Employers also have noted that many recent high school graduates do not possess the basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills they need to function on the job; and providing remedial training to address this problem costs employers millions of dollars each year (The American Diploma Project [ADP], 2004).
The eternal question is: Is a high school diploma a guarantee that the student is ready to either hit college or perform a job with a minimum amount of skills? The answer, of course, is no; from my own experience and according to national studies, more than half the high school graduates need remedial classes in English and Math. The above quote is from 2004, but the problem continues nowadays and the causes are not found so much among students but rather among educational authorities.
Whoever decided in the federal government to establish the 100% proficiency goal by 2014 is completely detached from reality. Come on! Not even the best schools in the country can reach a 100% proficiency goal among their elite students. This absurd objective is the principal obstacle to achieving a decent level of preparation of our students.
Another important obstacle is the bilingual program for recent immigrants, especially those from Spanish speaking countries. In spite of the commendable intention behind this project, it actually hinders linguistic progress by allowing classes and tests in Spanish during at least 9 years of schooling. If we also take into account the fact that these youngsters return to a Spanish speaking home and fail to even watch English-speaking programs, the result is obvious. They cannot understand, write and speak English at the level required by colleges and businesses.
I was recently struck by a freshman’s inability to fully understand my instructions and I asked her how long she had been living in our country; she answered seven years, more than enough time to acquire the necessary skill. There are of course other factors which intervene, such as intelligence, especially the verbal kind, motivation, school attendance, and the parents’ support. But as a whole, the great majority of kids should be proficient enough in English and Math by the time they reach high school.
Now that we ‘enjoy’ standard testing for every core class, things have become much more complicated for classroom teachers. Most of their time, as mentioned several times before in other articles, is dedicated to get results on the EOC, or end-of-course testing. It is the way the state and the federation measure accountability for teachers, a completely biased instrument that has nothing to do with their effectiveness.
Are our high schools failing to prepare students adequately for jobs and college? No, they have no teaching autonomy and no opportunity to focus on vocational skills, at least not enough time to train the teens toward a productive life. They do a good job of convincing students to go to college, but not of preparing them to be successful, with exceptions of course. Lack of financial resources play an important role in this issue, although it is not by itself the main culprit.
Texas has apparently requested a waiver from the federal government to free itself from the shackles of No Child Left Behind. A good first step but much more is needed to actually succeed in preparing these teens adequately for their transition to real life.