NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 27, 2004

Attaining a high school diploma is no longer an indicator of preparation for college or the workplace, according to a study by the American Diploma Project.

Researchers say that a large gap exists between what the state expects of students and what the real world expects in order for them to achieve. For example:

  • More than 70 percent of high school graduates who apply to two or four-year colleges are accepted, but 53 percent of them must take at least one remedial math or English course sometime during college.
  • Only 45 percent of high school graduates who enter college complete a degree; of those who were required to take remedial classes, only 18 percent complete a degree.
  • Sixty percent of employers rate graduates' skills in writing, grammar and math as either "fair" or "poor," according to a poll by Public Agenda.

Lack of preparedness is not just a problem at the high school level either, as many employers complain that high school students lack even basic skills, indicating that instruction in elementary schools is also lacking.

Moreover, high school exit exams only test at the eighth or ninth grade level of content, say researchers, and they provide little incentive for students to enroll in more challenging courses.

Even college courses do not reflect what parents and employers consider important skills, according to a Public Agenda survey, thus creating a further disconnect between students and their preparedness for the job market.

Source: George A. Clowes, "Public Education's "Broken Promise," School Reform News, May 2004, Heartland Institute; "Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma that Counts," The American Diploma Project, 2004; and Michael Remaley and Claudia Feurey, "Leaders Agree On Importance Of Higher Education But Disagree On How It Operates, What Students Should Be Taught, And How It Should Be Paid For," Public Agenda, January 20, 1999.


Browse more articles on Education Issues