Defective College Preparation

The Iowa–based ACT testing agency reported yesterday that only 23% of the 2009 high school graduating class had sufficient knowledge and skills to attain a C in college freshmen courses as revealed by the ACT examination. This means that more than 1 million high school students graduated who were poorly prepared for college. The figure is undoubtedly considerably greater since students who take the ACT examination are more often bound for college and are motivated to do well on the examination.

These results are particularly disturbing given the exorbitant and rising costs of K-12 schooling and its many well-intentioned reforms of the last half-century. The figures call — – not for improvement or further reforms — – but for revolutionary thinking. Among the possibilities for consideration is the awarding of an elementary school certificate for those who could pass a reasonable examination at the end of six or eight years of schooling. Those that fail might be given a year or two in special schools to better prepare themselves. Those that pass could go on to technical school for direct preparation for work or to an academic high school in preparation for college.

Some of those admitted to high school would be capable of accelerated progress as revealed by a rigorous graduation test. They could graduate by age 16 and finish college by 18.

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