How should we prepare students for college?

The Nation Journal asked this question based on flat results in the recent ACT report.

High school graduation is the most important step toward college preparation. American graduation rates remain low especially for low income and minority students. Young people should have the choice of several engaging and supportive high school options that provide a pathway to college and careers. Every student should have an advisor that, with the guardian and student, takes responsibility for academic success. Kids need to work hard to be college ready, and we need to do a better job of creating a portfolio of options that will motivate and support students through graduation.

The second most important factor is participation in a college prep curriculum with strong academic supports for struggling students. Middle grade math remains a key barrier including the often mysterious process for accessing algebra in 8th grade.

Third, it’s frustrating that we still don’t have a metric for the most important system goal—college ready graduates. We create proxies with test scores and credits but could use better measures.

NCLB focused on elementary grades. The next ESEA reauthorization should  make college ready grad rates a priority, and strengthen school improvement/replacement provisions to ensure that all students have access to quality high school options.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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