A one-year checkup on state efforts to better prepare high school students to meet the demands of college or the workplace has found that most states are following through on pledges to make high school more rigorous.
The report, " Closing the Expectations Gap 2006 ," looked at what states have done since governors from 45 states and prominent education and business leaders held a National Education Summit on High Schools in Washington, D.C., last year to address concerns that too many students drop out of high school or graduate without being prepared to succeed in college or on the job.
One year ago, only two states — Arkansas and Texas — had graduation requirements considered rigorous enough to prepare high school students for college-level work. Since the summit, six more states — Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and South Dakota — have adopted the stricter requirements, which include four years of rigorous English plus mathematics through at least Algebra II. An additional 19 states reported plans under way to adopt the tougher standards, according to the report by Achieve Inc. , a Washington, D.C.-based group created by governors and business leaders to raise education standards.
"I have not seen such a widespread response to concerns about America's educational competitiveness since the release of 'A Nation At Risk' in 1983," said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. "A Nation At Risk" was a prominent federal report that warned of falling education standards and sparked a national movement to reform schools.
The February 2005 summit on high schools, which was co-sponsored by Achieve, painted an alarming portrait of America's failing high schools. One-third of high school students drop out by the ninth grade, and only half of black and Hispanic students receive diplomas. Only 40 out of every 100 high school graduates go to college, and only 18 out of 100 graduate on time. According to surveys by Achieve, nearly one-third of college freshman need remedial courses to catch up and nearly half of high school graduates that enter the workforce are unprepared, costing colleges and employers billions of dollars.
The report is the first in a series of annual surveys tracking state high school reform efforts. It found that 35 states are in the process of adopting high school standards that match college and workplace expectations. State actions include:
- Twenty-two states have joined the American Diploma Project Network -- which was launched by Achieve at the 2005 summit — pledging to significantly boost high school standards over the next 36 months.
- Five states — California, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and Wyoming — report they have adopted new high school standards based on the skill demands of their business and higher education communities. Thirty additional states reported that efforts are under way to do the same.
- Six states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Missouri and Texas — report that statewide tests given to high school students are used for college admissions. Eight more states reported plans to use high school tests for college placement in the future.
- Four states — Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas — have created data-collection systems that follow student performance from high school through college. This allows education officials to trace student success and failure in college back to their high school experience. Another 31 states reported being in the process of linking their K-12 data systems with higher education.