The high school graduation rate is the highest it’s ever been, reports the Department of Education, as it has announced that 82 percent of high schoolers earned their diploma from 2013 to 2014. However, the Center for Education Statistics has found that less than 40 percent of America’s high school seniors are ready for college after testing their reading and math skills.
College dropout and remediation rates are high as well—particularly at two year colleges—as only a third receive their diplomas, even after three years in school.
“If you look at what a graduation diploma guarantees today,” said Pamela P. Lackey, the president of AT&T South Carolina, “the issue is we have a system of education that prepares them for a different type of work than we have as a reality today.”
In some areas of the country, lack of college preparedness is especially problematic for Black and Hispanic teens. South Carolina legislators evaluated the states’ 11th graders’ college and career readiness with a standardized test and found that only six percent of Blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics were ready for college math. Similarly, an impoverished rural area of the state found that while 85 percent of Black students graduated, none of them passed the ACT in reading or math at the college level.
There’s no straightforward answer in why graduation rates are so high. However, it might be explained by decreasing distractions like teen pregnancy and violence, in addition to the fact that states have been creating more accommodations to make it easier for students to pass. The New York times reports:
Economists point to a decline in the teenage pregnancy rate, as well as a reduction in violent crime among teenagers. Some districts use data systems to identify students with multiple absences or failed classes so educators can better help them. And an increasing number of states and districts offer students more chances to make up failed credits online or in short tutoring sessions without repeating a whole semester or more.
States also vary widely in diploma requirements. In California, South Carolina and Tennessee, the authorities have recently eliminated requirements that students pass exit exams to qualify for a diploma. Alaska, California, Wisconsin and Wyoming demand far fewer credits to graduate than most states, according to the Education Commission of the States, although local school districts may require more.
According to one analysis of requirements for the class of 2014, 32 states did not require that all graduates take four years of English and math through Algebra II or its equivalent, which is often defined as the minimum to be prepared for college.
Alissa Peltzman is the vice president of Achieve, a non-profit that has been monitoring the disparity between the high graduation rates and the dip in college readiness. She said: “Students and their families rely on and trust the high school diploma as a signal of readiness…It needs to mean something. Otherwise, it’s a false promise for thousands of students.”
SOURCE: New York Times