Graduation Rate

Why aren’t Most Minority High School Grads College-Ready?

It seems that graduating from high school is no longer the end goal of P-12 learning – earning a college degree has replaced it. By 2018, 60 percent of jobs will require a college degree. In a recent post, I wrote about the nationwide average high school graduation rate being 80 percent – which is admirable but also means that at least 1 in 5 kids won’t make it to college classes. When you factor in the high school graduates that bypass college completely, it seems that at some point America’s workforce will simply not be able to meet the demands of its employers.

When it comes to minorities who graduate high school and are ready for the rigor of college coursework, numbers are bleak. A new report from the College of Education at the University of Arizona found that less than 1 in 10 minority high school graduates in the state are adequately prepared for college. Non-minority students are not much better off though, with only 2 in 10 prepared for college after graduating from high school. A rise over the past 15 years in minority students in elementary and high school in state, as well as economic disparities between students of color and their white peers, are cited in the study as drivers behind the high school graduation-college readiness gap.

Arizona should not be singled out though. Of the 1.7 million high school graduates that opted for the ACT college entrance exam in 2012, only 60 percent were deemed “college-ready.”

Arizona is a standout example, though, of the way the changing landscape of the country is impacting P-12 education and the college demands that follow it. Childhood classrooms today look vastly different from the ones even 10 years ago and children, minority or white, come with different need sets. Teachers can learn only so much from textbooks and their own school experiences – they must have the resources to reach students from different backgrounds, and understand how those students will change over the course of the teachers’ careers.

In the case of Arizona, some mandatory Spanish-language education would be a start but the language barrier is only the tip of the iceberg. If students in Arizona classrooms are first-generation Americans, their own parents are not familiar on a firsthand basis with classrooms in America and certainly not the university system.

Even students who are academically ready for college may not be emotionally ready for the pressure and responsibilities of self-learning – both things that need to be taught before high school ends.

I also think that the assimilation mentally of generations-past needs to be forsaken. It seems to me that all of the energy that goes into trying to “change” minority students who enter the classroom would be better spent adjusting teaching methods to ones of inclusion. The global economy demands that students understand that the world is made up of diverse people with a variety of backgrounds, and languages. In order to succeed as a nation, that recognition must take place and those lessons must be included in the process of educating.

The “passing the baton” mentality also needs to be abandoned if students are truly expected to succeed academically after high school ends. If America truly wants to live up to its “Land of Opportunity” moniker, this generation of P-12 students needs to be viewed as a responsibility by their educators long after the high school graduation benchmark has been met. Instead of letting students make their own mistakes in early adulthood, at least when it comes to the future of their careers and livelihoods, educators should stay involved and help bridge the high school-college gap.

What programs do you think might help make this happen?

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here. 

Technology and Graduation Rate: A Direct Correlation

There is a lot of talk out there about ways to raise the graduation rate. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proudly wore #80 in the NBA All-Star celebrity game to tout the highest graduation rate the country has seen since 1974. Educators are collectively working harder to help students make it to the high school finish line and get prepared for college and the workforce. There is a lot of credit to be handed out for the successful graduation rates around the country (of course, there are still plenty of areas for improvement) but I think one shining area deserves a lot of the praise: technology.

The website singles out technology as a leader in high school graduation upsurge. The site states:
“Educational technology is needed for a variety of reasons. It provides an alternative method of learning for those who struggle to learn using traditional methods.

Technology can be used to address multiple intelligences and also to provide authentic learning experiences for students.”
In other words, technology has made it possible for students who fall off the traditional path to jump back on and finish what they spent most of their childhood working towards. This may be in the form of taking remote classes from home, remedial classes in on-campus computer labs or even by enrolling in full-time online schools, public or private. The technology available for these options benefits students who face difficulties with a normal school schedule including teenage parents, students with short-term or long-term illnesses, teens with substance abuse struggles, or those who had poor academic performance due to learning disabilities or bullying.

Equality through Technology

Technology is also a great equalizer in K-12 classrooms. Students have the same access as their peers to whatever technology is available in their district and specific classroom. While there is certainly some technology discrepancies between one district and another, often based on the socioeconomic status of the families within that district, within each one students have fair access to technology. In a way, things like computers and mobile devices in classrooms usher in the technology of the outside world and give students who may not otherwise have access a chance to use it for learning purposes.

Having in-classroom technology more directly impacts the graduation rate by providing customized learning experiences. A student who needs extra help on a particular topic need not hold up the entire class, or feel embarrassed asking for that help, when there are computer modules and tablet apps available for individual learning experiences. Teachers who spot a trouble area with a particular student can gear that teen towards more exercises to master the topic. Of course technology is not the magic wand to fix all problems, but it does allow for more flexibility of the learning process which in turn makes it easier for a wider group of students to stay in classrooms until the end of the K-12 journey.

College Prep

K-12 educators used to have the goal of helping their students reach high school graduation, but now the pressure is on to create students who go on to achieve college goals too. No matter how advanced the technology options in a particular school district, they are dwarfed by the reliance on and widespread use of technology on college campuses. High school students who become acquainted with technology for things like course selection, class management and actual learning modules are better prepared when they arrive on college campuses. There is very little hand-holding when it comes to higher education (perhaps too little based on college dropout rates) and students need to be self-sufficient in life skills and technology ones when they cross the bridge to college life.

How big of a role do you think technology has played in high school graduation rates?

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here.