High school: A launching pad or final destination?

Accounting firm Deloitte released a new survey this week on education contrasting the views of parents and teachers on the role of high schools.

According to the Deloitte 2009 Education Survey: “We are failing our low-income students.  Too few are graduating high school.  Too few feel prepared for college. And too few educators seem focused on this situation.”

The survey found:

-  Only 9 percent of high school teachers think that preparing students for college is their primary mission.

- Only 10 percent of high school teachers think that ensuring students graduate is their primary mission.

-  But nearly half of all parents and students believe that college preparation is their high school’s primary mission.

-Sixty percent of teachers said it was important to them personally that the students from their high school attend college. Thirty-six percent said it was “somewhat important.”

In a statement, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg said:

What parents and students surveyed want from high school is at odds with what we’ve been asking our high schools to do for close to 100 years. Redefining the mission of high school is an important next step for building a 21st Century workforce. We need to create a strong college-going culture which ensures high school is viewed not as the end game, but as preparation for post-secondary education and career success.

The study concludes that:

Overall, the results speak to the need to reshape the mindset among educators so that they view high school as a launch pad
to post secondary education and career success, and not solely as
a destination.

In achieving that we must re-evaluate the way we measure our teachers and schools and the way we view success. We must move away from focusing solely on state tests and other immediate metrics and apply a longer term view that aims at providing our high schools students with real learning that is applicable to college courses and even further down the line in the workforce.

I assume many teachers here will agree with the latter paragraph and disagree with the former. Am I right?

37 comments Add your comment


November 30th, 2009
2:54 pm

As a former high school teacher, it is hard to believe these statistics.


November 30th, 2009
2:57 pm

As a retired elementary, Jr. Hihg, Middle School, and High School teacher,I second Mift.


November 30th, 2009
3:12 pm

Someone needs to clean off my table at a restaurant or clean the bathrooms at my work. Sounds like a job for these underachievers. And we won’t have to outsource a single job. That’s CHANGE we should all HOPE for.


November 30th, 2009
3:18 pm

Here we go again….! As a high school teacher, it is my goal to prepare students to become assets, rather than drains, to their families and communities. They should leave high school with the ability to become gainfully employed, whether immediately or after pursuing additional education. Why, oh why, do those outside of education insist that all students must be college-bound? Some students’ talents simply do not lie in academic pursuits. There is no shame in that. The steady erosion of vocational-technical education in our public high schools has only added to the drop-out problem because students see no value in learning how to cite a source using MLA or APA style, remembering, much less understanding, the impact of the Hundred Year’s War, or applying trigonometric formulas. So on one hand, I agree with the launching pad analogy because it is our responsibility to prepare students to go out and become informed, productive citizens in whatever way they choose to do so; however, I disagree with the notion that pigeon-holing all students into a single college-for-all mold is the solution to our current education woes.


November 30th, 2009
3:25 pm

Flipper says it better than I did under the “Obama & Science” thread. Thank you, Flipper!

Why indeed must we “de-track” all our students, andthen must demonstrate how we differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all our learners? My class only moves as fast as the slowest learner, or else that learner is “left behind,” and we all know that is as good as a criminal offense.

Evil Old English Teacher

November 30th, 2009
3:32 pm

I find it interesting how we have to change the “mindset among educators.” What about society’s mindset? So too, if we are preparing students for a new technological age, who is to say “success” and “real learning” equates to entering college? Successful entrepreneurs such as the founder of Mary Kay and the founder of Dell did not go to college. If we do not measure success by monetary incentives, and instead focus on knowledge, then measuring students by whether or not they all fit the same “box’o'college” pathway is also a poor standard.

I take issue with the idea that “success” for a “21st century workforce” means everyone goes to college.

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November 30th, 2009
5:12 pm

I have a friend who is an economist. His theory on all this is interesting, and I think he is correct. The drive to get all kids to college comes from two places. First, it comes from colleges that are completely panicked that their steady stream of baby boomer children (boomlets) is going to begin to dry up after this year. There simply will not be as many students around to apply for college. As a result, it will become more and more difficult for the private colleges to charge $50K or more per year for tuition/room/board so that students can attend a four year five star resort.

