Friday, April 8, 2016

Is Getting Students ‘College-and-Career’ Ready Just Empty Blather?

As is clear from a post by EdNC entitled “Questions at the State Board on Quality of Graduation Rates,” the is some question about just how much our schools in North Carolina are successfully getting our students, especially poorer and minority students “College and Career Ready.” Our North Carolina State Board of Education, in a meeting this week, questioned North Carolina’s highest than ever graduation rate because although the state is graduating more students than ever, there are still serious gaps in “College and Career Readiness,” as indicated in testing data, between African-American students and other racial and ethnic groups.

The data being discusssed (and included in a link in the post) makes it clear, “We’re not getting near as many students ‘college-and-career’ as are the number we’re graduating.”

Yet, I can’t help but ask a very serious question: If we’re serious about getting students “College and Career Ready” then what are we really getting them ready for? Let’s face it, college costs are higher than ever, so are we getting them ready for something many of them won’t be able to afford anyway? Are we getting them “College and Career Ready” so private banks, lenders, and our student loan programs can saddle them for life with enormous amounts of debt? Why spend all this time and energy getting students ready for something they might not be able to afford anyway?

I am certainly not arguing about the noble nature of the goal of getting every student ready for college attendance or for getting a good job once they graduate. But, and this is where I scratch my head, I can’t help but wonder if for all our effort, we’re not lying to students. While there’s so much talk about getting our students “College and Career Ready” there’s little or no talk by our policymakers, politicians, and even educational leaders at the K-12 level about making college affordable to all. There’s something that really smells bad about getting students “College-Ready” and then making them turn to loans. Isn’t that in some ways turning them into indentured servants?

If we’re going to talk about “College and Career Readiness” at all, perhaps our policymakers, politicians and state and local education leaders should be advocating to make college affordable. And, while we’re at it, let’s make sure there are jobs that offer opportunities for our students to earn a comfortable living wage and provide rewarding careers. If not, we’re dressing them up for a party that will never happen.