High school graduations have been at an all-time high, a major feat to be certain, but recent research is showing that many of these graduates aren’t prepared for the academic road ahead. The facts on college readiness are startling. The Nation’s Report Card (or NAEP) found that only a third of U.S. high school seniors are prepared for college coursework, and the number of students scoring below the basic level in math and reading are still rising. Last fall’s scores from the ACT college entrance exam showed that many high school students aren’t ready for college-level courses. In reading, only 44 percent of students met the 22-point mark that suggests readiness for a college social-sciences course, and only 36 percent met the baseline that predicts success in an entry-level biology course.

At community colleges across the country, three of five students show up unprepared for entry-level English or math courses, which results in enrolling in at least one or more remedial courses. For four-year institutions, it’s more than 30 percent. With more college students having to relearn material they should have already known and dropping out as a result, educators are turning to the K-12 school system to solve for college preparation. High schools are judged by how many students make it to graduation, but not whether those students are ready for college.

Solving for college readiness can be complicated, as schools and districts debate over what the standards should be. For years, schools have looked to state-mandated standardized tests, only a “proficient” score does not necessarily mean students are ready for college. We take a look at three important steps that other K-12 educators and administrators are taking to address the troubling decline in college readiness.

Rethink Assessments
Educators are starting to look beyond test scores and finding other approaches to enrich student assessments. Even in looking at the Common Core standards, which have been adopted in forty-two states, ACT has reported a significant gap between the standards and what college professors consider important indicators for success. With personalized learning models and expanding different metrics to evaluate a student’s learning path throughout K-12, there are new ways for educators to anticipate student success beyond their high school graduation.

Create Courses to Aid Struggling Students
At Eastern Hancock High School, they’re creating several new courses for 2017-18 that are aimed at helping students who are still catching up to state academic standards. Three of these courses are designed to help high school students who have passed English and math, but may not be fully prepared for the next class or college-level coursework. These types of bridge courses at high schools will be valuable in the long run, instead of relying on colleges to offer remedial courses or counseling to assist new college freshmen who are falling behind.

Build Partnerships with Higher Ed
There is a connection that must be made between K-12 and higher ed in order to better support students when they transition to college. School counselors, principals, and superintendents are finding ways to collaborate with higher ed. When K-12 works with college admissions offices, for example, they’re able to offer a holistic view of prospective students. For K-12 superintendents and academic officers, this opens up opportunities to discuss dual enrollment programs, community service, and other programs to offer real-world experience to high schoolers who are making decisions about their interests and college choices. In some communities, they are starting early with college-readiness programs for middle-schoolers.

For Additional Reading:

[1] Camera, Lauren. “High School Seniors Aren’t College-Ready,” U.S. News & World Report, 27 Apr 2016. Link

[2] Kerr, Jennifer C. “Number of College-Ready Sees Decline,” The Columbian, 28 Aug 2016. Link

[3] Strauss, Valerie. “Common Core Isn’t Preparing Students Very Well for College or Career, New Report Says,” The Washington Post, 9 Jun 2016. Link

[4] Marcus, Jon. “Stuck at Square One: States Attack College Readiness in High School,” The Hechinger Report, 18 Aug 2016. Link

[5] Hatcher, Rorye. “Courses Aim to Improve Readiness,” The Greenfield Daily Reporter, 22 Dec 2016. Link

[6] Smith, Stephen, and Sherman, Morton. “Connecting College Access, Admissions, and Completion,” The Washington Post, 29 Dec 2016. Link