Improving High School Graduation Requirements: The Facts About College Readiness (page 5)
Need to Improve
- Current high school graduation requirements reflect an economy and society that no longer exist1 and do not represent the real-world demands of work and postsecondary education.2
- The skills and knowledge required in the workplace are no longer very different from those needed for success in college.3
- Business executives have said the exodus of U.S. jobs abroad was not to utilize cheap labor, but to access highly educated and conscientious workforces that were not available in the U.S.4
- In a 2005 survey of almost 1,500 recent graduates, just 24% of graduates said they were significantly challenged during high school.
- 1 in 5 recent high school graduates said that “expectations were low and...it was easy to slide by.5
- National data indicate that academic achievement in high school reading, math and science has been mostly stagnant for decades.6
- Approximately 1 in 5 students are ready to enter college or the workplace. Only 22% of ACT-tested students met or exceeded all three ACT College Readiness Benchmarks—these students likely entered high school with the requisite foundational skills, took rigorous courses, worked hard in those courses, and are now ready to enter college and the workplace.7
- Only 32% of students who enter 9th grade and graduate four years later have mastered basic literacy skills and have completed the coursework necessary to succeed in a four-year college.8
- Improving college readiness is crucial to the development of a diverse and talented labor force that is able to maintain and increase U.S. economic competitiveness throughout the world.9
- Employers report that a majority of high school graduates are inadequately prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive economy.
- For example, more than 60% of employers report that recent graduates have poor math skills, while nearly 75% pointed to a deficiency in grammar and writing skills.
- These high school graduates are likely to become trapped in unskilled, low-paying jobs that do not support a family well above the poverty level, provide benefits or offer a clear pathway for advancement.
- Employers estimate that 39% of recent high school graduates, with no further education, are unprepared for the expectations that they face in entry-level jobs. 45 percent are not adequately prepared for the skills and abilities they need to advance beyond entry level.10
- In a recent survey, 40 percent of high school graduates said they were not adequately prepared for employment or postsecondary education, and that if they could repeat their high school experience, they would work harder, especially in math, science and English.11
Remedial College Courses
- Nearly 30% of college freshmen are immediately placed into remedial courses that cover material they should have learned in high school.12
- Students who require remediation are generally less successful in college and are less likely to earn degrees than their peers who do not require remediation. 76 percent of college students requiring remedial reading, and 63% requiring remedial math, do not earn either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree.13
- Over the course of their college careers, more than 40% of postsecondary students will take at least one remedial course.14
- The quality of courses completed in high school is a greater predictor of college success than test scores, class rank, or grade point average.15
- Students are more likely to pass high-level courses than low-level courses. Thus, the research suggests that increasing access by all students to advanced academic course work will improve student academic achievement.16
- Those who enter high school with test scores in the lowest quartile learn more in academically rigorous courses than they do in either the low-level vocational or general courses in which they are traditionally enrolled.17 Moreover, students enrolled in lower-level courses were more likely to earn a “D” or “F” in those courses despite their level of ability.18
- When minority students are required to take rigorous college preparatory curricula, they rise to the challenge:19 - For example, the San Jose Unified School District in California recently showed dramatic results after it required all students to take the A–G curriculum required for admission to the University of California system. Between 1998 and 2002, test scores of African American 11th graders increased nearly seven times as much as those of African American students across the state.
- What’s more, the more rigorous requirements have not resulted in the increase in dropout rates that some had predicted.20
- Taking a rigorous high school curriculum that includes Math, at least through Algebra II, cuts in half the gap in college completion rates between white students and African American and Latino students.21
Good Jobs Demand More Education
- According to a wide range of economic, education and business experts, good jobs require more math and English than ever before, and workers will need some postsecondary education or training—whether it is in the form of two- or four-year college course work, apprenticeships, or the military—to meet the needs of the high performance workplace.
