Preparing Students for College and Career Success

When my twin sons had finished their freshman year of college, I had them and a group of their friends over doing something I was always doing in those days – feeding them.

That particular day, I asked them if now that they had finished their first year of college they wished they had taken more math and more rigorous courses in high school.  Every single one of them said yes. It was one of those I told you so moments that every parent knows.

That conversation came to mind this week as I read through The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education’s report “High School Rigor and Good Advice: Setting Up Students to Succeed.”

The study reinforces several of my long-held beliefs –that higher level math in high school and more Advanced Placement Coursework will help students succeed in college and career.

One of the things the study shows is that the rigor of high school courses is a strong predictor of student success in college.

Among the findings:

The highest level of math in high school can be one of the largest predictors of college success. Students who took pre-Calculus or Calculus or math above Algebra II, for instance, were more likely to return for the sophomore year of college. Even students labeled low socioeconomic status were 22 percent more likely to persist if they took high-level math in high school.
Taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses had a dramatic effect on students’ chance of persisting. Even low achieving and low socioeconomic status students who took an AP/IB course were 18 percent more likely to persist in four-year colleges and 30 percent more likely to persist in two-year institutions. The more of these courses a student took, the higher their persistence rates were.
These are compelling reasons to consider making a fourth year of math a requirement and for schools to embrace the idea of adding more AP coursework.

Another thing the study mentions is that the demand for workers with a college education is growing faster than the supply of graduates. The authors cite research that claims, “By 2018, we will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates than the labor market demands.”

In Oklahoma, we’re fortunate to have burgeoning industries in the state such as oil and natural gas producers, aerospace, and medical technology, but I’ve been told directly by leaders in these industries that they will need an educated and a skilled workforce, particularly with an emphasis on subjects such as high level math.

I know my sons and their friends wished they’d listened to me and the other parents and taken more of these subjects in high school. It’s not too late for parents and guidance counselors to encourage this among our current crop of high school students.

Last updated on October 22, 2012