Incoming students aren't prepared for college, teachers say—and students agree

Only 14% of instructors agree public high schools ready students for higher ed

Just 12% of four-year and 4% of two-year college instructors found their students "most generally able to do what is expected," according to a set of new surveys.

The findings come from a survey sponsored by education reform nonprofit Achieve and conducted by Hart Research Associates, for which researchers queried 767 instructors, 407 employers, and 1,347 public high school graduates from the classes of 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.         

This year, just 14% of college instructors agreed that American schools are adequately preparing students for life after 12th grade. In 2004, that rate was 28%.

Meanwhile, more than half of students (54%) said they found themselves only "somewhat challenged" in high school and one-fifth said it was "easy to slide by." Only 53% considered themselves "very" or "extremely" well prepared for college.

Highest high school grad rate ever may not equal more successful students

Meanwhile, instructors found major readiness gaps. About 80% said less than half of their students were prepared in terms of:

  • Critical thinking;
  • Comprehending complicated materials; and
  • Appropriate study and work habits.

Instructors also found preparation gaps in problem solving, research skills, math, and science.

Another survey of 165,000 students, by nonprofit YouthTruth, found even fewer students—44.8%—felt positively about their college readiness:

  • About 60% said their school helped them learn college-level skills and knowledge; and
  • 55.5% said they felt their school helped them understand how to apply to college.

Additionally, less than half of students used supports throughout their college application process—and on a one to five "helpfulness" scale, ranked the services less than four on average.

Among the findings:

  • 23% of students used guidance on financing college;
  • About 32% used counseling services on how to apply to college;
  • About 34% used college admissions counseling services; and
  • About 42% used college-entrance exam preparation programs.

The survey findings highlight issues colleges face in providing remedial courses and improving student retention and graduation rates (Schaffhauser, The Journal, 7/27; Gewertz, "High School & Beyond," Education Week, 7/31).

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