Three fourths of America’s high school graduates are not ready for college or the workplace. The nation ignores that warning at its peril.
Just 25 percent of this year’s graduates who took ACT exams have the reading, math, English, and science skills they need to succeed in college or a career, test administrators say. The numbers are more dire for African-American graduates: Only 5 percent are ready for life after high school.
ACT data indicate that colleges are doing a poor job of preparing students for the post-campus world. The ACT describes a gap between curricula and available jobs that is painfully widening for many recent college graduates.
This isn’t only, or even primarily, a question of money. Americans spend a great deal on secondary education. The commitment Toledo Public Schools has made to renovate its buildings in recent years in an example.
The key issue is how to make schools better. One solution is unacceptable: business as usual. We need traditional public schools, and good charter and private schools as options. We need the Common Core’s national standards. We need better teacher training.
We need to continue to rethink high school and college curricula to ensure realistic preparation. Not everyone is born to be a surgeon or a lyric poet or a computer programmer.
The nation also needs able people who can make and do things. Such occupations may not require a college degree, but they require extensive training. You can’t just show up.
We need more technical and vocational high school and post-high school education, along with liberal arts. We should continue to invest in community colleges nationally, as President Obama advocates. These schools teach young people real-world skills.
Public school systems, and schools, that cannot perform this basic mission should be shut down. But we can’t set up public schools to fail by depriving them of the resources they need.
And we should hold educators accountable for teaching skills other than, and more important than, test-taking.
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