A Hack for Improving High School: Combine it With College and Career
By Joel Vargas and Hannah Smith
Hack: a clever solution to a tricky problem
There is good news and bad news about today’s high school students. The good news is that more students are finishing high school. Graduation rates have increased over four years to a high of 82 percent in the 2013-14 school year. And as college credentials have increasingly become a necessity for getting onto a career path with good wages, high school graduates get the message. Aside from a few dips during economic recessions, the percentage of high school graduates who go onto college has trended up over several decades.
The bad news is that while many students take the step to start at a two-year or four-year college, too many stumble before finishing. Of those who go to college, a large number—and a disproportionate share from low-income families start in remedial courses and fail to ever advance into college-level work.
This is not about students’ lack of motivation or merit. The problem is that high schools are not preparing them for an economy that demands workers with more education, skills, and knowledge. Policymakers have largely tried to fix this by strengthening standards, curricula, and assessments to align what is learned within schools to what colleges and employers expect graduates to know. These are foundational efforts that should lead to large-scale improvements over time.
But we can also strengthen high schools now, borrowing lessons from innovative educators and students who have found an interesting hack for improving college and career outcomes. They are blending the high school experience with college and career, removing walls and boundaries between compulsory schooling and the next steps in learning and work.
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This blog was re-posted here in conjunction with Early College High School Week, an annual celebration of early college success nationwide. Follow news about the week at #ECweek16.