To the Editor:
In response to “Campaign Seeks Buy-In for High School Reforms” (April 19, 2006):
Oprah Winfrey’s broadcast on “American Schools in Crisis” and Time magazine’s corresponding April 17 cover story on high school dropouts call attention to the frightful 30 percent dropout rate among U.S. students today. It’s too bad, though, that this attention was given so late in the school year. At this point, dropouts have dropped out, and the remaining students who will graduate are focused on entering the “real world” or transitioning into college.
For those students planning to attend college, there’s an equally shocking, yet less publicized, statistic that they should be concerned with: Nearly 50 percent of American college students leave college without graduating. The odds of a high school graduate’s graduating from college are as poor as guessing heads or tails.
Unfortunately, few parents or students know this, but our nation’s educators do. According to a March 10, 2006, article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “84 percent of [college] faculty members—compared with 65 percent of [high school] teachers—say that high school graduates are either unprepared or are only somewhat well-prepared to pursue a college degree.”
Perhaps it’s time we stop assuming that our high school graduates are in the clear and are ready for success. Most don’t stand a chance in college and will, unfortunately, drop out. Unlike their peers who dropped out of high school, though, these dropouts will leave school with a mountain of student-loan and credit-card debt. So we’re left with a brutal question no one wants to ask: Who is really worse off?
If we want students to succeed in college and in life, we’d better get real and explain to them the incredible challenges they’ll continue to face in college—emotionally, socially, academically, and financially.
San Francisco, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 2006 edition of Education Week as Oprah’s Focus on School Comes Too Late for Some