The citizenship and workplaces for which we are helping students prepare will require us to focus more deeply on skills and habits on which we have not historically focused.
In many schools, the populations of students whose percentages are growing are the very same students for whom schools have historically provided inadequate supports and whose readiness for the future has been severely lacking. The percentage of students living in poverty has increased from below 14% in 1968 to above 22% in 2012 (Gabe, 2015). The percentage of students who were not born in the country in which they attend school has increased from under 5% in 1970 to 13% in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The percentage of students who primarily speak a language at home different from the primary language of instruction in schools has increased 41% from 1993 to 2005 (McKeon, 2005).
Students within these groups are often, but not always, highly vulnerable. Students within these groups often, but not always, perform more poorly than peers and experience significant difficulties, in schools. The futures for which we are helping students prepare have changed. The students who we serve have changed. We too must change.
Based on the vast majority of evidence of student learning, we can do better. For example, in 2012, 67% of all ACT-tested high school graduates met the English College Readiness Benchmark, 52% of graduates met the Reading Benchmark; 46% met the Mathematics Benchmark; 31% met the College Readiness Benchmark in Science, and 25% met the College Readiness Benchmarks in all four subjects. Please keep in mind: these percentages only include high school graduates (ACT, 2012).
US graduation rates have increased to 80% in many districts, yet less than 40 percent of these graduates are ready for math and reading at the college level (The New York Times, 2015).
Our success in meeting the future-ready needs of students requires our immediate attention. We can and must do better. It’s a moral imperative.
ACT (2012). Condition of college and career readiness. Iowa City, IA: Author.
Gabe, T. (2015). Poverty in the United States: 2013. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.
McKeon, D. (2005). Research talking points on English language learners. New York: National Education Association.
The New York Times. (2015).The counterfeit high school diploma. The Editorial Board, December 31, 2015.
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
U.S. Census Bureau (2010). Census of population, 1850 to 2000, and the American community survey.