Despite a great deal of effort over the past 20 years, academic achievement among high school students continues to lag. To ensure that no high school student is left behind, schools need:
- High expectations for all high school students; and
- A rigorous core curriculum to match those expectations.
Currently, American high school students are not adequately prepared for their futures. Increasingly the economy demands workers with postsecondary education and training. Students seem to understand this, but there is a serious disconnect between aspirations and preparation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 97 percent of youth say they aspire to participate in some sort of postsecondary education, and 63 percent enroll. And, little more than half actually take a mix of academic classes in high school that will prepare them for success either in college or todays workplace. The courses they do take often fail to maintain their interest in school at all.
The results are high dropout rates and drift-outs college students who do not return for a second year of college. A large number of these students stumble at the starting line, requiring remediation in math, reading and writing, and other basic subjects before they can enroll in college-level courses. More than one-quarter of the freshmen at 4-year colleges and nearly half of those at 2-year colleges do not advance to their second year.
In the meantime, employers continue to bemoan the lack of needed academic skills among workers and the shortage of qualified applicants for jobs that require advanced education and training. Skills shortages accompany high unemployment in part because high school students have not been prepared to meet the academic challenges of the 21st Century.
It is clear that Americas high schools must improve in order to provide all students the tools necessary to succeed after they graduate, whether they pursue postsecondary education or employment. In order to ensure that no high school student is left behind and that all are challenged with the high expectations they deserve, President Bush has called for annual learning assessments for all students in grades 9-11.
The President has also called for high schools to offer more challenging coursework, and for more students to elect to take it. As part of that effort, the Department has funded the Advanced Placement Program, which helps students, particularly low-income students, to participate and succeed in Advanced Placement courses and exams. In addition, he has introduced the Striving Readers program that will allow schools to develop specific intervention programs so that struggling students get the help they need before they reach high school.
More information regarding high schools and what is being done to improve them is available on the U.S. Department of Educations Preparing Americas Future website at: www.ed.gov/highschool.
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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
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