The pressure to achieve academically has never been greater. The fate of our nation hangs in the educational balance. The better prepared our children are academically, the better the nation’s collective socio-economic well-being.
Looking solely at the numbers of American children who are attending college, one might surmise that American children have shown themselves ready and able to meet the future’s challenge. Everywhere we look an “educational expert”, freshly incorporated school or “innovative” school program offers parents some statistics about the number of students that their school or program graduates. With little exception, parents accept the data as truthful without giving enough consideration to the most important question – “is the data meaningful?”.
NUMBERS NEVER LIE
The British and Dutch, respectively, have words in their vocabulary that describe perfectly the value of the claims most schools make about the quality of education our children are receiving – “rubbish” and “poppycock”. As if the ranking of American schools were not bad enough – school leaders, educators and politicians exacerbate the problem.
Compounding the embarrassment from the absurdly low educational ranking of American schools, educators and politicians willfully and knowingly deceive those who have entrusted them with educating their children into believing that graduating children is synonymous with educating children. Nothing could be further from the truth.
However, what is factual is that the axiom “figures don’t lie but liars figure” is especially true when it comes to U.S. educational outcomes. All this figuring and lying causes far too many parents and educators to live in “denial” – which by the way not is not a river in Egypt nor is it a location that most children could find on a map.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
While schools may be graduating more students those statistics must never be perceived as some numerical proof that more students are college ready. You would be wrong to assume that for every high school graduate, there is another college ready student. Americans are not particularly good at math which may explain why 1 to 1 in our educational system does not compute.
Instead, for every 100 children who graduate from high school, only 26 are ready for college. Stated differently, if your child is a high school graduate there is a 74% chance that they are unprepared for college. In honor of Black History month, I feel duly obligated to mention that among African American students only 1 in 20 high school students is college ready.
To tell you to be careful would be an understatement. Instead, I’m going to tell you to remain vigilant because educators, politicians and other parents will try to confuse you and lull you to sleep. You will hear lots of noise surrounding college readiness.
Many tasked with educating your children will state – foolishly I might add – that not all children want to go to college and/or that not all children are college material. Both of these claims are insulting and way off target. Moreover, both claims are made to discourage you and your children and keep you from believing things can and should be much better.
I AM WE – THEY ARE ME
Determining who will attend college should not be the left to educators, politicians or misguided parents. Determining who will attend college should never be the goal of education. Rather, making certain that all children are at a minimum prepared for the academic rigors, financial conditions and extracurricular responsibilities of college should be the aim of our educational system. And I do mean all children and not 26 of every 100 high school graduates nor 5 of every 100 African American high school students.
I know first-hand how easy it is to say you don’t want to go to college when you know you are not ready for college. I know first-hand how hopeless it feels to pursue a college education when those tasked with educating you and supporting you believe you bereft of aptitude. I know first-hand that when a child who is unprepared for college and whose abilities are doubted says that they don’t want to attend college or that they “can’t do it”, there is a distinct possibility that they are saying only what others have said about them and what others have convinced them to believe about themselves.
Don’t put your child in the position of having to choose the options provided from someone else’s limitations. Give your child a chance to make decisions based on infinite possibilities. Consider the following before entrusting your child’s future with any school:
- National – Don’t be hoodwinked by any state or local marginal statistical gobbledygook. Do your own research. You need to start by focusing on whether the children at your child’s school are exceeding national levels of reading, math and science proficiency. One clear sign that the school is not right for your child is when the school’s graduation rate exceeds its rate of college readiness.
- International – If by some miraculous fate, your child’s school is exceeding national levels of reading, math and science proficiency measure their school against international rankings. If the world were perfect, your child would not only choose from and attend a school that ranked at the top in the U.S. but your child would attend a school that ranked at the top internationally. If your child is going to compete in a global economy they must receive a globally competitive education.
- Biographical – Check the academic and professional background of those educating your children. I’m sure you know this already but it bears repeating, not all principals, teachers and school support staff are equal. Jim Rohn said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Thus, if your child spends their day with five average to below average educators, it should come as no surprise to you when your child performs average to below average and they consistently fail to maximize their potential and ability.
- Personal – Make your child’s education personal. While your child may share a classroom with others, being college ready is not a shared experience. Either your child will be independently college ready or they won’t be college ready. Every college diploma confers graduate distinction on just one student. For this reason, you should never blindly trust that the school regardless of its bedazzled marketing material or glowing reputation is preparing your child properly. Seek independent evaluation and verification as often as possible to make sure your child is not simply getting grades but is exceeding minimal proficiencies in all subjects.
PASSPORT TO THE FUTURE
I’ll close with a Black History Month reference. In 1964 Malcolm X said “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today”. Fifty-one years ago, Malcolm X articulated a truth that remains incontrovertible today. Only those who are academically prepared today will be ready for tomorrow.
The veracity of Malcolm’s words in are not in doubt. There are questions which remain for you to answer: 1) Will your child be college ready or not? 2) Will your child make decisions based on the power of being prepared or from the weakness of having little to no hope? 3) Will your child attack life believing there are infinite possibilities or that success is solely predetermined by race, gender, national origin, etc…?
Malcolm X was correct, the future is here and the future is coming. Whether it lands on top of your children or your children stand on top of it, plant their stake, and make their claim is largely up to choices parents make. The choice is yours. You can make sure your child has their passport for tomorrow to be what they want to be and go where they want to go or you can leave them stranded on a barren island, living in the hell of their own personal Groundhog Day, and suffering the unnecessary punishment of a life devoid of hopes and dreams.
What percentage of the students at your child’s school are college ready? What percentage of the students who attend college from your child’s school receive a college degree in four years? What percentage of your child’s teachers hold masters and professional level degrees?