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California Study Documents Mismatch Between Student Goals, Course-Taking

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By Reagan Walker

Nearly two-thirds of California sophomores aspire to a goal that requires a four-year college degree, yet many of these same students are not enrolled in college-preparatory courses, according to the findings of a survey by the California Department of Education.

Nearly half of all students taking general-education courses rather than college-preparation courses had career goals that require a college degree, the survey found.

In addition, it found, students pursuing general-education programs took easier courses, re4ceived lower grades, and were less positive concerning their school experiences than students in college-preparation courses.

"On the one hand, this report provides encouraging news that our students have high career aspirations," Bill Honig, superintendent of public instruction, said. "At the same time, it is disturbing that these students are not taking the courses necessary to fulfill their dreams."

"It is the education community's job to see that our students have access and are encouraged to take the courses they need, and that we increase the college-going rates of our students," Mr. Honig said.

The department conducted the survey as part of an effort to develop a strategic plan to improve college-going rates of underrepresented students.

Among other actions, Mr. Honig has appointed an advisory panel to help set targets for improving such rates for all ethnic groups in every California high school.

The survey also found that:

Half of all sophomores said they plan to attend a four-year college in the two years following high-school graduation, and nearly 75 percent plan to attend either a two-year or a four-year college.

Hispanic students have lower aspirations, lower enrollments in college-preparation classes, and lower grade-point averages than do blacks, whites, or Asians.

Sixty-two percent of black sophomores indicated that they plan to attend a four-year college, yet only 13 percent of blacks actually enrolled in college in 1987.

Parents Play Strong Role

The survey was administered during May 1988 in 10th-grade English classes in 50 high schools across the state. The results are based on nearly 3,000 responses.

Nearly 80 percent of the students indicated that their parents wanted them to attend college, and that their parents had a great deal of influence on the courses they take.

While 81 percent of the respondents indicated that school counselors had helped them plan their schedules, only about half reported that a counselor had discussed college or career plans with them.

California has a program that ensures that 10th-grade students receive a review of their academic progress and counseling on educational options.

A report containing the survey findings recommends that students begin receiving information on educational and career planning in the 8th grade and that they continue receiving information throughout high school.

"Students need information regarding the needs of the workforce in the 21st century, career counseling, the educational requirements of various careers, and financial aid," the report says.

Dan Beshara, regional executive director of the College Board, agreed that more information about planning for college needs to be provided to students and their parents at the middle-school level.

"The middle school is pivotal," Mr. Beshara said. "That's when students and families begin to make choices." The report also recommends that scheduling practices in middle grades and high schools be re-examined so that students "who enroll in one non-college-preparatory class are not automatically enrolled in other classes in the same track."

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