Last week a number of edublogs were writing about a recent study dealing with what happens to kids in the Chicago Public Schools after graduation.
The researchers found that only 6% of students who started high school had earned a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. The rates were even lower for black and hispanic students.
Now, I’m not about to defend the Chicago school system. But, at the same time, many of the editorialists howling about the results missed two major points.
First, fewer than 25% of the adult population in this country have earned a college degree. Only about half of all adults has taken any college work at all.
The gap between 6 and 25 is still pretty big but those are statistics that add much context to the study results.
However, the bigger problem is that the researchers used the wrong measure.
They shouldn’t have set a college degree as their benchmark. Instead they should have been checking to see how many students were working at a job that paid a living wage and offered opportunities for advancement.
Those numbers would probably have been better than 6% – although far less than the 100% it should be in this country.
The fact that they spent so much time looking at college achievement clearly reflects the misguided goals of most high school programs in the US. Almost all are organized around sending students on to a four-year degree granting institution.
The reality is that not every student needs that kind of post-high school education. There are other paths to follow after graduation. But our schools generally do a poor job of helping kids understand and prepare for those options.
This lack of flexibility in assisting students to plan for their futures (as opposed to the remembered vision of the adults running the education system) is one major contributor to the poor performance of high schools in Chicago and in too many other districts in this country.