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College and Job Ready—and What Else?

"Education must be increasingly concerned about the fullest development of all children and youth, and it will be the responsibility of the school to seek learning conditions that enable each individual to reach the highest level of learning possible for her or him." (Benjamin S. Bloom; American educational psychologist; 1913–1999.) 

The very first IAE Blog entry I wrote was titled, Are High Schools Seriously Misleading Our Students? It was published 8/22/2010 and has received over 9,000 visits. The blog addressed the college readiness of high school seniors in the United States.

The topic seemed important to me at that time, and I still consider it to be quite important. Quoting from the 2010 entry:

New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years.

How can it be that so many college-oriented students take and pass high school courses that they are led to believe are preparing them for college, and yet are not prepared for college? Who is to blame, and what can be done to significantly improve this disastrous situation?

My feeling is that we are doing our students a terrible disservice. We should be making a considerably greater effort to help students understand the quality of precollege education they are obtaining, and how well it is preparing them for likely futures they will encounter in their first few years after leaving high school.

When I recently re-read this blog entry, two questions came to mind:

  1. Has this college ready situation improved since then?
  2. In writing the blog entry, why didn't I also look into other goals of an education? For years, I have sort of "bought into" the assertion that the goals of PreK-12 education are to get students to be either (or both) college ready and job ready. But surely, there is more to adult life than college and jobs.

Has the College Ready Situation Improved?

The percentage of students going on to post-secondary education continues to increase. The college readiness problem continues to exist. Quoting from High School Seniors Aren't College-Ready (Camera, 4/27/2016):

Only about a third of U.S. high school seniors are prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading. And while the performance of the country's highest achievers is increasing in reading, the lowest-achieving students are performing worse than ever.

Those are some of the latest findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card or NAEP, which published new data Wednesday showing the achievement of high school seniors.

The analysis shows that 37 percent of students are prepared for college-level math and reading, down 2 percentage points in math and 1 percentage point in reading since 2013, the last time the tests were administered.

Obviously, there is much more to being college ready than is measured in just math and reading tests. However, widespread data is gathered on math and reading/writing skills of students thinking about going on to a 2-year or 4-year college or university. The results are compared from year to year and given considerable publicity, and this is a useful comparison.

College Ready, Job Ready, and What Else?

Getting students to be college ready and/or job ready are widely accepted goals, but much is missing from this two-item list. Here are two general categories of examples of what is missing.

Learning to Learn and Use One's Learning

The totality of accumulated human knowledge and skills is huge and is growing rapidly. Our world is being changed by improvements in information storage, retrieval, and communication. A good education includes making progress toward:

1. Being a self-responsible, lifelong learner:

  • Developing good study and learning skills.
  • Learning to be an effective, efficient learner.
  • Learning to self-assess (Moursund, 2016c).
  • Learning what aids to learning are available and how to make effective use of these aids throughout one's life.

2. Developing important lifelong knowledge and skills such as:

  • Posing questions that are relevant to oneself and/or for other purposes.
  • Finding and understanding answers from the accumulated knowledge and skills of the human race.
  • Making "good" decisions that are information-based and are respectful of others and the world.

Being a Responsible, Contributing Adult

We are all citizens of the world. Typically, a person is also a citizen/resident of a nation, a state or province, and a city, town, or smaller community. We all interact with others and contribute to the quality of their lives. We want PreK-12 education to help prepare students to:

1. Have good people skills, both in one-on-one interactions and in group interactions.

2. Be responsible and respectful law-abiding adults within the communities in which they live, and in the world.

3. Be good parents, if they become parents.

4. Be contributors to the well-being of our world, its people, and its other creatures.

5. Be possessed of a base of avocational knowledge and skills that contribute to one's well-being and pleasure in life. For example, consider Maslow's hierarchy of human needs (Moursund, 2016a).

It is easy to extend this list. For example, think about quality of life and how it is affected by informal and formal lifelong education (Moursund, 2016b). My point is that there is much more to precollege education than just becoming college ready and/or job ready.

What You Can Do

I often find myself "suckered in" by a well-written article that focusses on a specific and quite limited component of education. When I feel this happening, I ask myself, "What else is important to this story?"

You have likely heard the quotation, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." You also know that each child is unique—so, in both informal and formal education, it is certainly incorrect to believe that one size fits all.

As you consider the quality of ongoing education that you are getting, and as you consider the quality of education that you help others to get, take a broad perspective. Do not be suckered in by narrow, easy-to-measure educational goals.

References and Resources

Camera, L. (4/27/2016). High school seniors aren't college-ready. U.S. News. Retrieved 1/7/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2016a). Abraham Maslow. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/7/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016b). Quality of life. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/7/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016c). Self assessment. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/7/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2016d). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/7/2016 from

Moursund, D. (8/22/2010). Are high schools seriously misleading our students? IAE Blog. Retrieved 1/7/2017 from

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