If U.S. workers cannot meet the demand, many of the highly skilled jobs may go to workers in other countries, such as China and India, which will have a significant impact on U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.22
- Bureau of Labor Statistics projections show that 80% of the top 50 fastest-growing jobs will require education beyond high school, and that 40% of all new jobs will require at least an associate’s degree.23
- Two-thirds of all new jobs will require some postsecondary education.24
Projected Job Growth 2000-201025
- Highly Paid Jobs (Earnings $40K+)
- 25% share of jobs
- Projected growth rate: 20%
- Net new jobs: 7.5 million
- Total job openings: 14.5 million (51% from job creation)
- Jobs Include: Managers; Engineers; Legal Professionals; Licensed Medical Professionals, Teachers, Financial, Insurance, and Real Estate Professionals, Technical Knowledge Workers
- Well-Paid Skilled Jobs (Earnings $25K- 40K)
- 37% share of jobs
- Projected growth rate: 12%
- Net new jobs: 6.6 million
- Total job openings: 17.9 million (32% from job creation)
- White-Collar Jobs Include: Financial Services Support, Administrative Support, Health Technicians; Human Services; Sales Managers;
- Blue-Collar Jobs Include: Protective Services; Crafts Workers; Mechanics, Repairers, and Service Technicians
- Factory jobs which have now become more skilled have declined from 32 to 17% of all jobs between 1959 and 2000.26
- Low-paid or Low-skilled Jobs ($25K or less)
- 38% share of jobs
- Projected growth rate: 15%
- Net new jobs: 8.1 million
- Total job openings: 25.2 million (32% from job creation)
- Jobs Include: Clerical, Cashiers and Retail Sales Workers; Personal Services; Food Services; Child Care Services; Health and Recreation Services; Laborers; Transportation Operatives; Farming, Forestry, and Fishing
- High school graduate - $25,90027
- Non-high school graduate - $18,90028
- College graduate - $45,40029
- Master’s degree - $54,50030
- Doctorate degree - $81,40031
- Professional degree(M.D., J.D., etc.) - $99,30032
- The average wages of high school graduates, and those individuals who never graduated high school, have fallen over the last two decades; the average incomes of those who went beyond high school have risen.33
Graduation Requirements Across the Nation
- 42 states require students to take certain courses to graduate from high school.34
- 22 states have standards in all four subjects (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies).35
1 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
2 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
3 Somerville & Yi, 2002.
4 The Demographics and Academics of College Readiness in Illinois, Jennifer B. Presley and Yuqin Gong, Illinois Education Research Council.
5 Hart, Rising to the Challenge.
6 U.S. Department of Education, NCES. 2000. NAEP Trends in Academic Progress: Three Decades of Student Performance (NCES 2000-469). Washington, DC.
7 Crisis at the Core: Preparing All Students for College and Work, ACT 2004.
8 Crisis at the Core: Preparing All Students for College and Work, ACT 2004.
9 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
10 Peter D. Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies, Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work? prepared for Achieve, Inc., 2005.
11 Peter D. Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies, Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work? prepared for Achieve, Inc., 2005.
12 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
13 National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, 2004.
14 National Center for Education Statistics, Access to Postsecondary Education for the 1992 High School Graduates.
15 Barth, P. (2003). A common core curriculum for the new century. Thinking K-16, 7(1), 3-25.
16 Hallinan, Maureen T. “Ability Grouping and Student Learning,” Prepared for Brookings Papers on Education Policy Conference: The American High School Today, The
Brookings Institution. Washington, DC, May 14-15, 2002.
17 Levesque, K. et al. Vocational Education in the United States: Toward the Year 2000. NCES 2000–029. U.S. Department of Education, NCES, 2000. http://nces.ed.gov/
18 Cooney, S., & Bottoms, G. (2002). Middle grades to high school: Mending a weak link. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board, 2004.
19 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
20 Education Trust–West, The A–G Curriculum: College-Prep? Work-Prep? Life-Prep. Understanding and Implementing a Rigorous Core Curriculum for All, 2004.
21 National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2004, Indicator 22, Supplemental Table 22-2.
22 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
23 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2000). The Outlook for College Graduates, 1998-2008.
24 Carnevale, Anthony P. and Donna M. Desrochers, Standards for What? The Economic Roots of K–16 Reform, Educational Testing Service, 2003.
25 American Diploma Project: Workplace Study. Source: Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2000-2010. The distribution of jobs may differ from that
derived from other data sources for several reasons. First, the distribution of jobs is based on a “jobs count,” which includes all full- and part-time jobs. Other job analyses,
which often use survey data, only include a person’s primary job; therefore, only one job is counted even if a person works two jobs (either one full-time and another parttime,
or two part-time jobs). Because low-paid or low-skilled jobs are more likely to be part time, the largest differences in the number of jobs occur at the bottom of the
26 American Diploma Project: Workplace Study.
27 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
28 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
29 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
30 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
31 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
32 U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
33 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools.
34 Achieve, Inc., The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements, 2004.
35 “Quality Counts 2003.” Education Week. February 5, 2003. Available www.edweek. org/sreports/qc03.
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