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Most 12th-graders are not college or career ready

Bill Crawford
Bill Crawford

Most High School Seniors Aren't College Or Career Ready, Says Nation's Report Card," read the headline.

A look at "The National Report Card" for 2015 produced by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) shows just 25 percent of U.S. 12th-graders scored proficient or higher in math and just 37 percent in reading.

Andrew Ho, a measurement expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who sits on NAEP's bipartisan governing board, told NPR's Anya Kamenetz these scores reveal "under 40 percent of students score at college and career ready levels." What "college and career ready" means is that students will be able to succeed in doing college-level academics, or, with on-the-job training, succeed in a career position requiring only a high school diploma.

Ho's 40 percent applies to 12th-graders nationwide. While no Mississippi 12th-grade results were published by NAEP, our students scored well below the national average on NAEP eighth-grade math and reading tests. Extrapolating the eighth-grade scores to 12th-graders indicates less than 30 percent of Mississippi's graduating seniors may be college or career ready.

No wonder so many high school graduates get placed into developmental math and English classes when they enter college. No wonder so many never make it out of these classes. No wonder so many never finish college.

No wonder new industry prospects question the readiness of Mississippi's workforce for advanced manufacturing and high-tech jobs. No wonder major Mississippi industries have to sort through hundreds of applicants to find a handful who are qualified for employment.

No wonder solving this dilemma was the top priority of the recent session of the Mississippi Legislature.


Oh, that's right. Legislators focused on bills addressing issues that were much more important, bills columnist Charlie Mitchell described as, "Reactionary bills. Defensive bills. Shallow bills. Bills for their buddies."

Legislators seemed pretty happy with the status quo for students, as evidenced by what they passed and funded. New things they did pass -- more charter schools and requiring all school superintendents to be appointed -- were more periphery than centered on getting Mississippi children college and career ready.

Mississippi has focused effort and resources on high school drop-outs. Unfortunately, getting these kids high school diplomas may not help them that much. The diploma may make them technically eligible for college or employment, but not ready and able to succeed in either.

College and career readiness for students is a national priority. Mississippi has been operating under waivers relevant to this priority under No Child Left Behind. The new Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more control over their standards and priorities.

If getting students college and career ready is to be a state priority, and it should be, then adequate and better focused resources, more and better trained teachers, and more programs that develop career skills in high school must be provided.

And legislators should make this their top priority. Or give up on our children and cut more taxes instead.

Write Bill Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Meridian, at crawfolk@gmail.com.