The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It’s worse than you think (career/college readiness) reported today on a 2010 study that looked at whether high school students were being prepared for career or college. The results were shocking – and they were actually worse under the surface.

According to the report, produced by researchers at the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University, 40% of high school students graduate without being prepared for college or for a career. These students, researchers contend, are “’a virtual underclass of students’ who finish high school with a transcript filled with watered-down general education courses and few prospects for success either in traditional college or in professional training.”

The authors note that 33% of high school students graduate on a ‘college prep’ track, with an additional quarter of students on a career prep pathway. But there are a few basic facts that make these numbers worse than they initially appear:

  • The report specifically speaks to high school graduates, which ignores the 30% of students who drop out before graduating. Add those students back in to the calculations (specifically, to the ‘generally unprepared’ category) and the numbers change to 55% of all students leaving school unprepared (diploma in hand or not), 26% graduate on a college track, and 19.5% on a career pathway.

  • The authors note the truly alarming facts about students who go on to two-year or four-year postsecondary education: Namely, that right now, just two states award more than 20 degrees per 100 students in community college, and only eight states award more than 20 degrees per 100 students in four-year colleges.

  • The definition of career pathway, though commonly accepted, is particularly weak: Taking at least two CTE courses. That’s it. Certainly some students are taking a full array of CTE courses and becoming prepared for work – but how many are taking no more than two courses, and of those, how many are really career-ready?
These facts are daunting, and the authors’ suggested solutions – namely integrating instruction both within the school walls and with outside parties – are good ones. But they ignore the reality of how we got here in the first place – unless you address the problems that led us to where we are, you’ll never be able to change the system going forward.


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