High School Students Not Ready for College

Most high school seniors aren’t ready for college, and this is bad news for the United States. 

The College Board, which administers the SAT, released findings that indicated that only 43% of high school students are prepared to go to college, based on their test scores.  President of the College Board, Gaston Caperton, said in an accompanying statement, “When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing.” 

Some high schools are so bad that they are called “drop out factories” where less than 60% of students graduate.

In a US News article by Laura McMullen, the author writes that high school graduation rates vary drastically among the different states.  The nation’s graduation rate was 75.5 in 2009.

In a report called “Building a Grad Nation” published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, discusses the crisis in American schools.  25% of all children are not graduating high school, and 40% of minority children are not graduating.

The report says, “The high school dropout crisis in the United States claims more than one million students each year, costing individuals the loss of potential earnings and the nation hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue, lower economic activity and increased social services.”  The report says that high educational attainment results in higher earnings for individuals, and lowers costs to taxpayers. 

The achievement gap between different groups of students is significant.  While some people may chalk it up to cultural differences, whether a child is rich or poor is a huge factor in determining academic success.  Poor children have disproportionately less access to resources like high-quality prekindergarten and are often under more stress in the family environment. 

States that have been leaders in improving high school graduation rates: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.  States that are lagging include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Utah.

While there has been some progress, including a decline in the number of “drop out factories”, the fact remains that many children are not getting the education they deserve.  Yes, we are recovering from a rough recession, but now is the time to support education.  America needs an innovative, hardworking, educated workforce if we want to be competitive now and in the future.  In the words of former Harvard president Derek Bok, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship

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