September 10 2012

Parental Choice Now Would Mean More College-Ready Students Tomorrow

Vicki E. Alger

President Obama has made raising college graduation rates a national priority. But recent reports indicate staggering number of students graduate from high school unprepared to do college-level work. As Education Week reported last month:

ACT Inc. has set “college-readiness benchmarks” in the four subjects it tests: English/language arts, reading, mathematics, and science. That is the measure needed to predict a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course. In this year’s report, 25 percent of all tested high school graduates met the mark in all four subjects—the same percentage as last year.

This month results from the SAT were released—and the news isn’t much better: Just 43 percent of test-takers demonstrated college readiness.

The College Board released scores today for the class of 2012 and reported that 43 percent of test-takers achieved the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark — the same percentage as last year. This means that 57 percent of students were below 1550, which the organization determined last year gave students a 65 percent chance of receiving a B minus average or higher as a freshman at a four-year college.

James R. Harrigan, a fellow of the Institute for Political Economy at Utah State University, and Antony Davies, associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and an affiliated senior scholar at the Mercatus Center, have a great solution:

And is there any doubt that, as we ask our colleges to repeat what students should have learned in high school, the value of a college degree will also decline? Seventeen years of education is now the norm (assuming completion of a college degree in four years, which is a big assumption). How long will it take before a master's degree is the necessary price of admission into the job market? What then? A Ph.D.? These things are coming if we continue the current trend.

The way to stop the trend is to allow parents to hold our public schools accountable. They can do this the same way that they hold their cellular providers or grocery stores or car dealerships accountable. If public schools can't educate their children, parents should be free to take their children—and their tax dollars—to schools that can.

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