According to the Achieve survey, “fewer than one-quarter of high school graduates feel that they were significantly challenged and faced high expectations in order to graduate from high school” and “an overwhelming majority of graduates say that they would have worked harder if their high school demanded more of them and set higher academic standards” — findings that take wind out of the sails of critics who believe students can’t possibly rise to the expectation of higher standards and stricter accountability. Further, more than half of college students say that “high school left them unprepared for the work and study habits expected in college,” and an astonishing 31 percent of students who think they were extremely well prepared for college level work nevertheless took at least one remedial course. Worse still, 41 percent of employers are “dissatisfied with graduates’ ability to read and understand complicated materials,” 42 percent are dissatisfied with graduates’ ability to think analytically, 39 percent with their ability to apply what they learn to solve real-world problems, and 34 percent with their communications skills.
Only 18 percent of professors say most of their students are “extremely or very well prepared” for college. At colleges with competitive admissions that rises — but only to 30 percent.