ACT: High School Test Scores Are Stagnant

Given these new numbers from the ACT, we see a classic, and dangerous, paradox; how do you motivate teenagers to do well in school:
New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years.

The results raise questions about how well the nation's high schools are preparing students for college, and show the challenge facing the Obama administration in its effort to raise educational standards. The administration won bipartisan support for its education policies early on, but faces a tough fight in the fall over the rewrite and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind program.

While elementary schools have shown progress on national achievement exams, high-school results have stayed perniciously low. Some experts say the lack of rigor in high-school courses is partly to blame.

"High schools are the downfall of American school reform," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. "We haven't figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren't dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally."
As my "real job", I work in higher education -- specifically undergraduate enrollment. On a day-to-day basis I see the results of a general educational malaise on the part of high school students in this country.

To gain admission to most colleges and universities, students should must demonstrate that they have challenged themselves in multiple academic areas -- and not simply excelled in gym class or student council (both of which are important too, but have far less of an impact on college admissions). The instance of ignorance on this basic fact of preparation for college is astounding. Many students think that, just by showing up for four years of high school, they will be able to attend virtually any college or university of their choosing. Needless to say, this is patently false.

If trends in secondary education do not change in the near future, America will continue it's slow decline in global competitiveness, particularly in the fields of math and science -- where I believe Americans are woefully behind countries in middle and far east.

Unfortunately, trying to convince a raging-hormone laden teenager that their education is of utmost importance is akin to telling a three-year-old that eating green beans will help them to grow up big and strong...