Survey: Profs, Kids and Employers Think HS Grads are Unprepared


Researchers have found that both university faculty and employers believe that public high schools are not preparing students for the expectations they will encounter in college and careers.

In 2004, only 28% of college instructors said that schools were adequately preparing students for what comes after high school. In 2015, that measure of confidence is down to 14%, says Dian Schaffhauser, writing for The Journal.

As for employers in 2004, 49% said schools were preparing students adequately for what they would need for work, compared to just 29% of employers in 2015. Students, for their part, say that high schools are not setting academic expectations high enough, with 54% saying they were only “somewhat challenged” and 20% saying it was “easy to slide by.”

The answers came from a set of surveys sponsored by Achieve, a group of state governors and business leaders who have created a national non-profit to advocate for educational reform. Achieve has developed such programs as the PARCC consortium and the Next Generation Science Standards.

College instructors surveyed, numbering 767, who taught first-year students at two-year schools and instructors who taught first-year students at four-year schools were asked questions. Also, 407 employers involved in hiring and other personnel decisions who worked at firms employing 26 to 100 employees and those who employed more than 100 were queried. The findings were paired with data from a survey that included 1,347 recent graduates from the classes of 2011 through 2014 about how prepared they felt concerning life after high school. Hart Research Associates performed the work associated with the survey.

In two year colleges, only 4% of faculty members found students “generally able to do what is expected.” In four-year schools, the number was 12%. Fifty-three percent of college students said they were “extremely” or “very” well prepared. Eighteen percent of employers found high school graduates extremely or very well prepared for work. But 17% found graduates “not at all prepared.”

Students’ preparedness in specific areas of learning was rated and resulted in dismal findings: 82% of instructors found fewer than half of students or none of their students ready to use critical thinking skills; comprehension of complicated materials – 80%; work and study habits – 78%; writing and written communication – 77% and 76%, respectively; problem solving – 76%; conducting research – 74%; math – 59%; science – 53%.

In 2004, employers said that four out of 10 new employees required more education or training in reading and math. In 2015, the number had risen to six in 10.

Almost nine in 10 high school graduates said they would have worked harder if expectations for earning a diploma had been higher. When asked if they would have been better prepared in college and careers if they had learned earlier what courses they needed to have under their belts to pursue their academic and work pursuits, 38% of college instructors said the students would have been better prepared; 50% of employers answered yes; 56% of recent graduates agreed.

Providing opportunities for real-world learning would improve things a “great deal,” said 33% of college instructors, 57% of employers, and 63% of students. Requiring students to pass math and writing exams to graduate was disapproved of by 32% of instructors, 44% of employers, and 36% of students.

Half of the students surveyed said that the proposal of having the opportunity to take challenging courses, like honors or Advanced Placement classes, had potential.

“We know that our schools can do a better job of preparing students for success in their next steps,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “We hear students saying that they are certain they would have worked harder in high school if they’d been held to higher expectations. It’s critical that schools clearly communicate the expectations of colleges and employers early in a student’s high school experience and help them to understand the coursework they will need to complete. When we set rigorous expectations, students can and will rise to the challenge.”