The national high school graduation rate has continued to rise – but do students feel prepared for what comes next?
To help answer this question, YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 55,000 high school students. The data was gathered between September 2015 and December 2016 through YouthTruth’s anonymous online climate and culture survey administered in partnership with public school districts across 21 states. Our analysis looked at a subset of questions relating to college and career readiness and uncovered some key insights.
The majority of students surveyed — 84 percent — report that they want to go to college. This is affirming of the college-going culture of schools across the country. However, when asked about their plans after high school, only 68 percent of students expect to attend either a 2-year college (13 percent) or 4-year college (55 percent) after they finish high school.
When we disaggregate the data by students’ self-reported race and ethnicity, we see some slight differences. When asked about their plans after high school, Asian, white, and black or African-American students are slightly more likely to expect to attend a 2-year or 4-year college, while Hispanic or Latino students are slightly less likely to report that they expect to attend a 2-year or 4-year college.
Across all student demographics, only about half of the students surveyed feel that their school has helped them develop the skills and knowledge they will need for college-level classes. We again see some slight differences between students of different demographic groups.
The percentage of students who report feeling prepared for college hovers around 50 percent across all grade levels. Only 52 percent of 9th graders, 49 percent of 10th graders, 50 percent of 11th graders, and 50 percent of 12th graders feel that their school has helped them develop the skills and knowledge they will need for college-level classes. What is striking is that this percentage remains constant even as students get closer to high school graduation.
When examining the data by students’ self-reported race and ethnicity, Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and black or African-American students are slightly more likely to feel that their school has helped them develop the skills and knowledge they will need for college-level classes.
I feel like once I get to college, I won't be as prepared as I would have wanted to be. I don't feel prepared for the transition I will have to make for college.
The things we learn help us pass tests so we can get a good grade, but we do't learn basic skills for studying that will help us survive in college.
What about support services that help students prepare for life after high school? When students access support services, they by and large find them to be helpful. On average, of the students who used support services, approximately 60 percent report that the services were helpful. This is good news — though there is certainly room for improvement. More concerning, however, is that only about a third of students surveyed report actually using support services.
Ratings of college and career readiness vary widely across schools. Of the 114 schools examined in this analysis, the lowest rated school received an 11% positive rating while the highest rated school received a 78% positive rating. The median-rated school received a 43% positive rating. This rating is a composite of several questions asked about students’ college and career readiness. Students whose average rating across the related questions was at least a 3.5 out of 5 were categorized as feeling positively about their college and career readiness.
FOR PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, AND PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMITTEES
- Do you think these findings speak to the student experience at your school?
- How do you think students’ perception of college and career readiness on your campus might be similar to or different
from these findings? What sources inform your hypothesis?
- What questions do you have after reflecting on this data?
- What is one area in which your school is doing well at preparing students for college and career? What is one area in
which you have room for growth?
- What college and career support services does your school offer?
- Are students using college and career support services at your school? Why or why not?
FOR TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS IN CONVERSATION WITH STUDENTS
- Do you think this data reflects the experiences of students at your school? Which data points seem most relevant?
- What resources have you found most helpful as you prepare for college and/or your future career?
- How can your school do a better job of letting students know about available resources?
- What questions do you have about preparing for life after high school?
- What is one thing that your school could try this year to help prepare students for college and career?