Governors, pop stars, first-grade teachers, and insurance advertisers can be heard encouraging children to plan to attend college. High school students are drowned in the college hype.
The encouragement seems to be misplaced, considering that institutions of post-secondary education find it necessary to provide remediation classes in math and English to 50% or more of the freshmen who do go to college after high school.
Educators, politicians, and parents would do well to ease up on promoting universal college attendance, and give serious attention to what is going on in grades 7-12.
For the majority of American children, high school is more important than college. For most young people, high school is the end of formal education. Moreover, about a million children who begin kindergarten every year do not remain in school past the eighth or ninth grades.
In earlier generation, a high school diploma represented the completion of a high level of formal education. For most people, completing the eighth grade was sufficient preparation for most occupations. Nowadays, instead of viewing those last four years of free formal education as a time to acquire advanced skills and knowledge, Americans seem to view high school as an extension of childhood, a time in which “kids can be kids” before having to think about the “real world.”
News bulletin: High school IS the real world.
Sixteen-year-olds who behave like jerks to their teachers are going to behave like jerks to their employers and their spouses.
Fourteen-year-olds who constantly blame their failure to turn in assignments on the dog, their parents, traffic, etc., will go through life making excuses for their own lack of gumption.
Grades K-6 can reasonably be regarded as the grades of childhood. During these grades, children learn how to function in groups, and how to control their impulses. This is the time for them to master the basic math concepts, handwriting, the spelling of common words, and the ability to read fluently at their intellectual level.
Grades 7-8 are the launching pad for high school. Grades 7-8—not the freshman year in college—are the levels at which to address the remediation of basic skills and content.
The transition between sixth and seventh grades should be marked by a conference with students and parents in which both are informed of the importance attached to mastering the academic content of the next two grades.
It should be made clear at the outset that if the student is not reading or writing at grade level by the end of the eighth grade, the student will not be permitted to pass to high school.
Instead of lowering the standards for college admission, we should raise the standards for getting into high school.