High School Students Want Courses That Challenge

High school students want to be worked harder, and to take college courses sooner.
July 18, 2005

It's not exactly news to most professors that a high school diploma is no assurance that the holder is prepared for college. But a national poll suggests that a key constituency would back more rigor in high schools: the students who attend them.

On Saturday, the National Governors Association released the results of a poll of 10,000 teenagers (16-18 years old), including both students in high school and those who had dropped out. Significant numbers of students reported that high school was not challenging enough and that they were willing to take on more work.

The poll is part of an effort by the association to encourage states to improve high schools, and especially the senior year of high school. Gov. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who has led the governors' campaign on high school, has repeatedly called the senior year of high school a "nine month endurance test" for many students.

Among the findings of the poll of those in high school and planning to graduate:

  • Two out of three students agreed with the statement: "I would work harder if high school offered more demanding or interesting courses."
  • Asked if high school had prepared them for college, 62 percent said that it had done an excellent or good job, while 37 percent said it had done a fair or poor job.
  • Asked how to make the senior year of high school more meaningful, 65 percent said that they would like to learn more about colleges during their senior year, 64 percent said that they wanted to take college courses for credit while in high school, and 60 percent said that they wanted to receive money to take and pass Advanced Placement courses.

While most discussion of college in the poll came in questions for those still in high school, the results indicate that some of those dropping out also plan on a higher education. Just over one-third of those who dropped out said that they planned to attend a community college in the future.


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