The second source of this push is the corporate world. Corporations want mass quantities of fairly highly skilled labor (middle managers with college degrees but not too much in the way of brains). With a glut of not-too-brilliant college grads, competition for mid-level jobs will be fierce. As a result, they can drive down salaries and benefits and feel secure in the fact that their employees are just happy to have a job at all and will most likely not consider doing anything rash like branching out, starting their own darn company and eventually competing with their former employer.

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November 30th, 2009
5:27 pm

flipper, you are well-informed. Your points are right on target, especially about driving down salaries by having more “supply”. The emphasis during the last few years on science, technology, engineering and math careers (STEM) has brought on quite a number of misused statistics in order to drive points home with audiences. For instance, the myth of the 500,000 engineers in China was allowed to linger in print and media long enough for it to become “fact”. However, this “fact” was never checked by its original publisher and now the “statistic” is still thrown around as if it is true. In the US, there are more engineering graduates than there are jobs. This fact remains true even with the growth in the demand for engineers. The sad reality for Americans is that we are truly competing with engineers from other countries who will work for lower salaries.

Having taught high school before going into administration, I saw many teachers who were only in love with the content of the courses they taught. There was not a strong devotion to support students to achieve. Few teachers took the time to establish relationships with students. So, I believe there is somewhat of a problem with the culture of typical high schools. However, this is not where the most serious problem is. The most serious problem is with our society and its lack of regard for the importance of working hard to achieve a good education. Too many people are acting as if schools should hand the education to students on a silver platter. It can not be done this way. Work and effort from students is required for learning to take place.

It seems the gist of “research” like this is always the same: School should do more to make sure students graduate ready for college. It’s about time for the other shoe to drop and let students, parents and entire communities know that they have a part in this enterprise, too. Work and effort are required. A desire to learn is essential. Students will succeed the moment they decide they want to succeed.


November 30th, 2009
5:31 pm

When I was teaching I found that many parents wanted their children to go to college, but when they thought the teacher was challenging their children too much, the complaints began. Sometimes these complaints ended up with the BOE getting involved, and the teacher being told to back off, especially if it interfered with Billy or Susie’s extracurricular activities. We must match our actions to our desired outcomes.
I think most teachers have a genuine desire for the majority of their students to attend college, but the reality is that many of them do not possess the academic skills that lead to success in college. What we need is a revamping of the public’s perception of the role of the school/teachers/administration/BOE in a student’s education. Is it to prepare the student for high school graduation, for a job after high school, or to be successful in college? Should separate schools focusing on vocational skills be established for those students not desiring to attend college? How rigorous should a school’s curriculum be? Should parents be forced to attend school open houses/conferences to track their child’s progress or is it the system’s job? These are not all of the questions that need to be considered as I’m sure others could be asked.
In France and Japan, most students are tested before proceeding to high school, and those showing college potential pursue that track while the other students go on to vocational school. This seems to be a better model for schools because it takes into consideration that not all students are college bound.

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November 30th, 2009
6:04 pm

I think the wording is what made the percentages so low. My primary responsibility is to teach the standards set for me so that my kids can be prepared for college.

This is a disconnect with some parents (and ALL students) where the end goal is the same, but how to get there isn’t always communicated clearly. We’ve all heard, “When am I ever going to use this?” and that’s where this question comes in to me.

We need to do more to get students ready for college, yes, but I think we also need to communicate that if we’re teaching the basics, then we are working towards that goal. We need to do more to get the students to see the goal as we go, though.

William Casey

November 30th, 2009
6:05 pm

If everyone graduates from college the value of a college credential will simply be reduced to what a high school diploma was in 1950.

The jobs that actually REQUIRE a college degree will ALWAYS go to those with brains and work ethic. Both must be provided by parents.

A teacher’s role is to help provide inspiration and opportunity.

Statistics are often lies.


November 30th, 2009
6:56 pm

The question I want answered regarding this is this. Who is it out there that has brought us to the point we are right now? We have seen unprecedented growth in all aspects of modern life in theis country over the past 50 years or so. I remember when the first color TV was rolled out. Now I watch it on my phone. If our schools have done such a horrible and failing job with the population then who is it in this country that creates, sells and refines these things we now take for granted? I’ll tell you who. Graduates of the the American public school system which is still the top educational system in the world no matter what the whiners out there claim. We attempt to educate more people than any other country in the world and do a much better job than most if not all at it.

