It seems that graduating from high school is no longer the end goal of P-12 learning -- earning a college degree has replaced it. By 2018, 60 percent of jobs will require a college degree. On Monday, I wrote about the nationwide average high school graduation rate being 80 percent -- which is admirable but also means that at least 1 in 5 kids won't make it to college classes. When you factor in the high school graduates that bypass college completely, it seems that at some point America's workforce will simply not be able to meet the demands of its employers.
When it comes to minorities who graduate high school and are ready for the rigor of college coursework, numbers are bleak. A new report from the College of Education at the University of Arizona found that less than 1 in 10 minority high school graduates in the state are adequately prepared for college. Non-minority students are not much better off though, with only 2 in 10 prepared for college after graduating from high school. A rise over the past 15 years in minority students in elementary and high school in state, as well as economic disparities between students of color and their white peers, are cited in the study as drivers behind the high school graduation-college readiness gap.
Arizona should not be singled out though. Of the 1.7 million high school graduates that opted for the ACT college entrance exam in 2012, only 60 percent were deemed "college-ready." Arizona is a standout example, though, of the way the changing landscape of the country is impacting P-12 education and the college demands that follow it. Childhood classrooms today look vastly different from the ones even 10 years ago and children, minority or white, come with different need sets. Teachers can learn only so much from textbooks and their own school experiences -- they must have the resources to reach students from different backgrounds, and understand how those students will change over the course of the teachers' careers.
In the case of Arizona, some mandatory Spanish-language education would be a start but the language barrier is only the tip of the iceberg. If students in Arizona classrooms are first-generation Americans, their own parents are not familiar on a firsthand basis with classrooms in America and certainly not the university system. Even students who are academically ready for college may not be emotionally ready for the pressure and responsibilities of self-learning -- both things that need to be taught before high school ends.
I also think that the assimilation mentally of generations-past needs to be forsaken. It seems to me that all of the energy that goes into trying to "change" minority students who enter the classroom would be better spent adjusting teaching methods to ones of inclusion. The global economy demands that students understand that the world is made up of diverse people with a variety of backgrounds, and languages. In order to succeed as a nation, that recognition must take place and those lessons must be included in the process of educating.
The "passing the baton" mentality also needs to be abandoned if students are truly expected to succeed academically after high school ends. If America truly wants to live up to its "Land of Opportunity" moniker, this generation of P-12 students needs to be viewed as a responsibility by their educators long after the high school graduation benchmark has been met. Instead of letting students make their own mistakes in early adulthood, at least when it comes to the future of their careers and livelihoods, educators should stay involved and help bridge the high school-college gap.
What programs do you think might help make this happen?
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.