Beyond graduation

Only seven in 10 students finishes high school in four years. Is college a realistic goal for all students? Ed Week’s new Diplomas Count 2009 looks at The Challenge of College Readiness for All Students.

The report places the national graduation rate at 69.2 percent for the class of 2006: That’s nearly a 3 percent gain in 10 years, but 2006 saw a decline. The report also calculates graduation rates for states and school districts.

Arizona, South Carolina and Tennessee made double-digit gains; Nevada’s graduation rate slipped the most.

High-poverty,  high-minority school systems and urban districts made strong gains. But minority graduation rates remain low.

With Native American, Hispanic, and African-American students from the class of 2006 graduating at rates of no more than 55 percent, a graduation gap of as much as 26 percentage points divides these historically underserved minorities from their white peers.

. . . Detroit had the lowest graduation rate at 26.8 percent, while Cypress-Fairbanks, Texas tops the nation at 80.7 percent.

Beyond a Focus on Graduation looks at postsecondary education. Most educators say all students should be prepared for education beyond high school, but some dissent.

James E. Rosenbaum, a professor of sociology, education, and social policy at Northwestern University, has argued that by “quietly and unofficially” adopting a policy of encouraging all students to attend college, American high schools are doing a poor job of preparing the vast numbers of students who are bound instead for the workplace after high school graduation. With college as the overarching goal, schools focus too much on addressing students’ academic deficiencies, and too little on building work skills prized by employers, he argued . . .

Some urban high schools are trying to build a college-going culture for students whose parents didn’t go far in school.

Students can start college or career training at 16, writes English teacher Michael Mazenko in the Denver Post. He likes New Hampshire’s approach.

Students who’ve completed sophomore year can test in to community colleges or trade schools. Students who remain in high school will take a more rigorous college-prep curriculum based on the AP or IB model, and they will subsequently take tests for admittance into a four-year university.

It will be interesting to see how this works in New Hampshire.

About Joanne


  1. “Too many people are going to college.”

    This blasphemy from controversial social critic Charles Murray in his book “Real Education” should not be immediately dismissed, but hotly debated as we evaluates school reform. Considering three-quarters of high school students go on to college, but less than one-third of Americans currently has a bachelor’s degree, Murray may be right about our focus on four-year colleges.

    Rosenbaum is correct, as is Murray; however, the key is continuing to offer the opportunity for all to pursue the highest level of education they desire.

  2. We should do better at offering alternatives; back in the Dark Ages, high schools had very good vocational programs. Today, there is also the option of cooperative programs between high schools and community colleges/technical schools. There’s no reason a high school graduate should have to pay for cosmetology, medical assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse,operating room tech, dental tech, office skills or lots of the shop/automotive areas, and many others, after they graduate. These things used to be in high schools and we need to give kids back those choices. I like New Hampshire’s idea; choose either college prep or vocational program after sophomore year. Not everyone has the ability or inclination to go straight to colllege. The beauty of our system, as opposed to Europe and Asia, is that kids can go to college later.

  3. GoogleMaster says:

    FYI, Cypress-Fairbanks, AKA Cy-Fair, is a suburban district outside Houston, whose largest district (Houston Independent School District AKA Houston ISD) is at the bottom end of the largest 50, weighing in with 42.8% graduation rate. But hey, at least it’s higher than Dallas. 😛

    And BTW, Cy-Fair averages over 3000 kids in each of its 9 high schools and 1500 in its middle schools, while Houston ISD averages about 1300 per high school and 850 per middle school. One of Cy-Fair’s high schools has fewer than 400 kids; if you exclude that one, the rest average more than 3300 each.

  4. “Too many people are going to college.”This blasphemy from controversial social critic Charles Murray in his book “Real Education” should not be immediately dismissed, but hotly debated as we evaluates school reform.

    The steep rise of tuition compared to earnings of graduates has forced many to look at college as a frill, Murray or no Murray.  Colleges and universities have priced themselves beyond the ability of their clientele to pay, or even borrow (especially today).  Plus, it is grossly inefficient to put off real academics to post-secondary school.

    Randall Parker beat me to this, but I’ll say it:  we need to push academics harder starting in elementary school, and anyone who doesn’t want to enter the academy should have a voc-ed program available any time they want.

  5. tim-10-ber says:

    Two questions/comments — not to belittle my state’s double digit gain in graduation rates (TN) but didn’t the way graduation was calculated change in 2006? They actually include summer school and for students with IEPs they are allowed fie years. Second, our district has started SLCs. Students have to declare a focus with one opportunity to change What I need to investigate is do those on the voc/tech track graduate with a meaningful diploma/job skills so they can straight to work. We haven’t had anyone graduate under the program.

  6. Amen to Engineer Poet; we need to push real academics from the earliest grades. It’s insane to spend elementary school and most of middle school on the worst of progressive ideas (unthinking mainstreaming, child-centered discovery learning, groupwork, differentiated instruction, fuzzy math, balanced literacy aka no-phonics/grammar, weak/missing academic content etc) and expect most kids to be READY for college after high school. By the time they get to high school, many kids (in some areas/schools, most) are so far behind that 4 years isn’t enough to remediate them. The ones that are ready are most likely the ones who have families who see that remediation is done throughout the ES/MS years.

  7. Like Bill said in an earlier entry, “You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make the horse drink (if the horse doesn’t want to).” –