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Report Outlines Ideas to Improve Postsecondary Attainment in Next Decade

The bridge from high school to postsecondary attainment and career opportunities is broken, according to a report from the Southern Regional Education Board released June 3.

To fix the problem and double the number of young adults to complete some form of college credential by the age of 25, members of SREB's Commission on Career and Technical Education suggest specific actions that states can take.

Among the recommendations:

  • Encourage high schools to work with colleges and employers to create career pathways linked to labor market demand. This would include incentives to expand work-based learning, dual enrollment, and career exploration as early as middle school;
  • Improve academic readiness of high school graduates by setting standards to prepare them for college and career demands, as well as select assessments of technical and workplace readiness standards that can lead to further study.
  • Align school districts' statewide readiness assessments with placement measures at community and technical colleges. Reduce the need for remediation by providing individualized support for struggling high school seniors.
  • Offer high school career pathway teachers professional development and fast-track induction programs to help students meet the higher standards for college- and career-readiness;
  • Use government funds to help low-performing high schools reorganize around theme-based career academies;
  • Design accountability measures that reward high school districts, and community and technical colleges that increase the number of students earning postsecondary credentials and getting high-skill jobs by the age of 25.

SREB notes that workers with a high school diploma or less continue to lose jobs despite the economic recovery and higher education may offer the only means of improving the trajectory for young people born into poverty. In the U.S., about 42 percent of young people born into families in the lowest fifth of income distribution will remain there—a much higher percentage than other developed countries, the report shows.

In the 16 states that are part of SREB, between 55 and 73 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 had not completed a postsecondary credential. About two-thirds of high school graduates go immediately on to college, but just 20 percent are completing a credential or associate's degree in three years, and 57 percent are getting a bachelor's degree in six years. 

SREB maintains the solution is to transform education with rigorous pathways that align with college and career training and establish policies that encourage states to double the percentage of young people with advanced industry credentials, postsecondary credentials, associate's and bachelor's degrees.

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