This collection of essays is about strategies to strengthen our nation’s public education pipeline, particular our high schools and the postsecondary institutions whose credentials are the key to economic success. The focus is on policies and practices to reduce the unacceptably high costs of our nation’s failure to prepare large numbers of young people for further education, productive careers, and active citizenship.
Double the Numbers is a call to action, a challenge to “double the number” of young people from low-income and minority families who succeed in getting to and through postsecondary credential programs. It is a call to narrow significantly the longstanding inequities in postsecondary success rates between high-income and lower-income Americans, between white and minority students. The contributors to this volume recognize that there are no simple solutions to the attainment gap, and that a combination of approaches is needed. Consequently, the prescriptions and strategies advanced by these authors vary greatly. They are motivated by different underlying theories of change. They differ in their relative emphasis on innovations in practice or in policy. And they vary significantly in how fully they embrace incremental versus more radical strategies for plugging the leaks in the education pipeline.
This book sets the course for the next critical phase of education reform. The past two decades have witnessed a remarkable extended campaign, primarily at the state level, to improve the quality of K-12 instruction and learning. This has paralleled almost 40 years of federal higher education aid policies that have opened access to two- and four-year colleges for millions of low-income young people. Now, even as those efforts continue, our nation must raise its sights again, beyond high school to postsecondary credentials, beyond access to success, and beyond the top 25 or 30 percent to all young people. Toward this end, the essays that follow suggest both practical and bold ways to bring together the disconnected, isolated worlds of the K-12, higher education, and second-chance systems for the sake of efficiency, fairness, and the long-term vitality of our economy and society, and for the sake of the next generation of young people who will need more than a high school diploma if they are to live a middle-class life.