NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

High School Diplomas Called "A Ticket To Nowhere"

December 10, 1999

Many high school graduates are finding themselves unprepared for either college or work because they lack essential math and reading skills, according to the research group Education Trust.

Its director, Kati Haycock, says that many American youngsters "are totally undone by the gaps between high school and college" and that many schools "really don't expect students to learn the things that both higher education and business say they need."

Many graduates could find their diplomas to be "little more than a ticket to nowhere," says Janis Somerville, director of the National Association of System Heads, which represents leaders of the nation's state university systems.

  • A report by the Education Trust says that in 1997 one-third of college students had to take remedial courses in reading, writing or math -- essentially reviewing what they were supposed to have learned in high school.
  • Only half of school districts nationwide require students to study math beyond basic algebra and geometry -- and only 19 states require students to pass a test before receiving a high school diploma or other credential.
  • Many colleges insist that high school graduates have at least three years of science, including two in a laboratory science.
  • But most states don't require even a single lab course, according to Education Trust.

Most high school English courses don't address functional or document reading. That means students focus on academics or literature rather than, say, reading tax forms and technical instructions that could be useful for a worker.

Source: AP, "High Schoolers Lack Math, Reading Skills for Jobs or College," Washington Times, December 10, 1999.


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