For the first time in our history, American students have crossed the 80 percent high-school graduation rate threshold, remaining on pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. To succeed in today’s economy, earning a high school diploma is a necessary first step, not the end goal. Yet too often, the path to a diploma is not rigorous enough to prepare our graduates for their next steps. America cannot compete globally if 20 percent of our team isn’t at the starting line, and still others are not prepared for success in college or their careers.
Implementing more rigorous standards is not a silver bullet to improve educational outcomes. However, common sense dictates that if we continue to set a low bar, we will never reach a higher target. Our students must have access to a rigorous education that will prepare them for college and career, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity or income.
In order to move forward, educators, policymakers, parents and students must acknowledge that based on measures of college preparedness, too many students are completing high school without the skills to succeed in a knowledge-based and global labor market. College and career readiness benchmark scores set by the SAT and ACT have flat lined over the past five years. And the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s most recent Survey of Adult Skills reveals that U.S. adults rank below their international peers in every area measured — literacy, numeracy and problem-solving with technology. We must boost the rigor of American education and adopting high standards, such as those set by the Common Core State Standards, is a necessary first step.