Great Expectations: NY High School Graduates Not Ready for College

Troubling new statistics have shown that less than a quarter of high school seniors in New York City actually graduate ready for college. In response, New York's Board of Regents, the group responsible for the state's education policies, have begun to discuss solutions to what some educators have dubbed a 'national crisis.'

In the current job marketplace, it's almost impossible to secure a desirable career without a college education. Concurrently, as university admissions requirements become stricter and fewer students are accepted, it's harder than ever before to get into college. Recent reports have suggested perhaps a more troubling fact than that: students are far less prepared for college than they should be.

According to graduation statistics recently released by state education officials, only 23% of New York City students who graduated high school in 2009 were ready to move onto college. Further, the Big Apple had the best showing among urban areas in the state: Syracuse, Buffalo and Yonkers all clocked in at less than 17% college readiness, and Rochester showed a disheartening five percent.

school hallway

Along with that, one must consider New York City's current graduation rate of 64%. That means that, of all those who graduate high school in New York City, about 36% are truly prepared for the college experience. That sounds a little better than 23%, but not by much.

In this study, 'college-ready' is determined by scores earned on the state-mandated Regents examinations. According to a 2010 study, students who earned a 75 on the English Regents and an 80 on the mathematics would average a C in introductory college courses on those subjects. Students who scored lower would typically require remedial courses to catch up.

Although the results of this study are based on New York-specific tests, the ACT corporation performed a similar nationwide experiment in 2009. They also used a C or better college grade to measure ability, and correlated that with performance on their own test. Similar to New York City, they found that only 23% of those students who took their exam were ready for college in all four of its areas (English, reading, mathematics and science).

learning stress

So what's to be done? Regents officials have begun meeting with local school districts to get suggestions for countering this problem, but any solutions are a long-term project. New York State has already begun to examine its students' performance in a collegiate setting, and will begin holding principals accountable for it in 2012. Other proposed changes include instituting tougher graduation standards for state students and raising the passing score of the Regents examinations to a level appropriate for college ability.

One thing is clear: a college education is now more important than ever, especially in light of the increasingly competitive marketplace. Many industries and institutions have had to make significant adjustments to stay relevant in the past decade, and now schools face a similar decision. One would hope that more than one-quarter of their charges will benefit from that decision.