Behind the Headline: Most High School Seniors Aren’t College Or Career Ready

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Most High School Seniors Aren’t College Or Career Ready, Says ‘Nation’s Report Card’
NPR | 4/27/16

Behind the Headline
Rethinking the High School Diploma
Education Next | Winter 2015

ednext-april16-ototn-npr-college-readyThe results from last year’s NAEP exam for 12th graders have just been released and NPR’s Anya Kamenetz takes a close look at the most important numbers: math and reading scores both declined a tiny amount, lower-achieving students are doing slightly worse and higher-achieving students slighly better than they were two years ago, and fewer than 40 percent of high school seniors score at college- or career-ready levels.

Kamenetz talks with Andrew Ho about one notable fact.

In 2015 the nationwide high school graduation rate was 82 percent, not 40 percent. That leaves a potentially large group of kids who got diplomas but who weren’t ready to succeed in college.

Who is right: their high schools or NAEP?

“I think the charitable view is that graduation is not just reading and math,” says Ho, meaning that high school diplomas also include things like “social studies, science, the arts, PE and showing up.” In other words, the diploma potentially captures achievements over time, rather than the ability to do well on a short, mostly multiple-choice test taken on a single day.

On the other hand, he says, “the less-than-charitable view would be that graduation is just a lower standard than college readiness. If you get right down to it, the reading and math required by NAEP, the ACT, the SAT, colleges and careers is much greater than what high schools are saying is sufficient.”

In a recent Education Next forum, Chester E. Finn, Jr. , Richard Kahlenberg, and Sandy Kress debated whether high schools should only award diplomas to students who are ready for college or careers, or whether  states should adopt a two-tiered diploma. Under that plan, students who pass exams at a career- and college-ready level would receive an “academic” diploma, while students who do not reach that level would receive a “basic” diploma?

—Education Next

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