Meandering toward Graduation: Transcript Outcomes of High School GraduatesReport as inadecuate

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Education Trust

Graduation rates have reached an all-time high and postsecondary enrollment rates are steadily rising in this country. However, thousands of those new college students are testing into remedial reading, writing, or math courses because they don't have the foundation to perform at the levels demanded in college classes. Employers, too, report that high school graduates don't have the basic foundational skills to start in entry-level positions. Are students being exposed to the foundational content that would prepare them to achieve their postsecondary goals? Are they being afforded experiences that groom them to problem solve, study effectively, and work productively in teams? To get better answers to these questions, the authors dug into the most recent national database of high school transcripts to find out what information it could provide about the experiences and preparation of this nation's graduates. How many young people are completing a full college- and career-prep curriculum? How many also have grades that show evidence of mastery? And how do those patterns differ by race and socioeconomic status as well as students' own aspirations? The data suggest that students are meandering toward graduation. Rather than ensuring students have access to a cohesive curriculum that aligns high school coursework and students' future goals, high schools are prioritizing credit accrual, which treats graduation as the end goal. These data call attention to how far the nation has yet to travel to assure that all students--and most especially students from disadvantages backgrounds and students of color--are fully prepared to take advantage of the full range of opportunities that await them after high school. Instead of being prepared for college "and" career, many of the nation's students turn out to have been prepared for neither.

Descriptors: High School Graduates, Academic Records, College Preparation, Secondary School Curriculum, Grades (Scholastic), Racial Differences, Socioeconomic Status, Academic Aspiration, Career Readiness, College Readiness, Longitudinal Studies, African American Students, Hispanic American Students, White Students, Outcomes of Education

Education Trust. 1250 H Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-293-1217; Fax: 202-293-2605; Web site:

Author: Bromberg, Marni; Theokas, Christina


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