A few months ago, I received a communication from Jennifer Karan, executive director of the SAT Program. She provided pointers for high school freshmen on planning ahead for their educational future. At the time, I was not using my computer much, and still hadn’t conquered Naturally Speaking (not that I have since then). The point is that I missed sharing some good information that teachers and parents could share with their students. With the release of a new high school graduation rates report from NCES, however, I was reminded to share these reports as well as information on the latest government report.
In a more recent communication, I was asked to share Ms. Karan’s article related to the readiness of college-bound students to succeed in the higher education environment. The article can be accessed here: The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012 (http://media.collegeboard.com/homeOrg/content/pdf/sat-report-on-college-career-readiness-2012.pdf)
And she reminded me of the previous communication.
I also wrote an article on our College Board site that discusses the steps high school freshmen could take to be more proactive with their education and my advice on how to plan ahead. You can find the article here: Freshman Year: the Big Picture.
A press release yesterday from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses a new report, Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009–10, released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
The new NCES report is good news. After three decades of stagnation, the on-time graduation rate for high school students in the 2009-10 school year [78.2 percent] is the highest it’s been since at least 1974. It’s encouraging that the on-time graduation rate is up substantially from four years earlier. And it’s promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 — especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006.
As a student of dropout rates in the population, I was delighted to see the increase in graduation rates. Interestingly, I don’t think the jump for Hispanics was due to anything special done by the Department of Education. Rather, I believe it is because Hispanic communities across the nation have rallied behind their students to push them to greatness. Historically, public interest in the improvement of skills among Hispanics flourished for a brief period during the late 1980s through mid-1990s. Since then, public policy appeared to simply ignore any particular group in favor of all the hoop-la surrounding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the subsequent policy by the current administration allowing states to file local programs as waivers to NCLB’s one-size-fits-all policies. Most of the waiver programs have only been implemented in the past year.
This historical perspective makes the rise in graduation rates among Hispanics of even greater interest and importance. Many of these students addressed in the NCES report are now in college. Many of them are the first in their families to attend college.
However, I see a bigger problem. The students measured by both the NCES report and the SAT report were educated under NCLB, as most of the waiver programs have only been implemented during the past year. When the graduation rates are measured against the findings by SAT, which has no direct political affiliation (as far as I can tell), an interesting picture emerges: graduation rates are rising but college readiness continues to decline. My question: Have we lowered the standards for high school graduation, and have colleges changed their standards accordingly? Will there be a positive increase in college readiness by 2015, by which time most students will be prepared through their state’s standards and strategies?
I have never been a great fan of NCLB, especially because of its effect on the funding of high at-risk schools and special education programs in general. However, NCLB provided for a single means of assessing overall student achievement by school and state, resulting in a common educational skills yardstick against to measure a given school. For me, the biggest problem with NCLB is the dependence of funding on scores, and the implication that student progress is based solely on how well a teacher is teaching. Thankfully, the waiver program is taking that out of the equation, for those states who have submitted a valid plan of action to improve the education of their students. Teachers can once again concentrate on teaching students to learn instead of teaching to pass a test. Maybe this will result in greater levels of “preparedness” among incoming college freshmen.
- Explore Scholarships for Hispanic Students (usnews.com)
- Gaps Persist Despite Rising High School Graduation Rates (usnews.com)
- Statement from Secretary Duncan on NCES Public School Graduates and Dropouts Report (ed.gov)
- High School Graduation Rate at Highest Level in Three Decades (ed.gov)
- High School Grad Rate Hits Record High (huffingtonpost.com)