT Center for Equity in Learning will build upon ACT’s longstanding commitment to address those issues, promoting college and career readiness, access and success for underserved students.”

ACT provided more than $36 million in fee waivers last year to ensure that students from lower income families could take the ACT college readiness test, which was taken by 59 percent of U.S. high school 2015 graduates. Over the past six months, ACT has also launched a new online test prep program and a groundbreaking new online test prep program with live instruction offered through a partnership with Kaplan, both of which are free to low-income students who register for the ACT with a fee waiver. The social investment of ACT, at nearly 15 percent of its total revenues, equals the organization’s investment in product development, both in the amount and in impact to ACT’s nonprofit mission.

The Center brings together and leverages ACT’s Office for the Advancement of Underserved Learners, the ACT Foundation, and ACT’s corporate giving and volunteer programs into a single unit with one aligned purpose and goal.

The Center will focus on closing gaps in equity and achievement for underserved learners, including those who are balancing the demands of work while pursuing education. There will be an emphasis on ACT’s core strengths in the high school to postsecondary years. Consistent with ACT’s holistic framework, the Center’s initiatives will reflect ACT’s interests in both college and career readiness and highlight the use of data, evidence and thought leadership to close gaps in equity and achievement.

“The establishment of the ACT Center for Equity in Learning represents a major commitment and investment by ACT to address the challenges facing underserved learners, many of whom are also working learners,” said Jim Larimore. “I’m very excited to be leading this important effort. Through our collaboration with the American Council on Education’s American College Application Campaign, the Better Make Room campaign led by Civic Nation, Univision and other partners, we want to reach millions of deserving students and ensure that all students have access to the information they need to prepare for success in their educational and career pursuits after high school.”

The Center will continue and build upon current ACT research collaboration with organizations such as Excelencia in Education, the Council for Opportunity in Education, the United Negro College Fund, the National Center for Community and Education Partnerships, the National Indian Education Association, the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, Innovate + Educate and the ACT Foundation’s innovative and catalytic research in working learners and the emergence of a national learning economy with the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

“Using evidence from high quality assessments to foster improvements in both learning and the policies that support learning is vitally important,” said Roorda.

One of the Center’s early initiatives will capitalize on ACT’s research on non-academic factors that influence student success. The Center is planning a national conference in 2017 that will focus on growth mindset and the behavioral and cross-cutting (often referred to as non-cognitive) factors that contribute to success in education and the workplace.

The new center will be engaged in a number of activities, including:

  • conducting and supporting research that leads to actions and solutions that improve learning and close gaps in equity and achievement,
  • informing policymakers and other leaders on critical topics to increase awareness and understanding of issues impacting underserved individuals,
  • educating students and their families on ways to improve postsecondary readiness and success,
  • improving the accessibility of ACT’s programs, and
  • building partnerships and networks to foster collaboration and increase impact.

“Every student needs and deserves a quality education and an opportunity to realize his or her potential,” said Larimore. “Through the work of the Center for Equity in Learning, ACT wants to play a meaningful role in creating a more just and equitable future.”

Next week ACT and Excelencia in Education will release a national report on The Condition of College and Career Readiness for Hispanic Students, based on the ACT-tested 2015 graduating class.

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