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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Put students on the adulthood track

The primary purpose of education isn’t preparation for college, writes Ray Domanico, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, in City Journal. It’s preparation for adulthood.

NAEP scores, which haven’t improved in a decade, show why most young people will not complete a college degree, he writes.

Nationally, 84 percent of high school students graduate, and of those, about 70 percent enroll in a two- or four-year college. But college-completion rates are just 60 percent for four-year colleges and 30 percent for two-year colleges. Overall, only about 30 percent of the students who start out in the American K-12 system complete a college degree by age 25. Students who plan to complete college should be scoring at the NAEP’s proficiency levels by eighth grade; two-thirds are not doing so.

Students should be offered “meaningful preparation for adulthood that doesn’t require a college degree,” Domanico writes. That should include career and technical education linked to workplace apprenticeships.

Many low-income students in large cities have benefited from selective high schools offering a rigorous curriculum to the highest achievers. Policymakers should support these schools and look for ways to expand their numbers. At the same time, school systems should monitor performance and intervene swiftly in schools that fail to bring most of their students to at least basic levels of achievement.

Finally, he writes, students should be given a “grounding the habits and behaviors of adulthood.”

Hechinger’s Map to the Middle Class series includes stories on new apprenticeship models, “revamped and rigorous” career technical education and paths to the middle class for low-income students. It’s a great series.

Also check out Amadou Diallo’s story on schools that combine advanced academics with career-tech education. For example, at Tesla STEM High School in Washington state, juniors take AP Psychology and a hands-on forensic science class.

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