Report: Graduation rates improve nationally, but college- and career-readiness continues to lag

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports on a study high school graduation rates and college- and career-readiness. 

In the fall of 2016, the U.S. celebrated a fifth straight year of record-high national graduation rates, at an all-time high of 83.2 percent.

The good news, however, is not only part of the story.

Though these successes are certainly reason for celebration, graduation rates are just one indicator of the effectiveness of our education system. Other indicators, like national performance on standardized tests and the college remediation rate, tell a different story.

High school student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is stagnating, and on the ACT and SAT, it’s flat lining. A number of research studies  demonstrate that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of first-year college students require remediation in a variety of subjects, and even higher percentages among minority and low-income students.

The findings are important for legislators to consider, particularly during a session focused on education finance, reform and accountability. The NCSL story concludes by stating,

These numbers and others indicate a misalignment between the bar states set for graduation and the bar for college and career readiness. To better align their systems, states are redefining what it means to prepare students for college and career, and how best to measure their readiness.

NCSL cited a comprehensive 50-state research report by Achieve, a national nonprofit that concentrates on college- and career readiness. (We reported on a similar study by the group last year about this time.) The organization describes the goal of its research:

States cannot make good policy and practice decisions—and ultimately cannot improve student performance—if they do not have basic information about how students are performing along the way. As such, Achieve focused on states’ publicly reported student performance against college- and career-ready (CCR) indicators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to inform this year’s report on The State of American High School Graduates: What States Know (and Don’t) About Student Performance. The goal of this work is to focus on results within each state so that state leaders can determine the extent to which their K–12 system is producing CCR graduates, whether they are satis ed with the results, and if not, what they can do to improve the readiness of all students. 

The Washington profile provides a good overview of how well Washington students perform on CCR indicators (some data are missing or not reported). Suffice it to say, too many Washington students fall short of obtaining the learning required to demonstrate college- and career-readininess.

Our state is producing an abundance of great career opportunities, most of which will go to workers with a postsecondary credential or degree. The Achieve report reminds us that high school graduation is a necessary, but not sufficient, achievement for success in the economy awaiting today’s students.