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.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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