School & District Management

Young Adults Grade High Schools Mediocre, Colleges High

By The Associated Press — April 26, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Young adults say high schools are failing to give students a solid footing for the working world or strong guidance toward college, at a time when many fear graduation means tumbling into an economic black hole, a new poll shows.

Most of the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed in the Associated Press-Viacom poll, released last week, gave high schools low grades for things that would ease the way to college: A majority said their high school wasn’t good at helping them choose a field of study, aiding them in finding the right college or vocational school, or assisting them in finding ways to pay for education.

If schools did these things better, that could make a significant difference, because young people already are enthusiastic about higher education, the findings suggest. Two-thirds of the respondents said students should aim for college, even if they aren’t sure which career they want to pursue. Almost as many said they wanted to earn at least a four-year degree.

The majority of high school students probably won’t end up with a college degree, however. Among today’s 25- to 34-year-olds, only about a third hold a bachelor’s degree or other higher degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fewer than 10 percent have an associate’s degree.

‘Real World’ Preparation

The young people surveyed also gave high schools low marks when it came to exposing them to the latest technology in their future fields of study and helping them gain work experience.

Views on School

In general, how would you rate the job done by the high school you most recently attended?


SOURCE: The Associated Press/Viacom

Lovina Dill said she wished the two high schools she attended in California had taught her how to deal with the ups and downs of the real world. She could have used a class in “what happens if you can’t get a job, and the unemployment rate rises, and nobody can find a job,” she said, explaining that she was briefly homeless after she was laid off and was unable to find work using her certification in massage therapy.

The poll found that young people today are generally more pessimistic about their economic future than young adults in a similar poll in April 2007, eight months before the recession began. A majority in the recent poll said finances were a key factor in deciding whether to continue their education past high school, which college to attend, and what kind of career to pursue.

Ms. Dill, now 21, self-employed, and living with her father in Arcadia, La., thinks high schools should offer juniors and seniors workshops on how to get a job, how to build a career, and the many educational options besides a four-year degree.

The one category in the poll in which young people did rate high schools high was in preparing them for further education: 56 percent said their school did a good or excellent job in that category. Those who went on to college or trade school gave their high schools better marks than those who didn’t.

Appreciation of Teachers

Young people credited their own ambition and abilities most for their progress in life, followed by parents, family, and friends. But beyond that tight-knit circle, teachers were the heroes, with four in 10 respondents saying high school teachers helped them a lot.

High school and college counselors were a step behind. Most students gave them some credit, but fewer than one-fourth said their counselors were a lot of help, and about three in 10 thought they didn’t help at all.

Nonwhite students were more likely than whites to say their high school counselors helped them. They also gave their high schools better ratings for helping them find money for college.

Young adults overall see brighter days ahead for education, according to the results of the survey, conducted in partnership with Stanford University. About half think children entering elementary school today will get a better education than they did, more than double the number who predict that schools will get worse.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2011 edition of Education Week as Young Adults Give Low Marks to High Schools


Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Tech Is Everywhere. But Is It Making Schools Better?
Join us for a lively discussion about the ways that technology is being used to improve schools and how it is falling short.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Principals, Here Are 4 Simple Tips to Communicate Better
To create a positive learning environment, school leaders must master various communication strategies.
Alex Sponheim
4 min read
Photo illustration of a leader effectively communicating with the community
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Opinion When It Comes to Leadership, Self-Awareness Matters. Here's Why
One leader learned she had a habit of shutting down others' ideas instead of inspiring them. Here's how she changed.
Robin Shrum
6 min read
Picture1 6.19.32 AM
Robin Shrum
School & District Management Opinion Don’t Bewail Summer Vacation for Students, Rethink It
Students experience summer vacation differently, depending on family resources. We should rethink the tradition with that in mind.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Women in K-12 Leadership Don't Get Enough Support. Here's What Needs to Change
Fairer family-leave policies, pay transparency, better data collection, and more on-the-job support are elements of the plan.
7 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.