I am so sick of the US education system taking the fall for all ills in this society. It just is not accurate by any measure.

Tony was right on about some high school teachers loving their subjects more than service to the kids in some cases. Answer this one though. What do you think College and University professors are more focused on?

You don’t absolutely need a college education to be successful, just the will and fortitude to do so!


November 30th, 2009
7:45 pm

I don’t believe all students need to go to college, but more importantly, if they come to high school reading and doing math well below grade level, as many of our students do now, we probably won’t be able to get them ready for college in 4-5 years. In fact, we’ll be lucky to graduate them in that time period.

If we seriously want “all” students to go to college, we either need to start in elementary school rather than in high school, or we need to do as some other countries do, and only allow those with the skills and motivation to succeed in college to attend high school. Send the rest to vocational school or put them to work.


November 30th, 2009
8:17 pm

Some have touched on what I consider to be a huge part of our educational problem—parents and society. Often parents want their kids in school (and out of their hair) and don’t take an active part in the child’s education. Children are taught that the teacher is always wrong, is racist, has no authority, etc.

I am teaching my 3rd generation of Entitlement students…some of these kids have never seen a parent hold a job, nevermind show any kind of pride in a job well done. Work ethics? When these kids DO have a part-time job and the schedule doesn’t suit them? They QUIT. The supervisor corrects them? They QUIT.

A student is in trouble for bad behavior in school? It is the teacher’s fault. We had some football players get in trouble at our school and they were assigned ISS (In School Suspension)…a parent came flying to the school, absolutely irate that Little Johnny couldn’t play football that afternoon (athletes who are in ISS can’t compete the same day), but totally unconcerned that the kid had misbehaved.

I am very, very fearful for our country when these kids are adults. No, they will never be adults, responsible and productive. They will be the age of adults.

Unless someone, somewhere, makes huge changes in our educational system….and I hope and pray it is someone with a clue and not some “specialist” who hasn’t been in the classroom, nevermind in the same discipline as their “specialist” title allows them to supervise and monitor.


November 30th, 2009
8:26 pm

As an elementary level teacher (have taught nursery school, k, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, sp ed, ESOL all levels)/ am certified PK-12, and have taught college level) I don’t think any grade’s job is to get the kids ready for the next grade. If we are teaching well, evaluating appropriately for goals that are appropriate, the kids WILL be ready for the next grade, but I don’t think that should be the GOAL. Part of the problem is that those who don’t know much are making the decisions, rather than allowing the professionals to guide the students’ learning appropriately. Then you have the whole dumb to the low water line issue. I am continually horrified at how little is expected of students in our area, such as the kids who are in fifth grade but functioning on late 1st or early 2nd grade level, and the classroom teacher is expected to do needs-based instruction based on the deficits, while simultaneously teaching grade level skill. For the kids: Just show up and breathe. (And actually with the school nurse providing so many medical services, I am not sure breathing is really required.)


November 30th, 2009
8:35 pm

Did I see the word P A R E N T S anywhere?

Georgia Teacher

November 30th, 2009
8:55 pm

I teach high school English. I teach mostly remedial kids, but do teach some college prep students.

I do not prepare my students for college. I prepare them for life.

One of the biggest misconceptions in education is you have to go to college to be successful. This misconception has spread so far that students believe the SAT is a mandatory test, even if they are not going to college.

I have one example I give all the time: one of my professors in college left the university just before I graduated. Why? His son, a mechanic who learned how to repair large earthmover engines in the Army, hired him to run the books at his shop. That’s right. A mechanic could afford to hire his fully-tenured college professor father for more than the professor was making after getting his doctorate.

I think if you get away from the statistics and speak to the teachers, you will find many who agree with the following:

-Not all children should go to college.

-We are doing our students who are not going to college a disservice by pushing them through courses designed to prepare them for college.

-The push to send more and more kids to college is hurting our education system.

-Technical education… teaching kids a trade… is desperately needed.

The HOPE Scholarship, while a great idea, has lowered the value of a college degree in this state. The supply is starting to seriously outstrip the demand.

I understand that a higher percentage of college graduates state-wide is good thing on paper, but the reality of the situation is we need more workers for factories. Just take a look at the industrial growth in Alabama and South Carolina and then look at their technical education programs.

