Students should demonstrate the skills needed for college and work to earn a high school diploma, write proponents of the American Diploma Project in Education Week. After all, “90 percent of 8th graders aspire to attend college, some postsecondary education is a necessity for getting almost any job that pays a family wage, and just being a well-informed citizen requires analytic thinking and problem-solving skills.”
The American Diploma Project “set out to identify the core competencies in mathematics and English language arts that high school graduates must have in order to enter and succeed in credit-bearing college courses and in decent jobs in high-wage, high-growth occupations.”
A wide gap yawns between the knowledge and skills we have identified as essential and those that today’s students are required to demonstrate.
The American Diploma Project asked leading economists to examine market projections for the jobs that pay enough to support a family well above the poverty level and provide real potential for career advancement. The project team analyzed the high school transcripts of employees in those occupations, and worked closely with more than 300 front-line managers and faculty members from two- and four-year colleges who teach a range of arts and sciences courses to examine the academic demands upon their students and identify the prerequisite knowledge and skills required to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses. The team also analyzed states’ high school standards and assessments, as well as college-placement exams.
Based on this research, we recently released a set of mathematics and English language arts benchmark expectations for high school graduates. The ADP benchmarks are ambitious. They reflect unprecedented convergence in what employers and college faculty expect from new employees and students. In math, they contain content typically taught in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, geometry, and data analysis and statistics. In English, they demand strong oral and written communications skills that are staples in college classrooms and high-performance workplaces. They also describe analytic and research skills that today are commonly found only in high school honors courses.
State graduation exams typically require ninth and 10th grade skills, far below what’s necessary to succeed in the 21st century.