- States are beginning to integrate career and technical education (CTE) and STEM-related courses into high school graduation requirements, and some are also revising diploma pathways to link coursework to postsecondary goals, but the updates fall short of ensuring credits earned make students eligible for admission to colleges and universities, according to a new paper from the Center for American Progress (CAP).
- The paper is an update to a 2018 CAP report showing that high school courses and eligibility requirements at four-year public universities line up in only four states — Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota and Tennessee. “States must do more than just tweak at the margins,” the authors write. “They should rethink how well their high school course sequence sets students up for success.”
- CTE and other career-related opportunities can help students develop workplace skills, the authors write, but to be prepared for college, students should still take a course load that includes four years of English, two years of the same foreign language, and three years each of math (through algebra 2), lab science and social studies (including U.S. and world history).
The CAP paper is another example in which students might be passing and even excelling in their high school classes, but are unaware that those classes aren’t preparing them for freshman-level coursework in college. Last fall, for example, TNTP released a report showing that more than 70% of students do the work their teachers give them, but less than a fifth of those assignments meet college-readiness standards. Students, the report said, are often “being woefully underprepared to meet their ambitious goals.”
Such findings point to the need for students to have access to college counselors who understand the gaps between high school diploma and college admission requirements and can begin connecting with students and families in 9th grade so they understand the courses they need to take and how to apply for financial aid. Frequent reports, however, show that because counselor-to-student ratios are so high, students often don’t have the access to expert advice they need. Many students, especially those whose parents didn’t attend college, don’t even know the questions to ask about college and career choices.
Providing students and their parents with accurate information about being on track for college is one reason more districts are beginning to provide students with personalized reports showing not only whether they are on track for graduation, but whether they are taking the courses that make them eligible for the colleges and universities they want to pursue. The Long Beach Unified School District’s "college readiness guides" even include contact information for district alumni now in college who are willing to share their experiences with current high school students. Such reports are an example of combining all of the data schools have on students’ progress and making it more useful for families.