The gap between K-12 and higher education – Disconnected
The true power of higher education has been receiving a great deal of attention in the media lately. This exposure appears to gain greater momentum during the national elections. Modern U.S. high school students have developed heightened educational ambitions. More than 88 percent of middle school students surveyed expect to partake in some form of post secondary education. In October 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 68.3 percent of 2011 high school graduates were currently enrolled in colleges or universities. American College Testing (ACT) released the 2012 edition of “The Condition of College & Career Readiness” report based on information collected from high school graduates taking the ACT College and Career Readiness exam. This year is the first time more than half of the U.S. high school graduating class took the ACT exam. The data reported indicates that more than a quarter of the students did not meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks for English, mathematics, reading and science.
The results clearly suggest that a significant number of students enrolled as college and university freshmen this fall have not been adequately prepared by their high schools to produce college level work or to adequately perform in a rigorous higher education environment (Lawrence, 2012). This lack of preparation is not an entirely new phenomenon; the Stanford Policy Brief released in 2003 indicated that 40 percent of students in four-year institutions took some remedial education as compared with 63 percent at two-year institutions. These rates are symptoms of a greater problem: Our high-school students are not prepared for college and university work, a reality that has clearly become the norm. The current compulsory education systems result in a lack of understanding among students, parents and K-12 teachers regarding what conditions students require to be able to succeed in higher education (Venezia, 2003). A contributing problem is a lack of student preparedness – the education preparedness link between high school and college simply does not exist.
High schools teach from knowledge bases and skill sets that do not fulfill college entrance and placement requirements. This lack of consistency leads to students graduating from high school under one set of academic principles and, three months later, finding themselves required to participate under a completely new set of academic principles in college and university settings. As a result, higher education resources are fruitlessly spent on inadequately prepared students – education dollars that could be better spent cultivating knowledge that would prove relevant to higher education and prepare students for successful, productive futures. We can all agree that students entering higher education without the basic skills needed to be successful, competitive and truly efficient in the higher education environment is unacceptable.
Is the end goal a set of deliberately defined classes of people? Regardless, we as a community are wasting our number one resource: our children.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the 2012 Republican Convention, “The greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, when I can look at your Zip code and I can tell whether you’re going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are.”
Clearly, students’ locales determine the standard of education and this standard has become a dollars-and-cents problem. Poor communities have a demonstrably lower quality of education. Does this discrepancy really have financial causes, or do schools have too many standards and no accountability? Is the end goal a set of deliberately defined classes of people? Regardless, we as a community are wasting our number one resource: our children.
Linked – LinkedIn connection
The main problem as I see it is that the students’ preparations between high school and college are not linked; pondering the need for this “linked” element leads me to surmise that perhaps social media and its limitless education outreach could possibly support the joined efforts of many stakeholders in education, resulting in reducing or eliminating the K-12 and college /university disconnect altogether. To test this idea, I turned to LinkedIn. LinkedIn purports itself to be the world’s largest professional network, with more than 175 million members; the site permits its users to exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities with a large network of professionals. This exchange of knowledge and ideas stimulated me to write this article.
I posted the following question on five education-related discussion groups on LinkedIn: “I believe higher education cannot create success unless K-12 does; what do you say?” I found that many members shared a similar opinion to mine, regardless of where the members were located in the world. The current education systems are not prepared to address students’ needs across education systems, many members agreed, and no one is held accountable for issues related to student transitions from high school to college/university. This was the consensus among LinkedIn professionals from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Trinidad/Tobago, Australia, India and South Africa.
These ideas were suggested as solutions during our discussion:
- Greater talk about the skill of learning; increased communication internally and externally with the entire education community
- Equipping students for learning for the rest of their lives, both for higher education and for life beyond college
- Competent administrators who have a clear vision of what 21st century teaching and a removal of the “this is how we have always done it” mindset from the education community
- Removal of barriers earlier in K-12 to create a quality education environment before postsecondary education
- Adoption of ideas that work, which are shared with the entire education community
- Parent involvement and resources offered to parents that instruct them on how to support their children in learning
- Provision of “thirteenth-year” counselors at the high school level
- Creation of partnerships between colleges/universities and elementary/high schools
- Programs patterned after Google’s Successful Transitions And Retention Track (START), a program that takes high school dropouts and creates amazing success stories.
Perhaps the education community can take this concept and engage students before they drop out of school altogether and create this type of successful environments in high schools.
From these nine points, a picture emerges of engaging students earlier in the education process and promoting a successful educational transition from K-12 to higher education. For this to happen, partnerships must be formed between colleges, universities and their local K-12 schools. I believe that the great minds and spirits of all our citizens are clearly our number one natural resource. Collaborative efforts between the K-12 and the higher education community are important and powerful.
Modern technology forces change upon us at an unlimited pace; can the education community keep up and adapt to this change while improving education quality? Since belief is 99 percent of reality, I believe the education community can keep up and adapt to this change while improving educational quality when we collaborate, communicate and equip students to learn for the rest of their lives.
Lawrence, J. (2012). “ACT Report Shows 2/3 of US Students Aren’t College-Ready.” Retrieved from EducationNews.org, August 2012, (2)
Zelkowski, J. (2011, May). “Defining the intensity of high school mathematics: Distinguishing the difference between college-ready and college-eligible students.” American Secondary Education, 39 (2), 27-49. Available from:
Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA.
Venezia, A., Kirst, M., Antonio, A., (2003). “Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 and Postsecondary Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations, Final Policy Report From Stanford.” University Bridge Project., 72
by AMERICAN WRITER
Dr. Pietro Savo © 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015