AP Teacher

November 30th, 2009
9:06 pm

As a high school teacher, there are several things that I can do to get my students prepared for college. I can help my students learn how to take notes in a lecture based class. I can teach them to do their best because there aren’t many opportunitites for redos in college or the real world. I can teach them that late work will result in a failing grade because in college and the real world late work results in a 0 or being fired. I am able to do these things in my AP classes. My students understand that we dont retake tests and we dont get to turn in work late. They learn to do their best or they fail. In twenty years of teaching AP, I have never had an AP student fail and over 70% of them pass their AP exams. I dont accept excuses and they learn to do their best. When they go to college, they know what is expected and they are successful. In my other classes I am expected to retest until the student passes, accept late work with little or no penalty, never lecture more than 10 minutes and provide lots of group activities and differentiation. If they fail, it must be something that I am not doing correctly. If they get to college, it is a complete culture shock to them because how many college classes base instruction on small group rather than lecture? How may college professors differentiate for every student? I want my students to be prepared for college. I teach in a small town so I do have as relationship with all of them and I do care about them and I want them to do well at the next level, whether it is a job, the military, or college. However, I know that what I am now required to do in my classes is not preparing them for the real world. All of my students can pass the GHSGT but considering 50% correct is a passing grade, so what??? Does that ridiculous test mean they are prepared for college or work? I dont think so. Spend a few weeks with us in any high school across Georgia and you will see why we are so discouraged. When you visit, dont sit in an AP class. They are wonderful but they dont really represent the real high school.

Old School

November 30th, 2009
9:19 pm

Talk to the folks who hire people and I’ll bet they say the same thing my Advisory Committee has said for years: send us workers who will give a day’s work for a day’s pay; who will come back to work on Monday morning; who will return from lunch on time; who will work safely and efficiently; who does not require constant supervision; who will listen carefully to instructions; who can learn; who shows personal integrity and initiative; who has a strong work ethic; who can read and comprehend; who can write legibly and in standard English; who is motivated and loyal; who can work alone or with a team. Send us workers like that and we’ll train them to do the job.

Until we hold students to a higher standard of behavior/achievement and until most of the adults in their lives model that higher standard, we’ll have the same mediocre results from our schools. Go back to basics in the lower grades, cut out the fluff in middle school and emphasize mastery of the basics, and ground the academics in the real world at the high school level (like we do in CTAE courses) and you’ll have students prepared for most any post-secondary institution, the military, and the world of work.

Old School

November 30th, 2009
9:21 pm

Just realized I mixed singular and plural in my haste to type my opinion. Sorry about that.


November 30th, 2009
10:08 pm

Yay OldSchool!!! Too bad none of the educrats are smart enough to see and digest your points. In reality, that is the problem.


November 30th, 2009
10:28 pm

My oldest entered Middle Georgia’s GAAMES program after 10th grade to get a jump start on college. Next year, her brother will be foregoing his senior year to attend MGC or KSU. The reality for them is that high school is a waste of time. Why take AP classes where teachers believe they are treating students like collegians by piling on the work on the hopes of passing a test and getting credit? I wonder if these teachers remember that most of the classes that can be exempted with AP credit are core, survey classes that do not carry anywhere near the workload they seem to want to heap on their high schoolers. I say this because I believe that we will see even more students move on to college as soon as they can. This will leave the high schools with a higher percentage of students that need some sort of vocational training.


November 30th, 2009
10:53 pm

Old School and Georgia Teacher – great posts!! I agree 100%.

Rik – I agree with you as well – I encouraged both my kids to get through early – one chose joint enrollment (and seemed to have about 2/3s the work load of her friends who stayed in HS and loaded up on APs), and the other chose to graduate a semester early – he worked and saved money for college, entering in the fall with the rest of his class – happy he saved money, and realizing that he did indeed want a job that required a degree :-)

We need more flexibility, not more “one size fits all!”


