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High School Graduates Feel Unprepared For College and Work, Survey Finds

A recent survey of public high school graduates finds about half feel they are unprepared for life after high school and most would have worked harder if they had realized the expectations of college and the workplace.

The national survey of 1,347 graduates from the high school classes of 2011 through 2014 was conducted this fall for Washington-based nonprofit Achieve by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. The results released Dec. 17 were a follow-up to a similar Achieve survey in 2004 that shows attitudes toward the rigor of high school are largely unchanged in the past decade.


Among the findings in the 2014 survey:

• Eighty-three percent of college students reported at least some gaps in preparation in one or more subject areas , while 49 percent of those surveyed reported large gaps in one or more subject.

• About two-thirds of graduates said they would have taken higher-level courses in high school if they had realized the expectations of college and the working world.

• If high schools had demanded more and set higher academic standards, 87 percent of those surveyed said they would have worked harder.

• About one-third of college students wished their high school did a better job teaching work and study habits.

So, how can high schools better serve students and bridge this divide? Respondents' top suggestions for change:

1. Provide opportunities for real-world learning (90 percent);

2. Communicate early in high school the courses needed for college careers (87 percent);

3. Give opportunities to take challenging courses (86 percent);

4. Provide more help for those who need extra tutoring (83 percent);

5. Have an assessment late in high school so students can find out what they need for college (77 percent.)

According to the survey, lower-income graduates were the least likely to report that their school encouraged them to take advanced courses or explore career and college opportunities.

The report concludes with the following bottom-line solution: "All means ALL. Be sure all students understand and know the benefit of academic preparation for college and career; everyone needs to be prepared for their next steps."

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