More and more students going on to college

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More and more students going on to college

  • Source: The Condition of Education 2003.

Most high school grads go on to postsecondary within 2 years

  • Source: NELS: 88, Second (1992) and Third (1994) Follow up; in, USDOE, NCES, “Access to Postsecondary Education for the 1992 High School Graduates,” 1998, Table 2.

That’s good, because education pays: Annual earnings of 25-34 year-olds by attainment, 2001

Unfortunately, when these new freshmen arrive in college, many must take remedial (high-school) level courses

Not surprisingly, many of those college freshmen do not return for sophomore year

  • Source: Tom Mortensen, Postsecondary Opportunity, No. 89, November 1999.

Even among freshmen in selective colleges, large numbers don’t complete degrees

  • Source: 1999 NCAA Division I Graduation Rates Report, p. 636.

Clearly, we’ve got a problem

  • Students are following all the rules;
  • Meeting all of the requirements for the diploma; and
  • Falling in the cracks between high school and the expectations of postsecondary institutions.

Big gap between what students, teachers think is necessary and what colleges and employers need

  • While parents, students and teachers continue to believe in the diploma’s value, those who judge the quality of high school graduates most closely — first-year college professors and employers — express strong skepticism.

Both professors and employers have similar worries

  • Most employers and professors question whether high school graduates have the knowledge and skills required on the job or in the college classroom.
  • Percentage of employers and professors rating graduates’ skills as “fair” or “poor”

Consequences of poor alignment are serious both for students and for taxpayers

  • In a single state, employers and postsecondary education institutions spend an estimated $134.3 million a year on remedial education.
  • Estimated annual spending on remedial education in Michigan

Better alignment has major benefits

Better alignment has major benefits: A strong h.s. curriculum* improves college completion and narrows gaps

  • *Completing at least “Algebra II” plus other courses.
  • Source: Adapted from Adelman, Clifford, U.S. Department of Education, Answers in the Toolbox, 1999.
  • 28%
  • 11%

Important for workplace, too.

Take manufacturing, for example …

Requirements for tool and die makers

  • Four or five years of apprenticeship and/or postsecondary training;
  • Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and statistics;
  • Average earnings: $40,000 per year.

Requirements for sheet metal workers

  • Four or five years of apprenticeship;
  • Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and technical reading.

Moving forward: Kids and parents are clear, but their teachers have other ideas

  • Source: Metropolitan Life, Survey of the American Teacher 2000: Are We Preparing Students for the 21st Century?, September 2000.
  • Response From

To break through those attitudes, we cannot equivocate:

  • ALL students must be educated as if they are bound for college AND work.

Defining workplace expectations

  • Highly Paid Professional Jobs Earnings: $40,000+ Projected Job Growth Rate: 20%
  • Well-Paid, Skilled Jobs Earnings: $25,000–$40,000 Projected Job Growth Rate: 12%
  • Low-Paid or Low-Skilled Jobs Earnings: Less than $25,000 Projected Job Growth Rate: 15%
  • 25%
  • 37%
  • 38%
  • Share of Jobs

ADP Workplace Study: Key findings

  • Algebra II is the threshold math course for most workers in good jobs.
  • In English, most workers at all levels of employment had completed four years of English at grade level or above in high school.
    • Taking below-average English or functional/basic English increased the likelihood of being employed in a low-paid or low-skilled job.

Defining postsecondary expectations

  • Convened focus groups with wide range of arts and sciences faculty in two- and four-year institutions
  • Elicited “must have” math and English competencies as they relate to freshman coursework

Identifying gaps

  • Analyzed state standards and high school assessments
  • Analyzed postsecondary admissions and placement exams
  • Compared with “must have” competencies defined by faculty


  • Write an extended research essay…building on primary and secondary sources that:
    • Marshals evidence in support of clear thesis…
    • Paraphrase and summarizes…and supporting or refuting thesis…
    • Cites sources correctly…using standard format.


  • Recognize and solve problems that can be modeled using a finite geometric series, such as home mortgage problems and other compound interest problems.

States should:

  • Anchor academic standards in the real world.
  • Require all students to take a college- and workplace readiness curriculum.
  • Measure what matters and make it count.

Postsecondary institutions should:

  • Use high school assessments for college admissions and placement.
  • Provide information to high schools on the academic performance of their graduates in college.
  • Be held accountable for the academic success of the students they admit.

The federal government should:

  • Provide incentives for students to meet college- and workplace readiness expectations.
  • Offer resources for states to align college- and workplace readiness expectations.
  • Require that postsecondary institutions report annually to students, parents and the public evidence of student achievement, as well as remediation, persistence and degree completion.
  • Align the 12th grade NAEP with the ADP benchmarks and require states to administer it.

Business leaders should:

  • Consider evidence such as high school assessment results and transcripts when making hiring decisions.
  • Encourage states to align standards, assessments and high school graduation requirements with college- and workplace readiness expectations.

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