December 1st, 2009
9:02 am

Rik and luvs2teach are right on. AP classes have become somewhat of a joke in many high schools. Because of the seriously flawed Newsweek high school ranking system, high schools try to cram as many warm bodies into AP classes as possible. These kids usually take a highly regimented course that emphasizes quantity of work over quality of work. College credit is becoming the exception rather than the rule as AP classes are dumbed down further and further each year to accommodate the flood of unqualified students. Colleges have an incentive to deny credit so that they can get more tuition money. As classes are dumbed down each year, colleges are also increasingly justified in denying credit for AP. For the privilege of enduring all of this, students must pay nearly $90 to take a test that will most likely do nothing for them.

God willing and the Creek don’t rise….my kids will be totally bypassing the AP scam. If they are ready for college level courses (and I expect they will be), they will take actual, real life college level courses. I’m happy to pay for college level credits. Nothing prepares you for college classes like college classes, right? I’m very willing to waste my children’s time and my money on AP.


December 1st, 2009
9:04 am

Oops… on the last sentence there I meant to say that I’m NOT very willing to waste my children’s……..

Time for one more cup of java I guess.

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2009
9:39 am

Flipper, The College Board contends that there is no evidence that AP courses are being watered down. The tests remain the same so kids still have to meet the standard set by the College Board to pass.
As for “real” college classes, some high school kids in joint enrollment will tell you that their AP class in high school was tougher than their intro class at their local college.
I don’t think we can assume that AP courses are diluted or that joint enrollment courses at an actual college are more rigorous by definition.
It remains true that students who do well on high school AP classes have much higher college graduation rates. So, I think there is merit in those classes.


December 1st, 2009
11:05 am

Maureen, I know that the test remains the same, it’s the class that’s being watered down to accommodate the folks at Newsweek. The “College Board contends” that there is no evidence that AP courses are being watered down? That is all it takes to convince you? Really?

I have some investment land in south central Florida that I’d like you to take a look at.

Re the statement that kids who do well on AP classes have higher grad rates. I’m sure that’s true. Kids who do well in actual college classes also have higher grad rates than those who don’t… Kids who do well on the SAT have higher college grad rates than those with low scores. Kids who have top grades in high school have higher college grad rates than those with poor high school grades. Kids from affluent households have higher college grad rates than those from low income families. What’s your point?

I’ll agree with you that some AP classes are tougher than some college intro classes. I still think that AP is part of the grand college scam that has been hoisted on middle class Americans. I have very high expectations for my kids and hope that they are even more successful than my husband and I are. However, you can get a top notch college education for a fraction of the cost if you pay attention, see a scam for what it is, and don’t follow the glassy eyed lemmings over the cliff.

Maureen Downey

December 1st, 2009
11:09 am

Flipper, My evidence is not the course performance but the performance on the AP exam. There is a good study out of Texas A&M that the performance on the AP exam is a reliable indicator of proficiency and college performance. The study did not find the same high college performance success for kids who just took the AP classes without taking the exams, so I think it is important to have students take the exam.

Old School

December 1st, 2009
2:45 pm

Is there any data on kids who took the tests without taking the AP classes? I don’t know if that is still a possibility but I do know of students who were very widely read who scored high enough on at least one AP exam to qualify for credit. One was my niece who attended an out of state university on a full scholarship.

HS Teacher, Too

December 1st, 2009
3:06 pm

Georgia Teacher, AP Teacher, and Old School — amen.

AP Teacher, I am in the same boat right now with my remedial kids. They have no accountability, no behavior standards, they can’t add or subtract or multiply or divide, and I’m supposed to let them work in groups and “differentiate,” and get them all to pass the various exams. Why don’t the educrats see the gaping chasm of a disconnect between these goals?! I miss teaching AP and would do (almost) anything to get back to it.


jim d

December 2nd, 2009
11:47 am

“A launching pad or final destination?”

Different things for different people—Allowing choice would simplify this issue as well. It makes absolutely no sense to push someone towards an end that doesn’t fit their need.


December 3rd, 2009
10:29 pm

I would just like to point out that if you check the actual survey, you’ll notice that this study is ridiculous. Most teachers believe that their primary purpose is helping students master the subject you teach. This option is not presented to teachers or students. Talk about doctoring your survey.

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Carol Turner

January 29th, 2010
9:02 pm

I bet Vegas wouldn’t touch those odds. Anyways I know just from my kids that just about everyone in school shows up every morning with a hoodie on, some in the summer ( those kids scare me – if you know what I mean )