"As many as 40 percent of the nation's high school graduates say they are inadequately prepared to deal with the demands of employment and postsecondary education, according to a recently released national survey of nearly 1,500 recent high school graduates, 400 employers and 300 college instructors. The survey is the basis for the report "Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work?" The survey was commissioned by Achieve, Inc. in Washington, D.C., and conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C.
Among the findings:
- More than 80% of high school graduates say they would work harder and take tougher courses if they could do high school over again.
- Eight in 10 recent graduates say that they would have worked harder if their high school had demanded more of them.
- A majority of graduates who took Algebra 2 in high school say they feel more prepared for the math they need in college or on the job.
- Employers estimate that 39% of recent high school graduates are unprepared for the expectations they face in entry-level jobs. Employers also estimate that an even larger proportion (45%) of recent workforce entrants is not adequately prepared to advance beyond entry-level jobs.
To view the entire report or a PowerPoint Summary, go to www.achieve.org."
These sorts of things could be depressing. Or, you could go have a look at this post over at Pratie Place regarding how America has nearly always bemoaned the poor state its youngsters are in.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) turns 40 years old this week. We've known for a long time that "Johnny can't read." Recent renewals of this Act (a/k/a "No Child Left Behind") have been aimed at ensuring that Johnny---regardless of what gender, colour of skin, or socioeconomic status s/he may be---has an opportunity to acquire the basics and be challenged.
Want more to think about?
The New York Times published a story today about the "Northwest Evaluation Association study involving a 'broad but not nationally representative' sample of pupils in 23 states, student math and reading scores have improved somewhat under NCLB, but within grades, over the course of the school year, students made less academic progress than they did before the law was implemented. Researchers found minority students' growth lagged behind that of whites, a troubling trend which, they said, could widen the achievement gap."
Makes me wonder that no matter what we do in public ed, we can't really get every Johnny reading (even when Johnny has center stage). What's the answer then? We've tried for decades to have an "educated" populace. Will there ever be a time when we achieve this?
I can't imagine that we'll quit trying. After all, we're not allowed to or the feds will give us even less support than they do now. But perhaps we need to be realistic. We can't just point fingers at the schools, tell them the source of ill, and that they'd better shape up. We'll have to take on some other larger societal issues, like poverty and universal healthcare. How is a kid who doesn't come from a home where there's money to buy food or provide medical aid supposed to concentrate on reading, writing, math, and science?
Schools will continue to plug along, just as we always have. In a moral sense, it is unacceptable to determine that 100% of kids will acquire basic skills (and then some). Which kids would you choose to leave uneducated? Who decides? And yet, the reality is simply that some kids will not get what they need, in spite of our efforts. Schools don't need more numbers...we need more solutions.