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Are High Schools Failing To Prepare Students For College? Are Minorities To Blame?

Submitted by on August 19, 2010 – 10:05 am8 Comments
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The Wall Street Journal reports high schools are dramatically diminishing in their ability to prepare students for college. In fact, less than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the American College Testing exam (or ACT) earned a score high enough to indicate they could pass a college-level course. Contrastingly, elementary schools have experienced gains in national assessments.

What or whom is to blame for such lackluster scores? Many believe it is the lack of rigor in high-school courses, while others feel the students themselves and their low attention spans are the source of the problem. Overall, composite scores on the ACT have fallen nationally since reaching a five-year peak in 2007 (the year I graduated high school, of course).

Interestingly enough, ACT officials say the increased number of minorities taking the exam has played a role in the drop. Specifically, African-Americans and Hispanics—who, statistically speaking, post lower numbers on the exam than their ethnic counterparts—made up nearly 25% of the test-taking group this year, up from numbers in recent years.

In the end, it seems core high-school courses simply are not getting the job done as far as preparing students to succeed in college. However, there are quite a few other factors which should be addressed.

First of all, in order to succeed in college (or on the exam which determines whether or not you go), there must be a motivation to learn. With all the talk of education reform and No Child Left Behind, the most frightening realization we must make about our education system is the lack of legislation that can make young students want to learn or better themselves.

Next, we have largely scaled back our academic standards, honoring students and/or grades that are not exactly honorable. While it is important we all respect and value ourselves regardless of our academic achievements or scholastic abilities, we must also realize that lowering our standards to make ourselves feel good is much less rewarding or beneficial to society than actually earning our way to the top.

Of course, we cannot have a true discussion of education in America without bringing up our country’s infatuation with the standardized test. There are so many tests, state tests and practice tests, that students must take in a school year that we end up merely throwing facts into their faces and expecting them to recall them. Such an approach is leading us to become a nation of memorizers, not true learners.

Last but not least, the advent of the Internet and its use in education must bear some of the blame (yes, I said it). For many students, the Internet provides a shortcut instead of a supplement to thorough study and mastery of skills. Seriously, what’s the point of actually learning something when you can Google it? I have absolutely no doubt there are too many advantages of the Internet to count, and that it may be playing a role in a ‘weaker and wiser’ generation.

What can we do to fix the problem high schools are facing? The answer is tough. We have to change the culture from one of anti-intellectualism to one which values thinkers. We have to get the point across to youths that their education is their responsibility, not merely that of their teachers (who are often blamed for tests or classes that are “too hard”). We also have to fully explain the non-financial benefits of education instead of telling them mo’ degrees = mo’ money, a sentiment to which many respond by trying to find other means to financial gain and success.

Until then, there’s always Kaplan.

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