The preparedness of high school graduates for college has always been an issue of debate among parents, scholars, employers, and policy makers in relevant government departments. Regardless of whatever direction the debate takes, one thing is clear: that a significant percentage of high school graduates are ill equipped (at least knowledge wise) to pursue courses offered in tertiary institutions.
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According to Musgrove (2010), the situation is getting worse as millions of students graduate from high school across the country each year. Of the high school graduates who chose to pursue tertiary education, Musgrove (2010) notes that “more that 40 percent [going] to community colleges, and 20-30 percent [going] to public universities, need remedial courses” (p. 2).
Such high demand for remedial courses signifies that the high school education is deficient in preparing the students for tertiary learning. Tertiary institutions generally provide remedial courses to train students about things they should have learnt while still in high school (Leake and Lesik, 2007; Musgrove, 2010). Citing Lazarick(1997), Leake and Lesik (2007) note that remedial programs provide students who are unprepared to the challenges of college-level work a chance to develop the skills and knowledge needed for the courses.
Different reasons have been offered for the current state of the high school diploma. Bahr (2008) for example state that the low value of the high school diploma can be explained by a combination of factors. Reduced strictness and standards, irrelevant high school curriculums, inequitable standards of education in different schools across the country, and boring and undemanding high school courses are just some of the factors affecting the value of high school diplomas. As such, the Bahr (2008) citing the high school debate state that any remedies must factor in “equity, curricular relevance, and student interest” (p. 420).
Societal differences such as gender, class, and race have also been cited as reasons why some students are ill prepared for college work. Bahr (2008) argues that although the validity of remedial courses is a controversial subject in the U.S., there is no doubt that such courses provide opportunities “to rectify race, class, and gender differences generated in primary and secondary schooling” (p. 420). Those against the remedial courses however argue that they represent a wasteful spending of resources.
More to this, they argue that the provision of remedial courses demoralize the faculty in colleges thus necessitating the formation of more-stringent graduation testing requirements (Bahr, 2008). If such a requirement were to be enforced, equity in the education sector would still be a nagging issue that policy makers, scholars, and the larger society would have to manage. Even with the enactment of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), the doubts regarding equity in high school education still linger.
According to the U.S. Department of Education (2010), NCLBA intends to provide high-quality instructions and support to all students across America regardless of the advantaged or disadvantaged backgrounds.
The main indicator for the attainment of education equity as indicated by the NCLBA framers was the closing of the achievement gap that exist between disadvantaged and their well catered for peers. In the NCLBA, high schools are required to set “Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)” objectives, which are meant to ensure that students attain proficiency in Mathematics and reading (U.S. Department of Education, 2007, p.1).
NCLBA further seeks to hold high schools responsible for student performances. In an obvious acknowledgement of the schools’ role in influencing students’ performances, NCLBA underlined the need for equipping community leaders and parents with information they would need to hold schools accountable (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). Regardless of the seemingly good intentions of the NCLBA however, there is little evidence on the Act’s impact on the value of the high school Diploma.
The value of the high school diploma is not just restricted to its worth in preparing students for college related work. Rather, some scholars have equated it in monetary terms.
Musgrove (2010) for example argues that annually, the country spends an average of 2.75 billion dollars in teaching college students things they should have learnt while still in high school. As any economist would know, this means that the economic value of high school diplomas, specifically for students who proceed to tertiary institutions, is approximately 2.75 billion dollars less their worth.
Cost and remedial courses aside, Higgins, Miller and Wegmann (2006) argue that even good grades among students who are not required to take remedial courses do not necessarily reflect their readiness for college courses. In their argument, Higgins et al (2006) observe that teachers concentrate too much on training their students about taking the test.
Ostensibly, this is done due to the need to have their students attain the pass mark. Unfortunately, such practices by the teachers sacrifice meaningful learning experiences. As a result, even though the students may pass, the value of their diplomas is highly compromised since the high school teachers are more intent on enabling the students attain high scores.
It is rather obvious that the debate about the value of the high diploma is nowhere near a meaningful conclusion. While part of the debate may argue students from disadvantaged backgrounds, deserve a chance to remedy their knowledge deficiencies through remedial courses, other feel that students who fail to attain set grades should not gain college admission.
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Overall, it is evident that the value of the college diploma is compromised by the lack of non-standardization among the different groups represented in the society. As it has emerged in the essay, even students who pass their high school exist tests may not be fully equipped for the challenges contained in college course work. This only negates the value of the college diploma further.