Raising the Bar and Ensuring that All Students Vault Over It

On June 2, 2010, the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the long-anticipated Common Core State Standards, a common set of internationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards designed to ensure that the nation’s students are prepared to compete in the changing global economy.

Just eight days later, on June 10th, Education Week released its annual Diplomas Count report, estimating that 1.3 million students fail to graduate high school each year, with an average of 7,200 students dropping out every day and less than half of the students currently graduating on time in some of the larger urban districts.

On the surface, setting presumably higher standards at a time when three in ten high school students fail to graduate each year might seem counterproductive. But if we listen to what high school students, including high school dropouts, have to say, the timing of these events may be providential. Most high school students want to earn their high school diplomas and go to college.[1] However, a majority of them report being bored and unchallenged in school. In fact, the most frequent reasons students give for dropping out of high school are: a) weren’t motivated or inspired by the work[2]; b) classes were not interesting[3]; and c) didn’t see the value in what they were expected to do[4]. And recent data from standardized achievement tests (e.g., NAEP, PISA, and state standardized tests) and postsecondary remedial coursetaking indicate that not only are high schools boring students, they are not preparing a significant number of them to be successful in college and careers.

In this light, internationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards are a positive step forward for high school students, especially those who contemplate leaving high school because they are uninspired or see little value in what they are expected to do.

Setting high expectations for all students is really only one of many steps necessary to keep students in school and prepare them for the future. At a bare minimum, high school students need engaging content and pedagogy, good and committed teachers, and strong support systems that help ALL students meet these standards and, where necessary, acquire or recover the content knowledge and credits necessary to graduate and succeed in their chosen postsecondary pathways.[5] As states adopt and begin to implement the Common Standards, we will share what is being learned about their implications for high schools, high school graduation, and postsecondary preparation.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

[1] Yazzie-Mintz, E. (2010). Charting the path from engagement to achievement: A report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation & Education Policy. Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~ceep/hssse/about.html.

[2] Bridgeland, J. M., DiIulio, J. J., & Morrison, K. B. (2006). The silent epidemic: Perspectives of high school dropouts. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises, LLC.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Yazzie-Mintz

[5] See www.betterhighschools.org for research and resources on these topics.


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