High school students should be exposed to college-level courses early on, and they should learn in technology-rich classrooms that redesign the learning process to emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, and other higher-order skills, in order to help close the achievement gap between high school and college, according to a new report that highlights high school graduates’ lack of preparedness for the rigors of a college education.
Entitled “Closing the Gap between High School and College,” the report comes from the Blackboard Institute, an independent research organization within the ed-tech company Blackboard Inc. While it’s obvious that Blackboard has a financial stake in advocating for more use of technology in the classroom, the report was based on interviews with education experts from K-12 schools, community colleges, research institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
The report says that of the students who enter college, nearly a third drop out after their first year—and 50 percent never graduate. Many students enter college not prepared for higher education, the report notes; at community colleges, nearly a million students reportedly take remedial courses each year at a cost of $1.4 billion.
The report details new practices to help improve college success and close the achievement gap from high school to college, including training teachers to optimize students’ college success, assessing college preparation early and often, and adopting national standards that are more aligned with collegiate entry requirements.
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“For a long time, high schools really weren’t designed with the expectation that all students would need to be ready for some sort of postsecondary education, and so the curriculum and standards weren’t designed that way,” said Joel Vargas, vice president of Jobs for the Future and leader of the “High School Through College” team.
“I think what you’ve seen is increasing realization that the standards between high school and college are not aligned,” he said.
In creating the report, the Blackboard Institute interviewed 24 education experts to determine why there is a disparity between high school exit and college entrance requirements, which leads to many high school students not continuing on to higher education, achieving a low rate of college success, or dropping out later.
Chris Dede, Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard University, said they are several reasons for the gap in college readiness.