Meandering Toward Graduation: Transcript Outcomes of High School Graduates

This report from The Education Trust finds that while students may graduate high school, too many are leaving with no clear path forward. For nearly a decade, college and career readiness for all students has been the foundational rhetoric of U.S. education, but high school transcripts show that this rhetoric didn’t bear out in reality for most graduates in 2013. In fact, fewer than one in 10 recent graduates had taken a foundational set of courses necessary to be both college and career ready.

Additionally, the data shows that 47 percent of graduates completed neither a college- nor career-ready course of study. Rather than aligning high school coursework with students’ future goals, the report found that high schools are continuing to prioritize credit accrual, which reinforces the idea that high school graduation is the end goal in a student’s educational journey.

The report identifies state-, district-, and school-level levers including transcript analysis, master schedule, credit policies and graduation requirements. To truly prepare students, school structures, culture and instruction must shift to prepare students for postsecondary studies aligned to their career interests, and this can be done without risk of recreating a system of tracking students into prescribed pathways.

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April 2016