Two-fifths of high school students graduate prepared neither for traditional college nor for career training, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Arizona.
College-preparatory programming has expanded dramatically in the past decade, with participation in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate more than tripling. Career-preparatory programs have evolved, as well, and school-to-work “pathways” have replaced tired old vocational programs.But they are not enough. One-third of high school students complete the modern college-preparatory track, and another one-quarter graduate from career-preparatory programs. The remaining high school population, an estimated 40 percent, do neither.
They are “a virtual underclass of students,” the researchers write, who finish high school with a transcript filled with watered-down general education courses and few prospects for success either in traditional college or in professional training.
The study is titled “The Underserved Third: How Our Educational Structures Populate an Educational Underclass,” and it was written by Regina Deil-Amen at the Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of Arizona, and Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Hopkins. It actually published last year in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, but the findings were released to the general public Monday.
Many contemporary jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree; indeed, workers in high-demand fields can earn more money without a bachelor’s degree than counterparts in low-paying fields who have a degree.
But the structure of American high schools is trapped, the authors write, in a culture that “blindly advocate(s) bachelor’s degrees as the only valuable option and the cure for all social ills.”
“Tracking” is a dirty word in public education. Yet, high schools have tracked students since time immemorial, and tracking endures to this day. The approximately one-third of all high school students who participate in credible AP or IB study make up the gifted, college-preparatory track. Another group, about one-quarter of the student population, is steered instead into career preparatory study and occupies a lower track, although no career programs are ever advertized in quite that way. (Read more.)