Current Research/Resources: Are High School Diplomas Really a Ticket to College and Work? (August 2018)

This report from the Center for American Progress evaluates whether high school coursework requirements for the standard diploma sufficiently fulfill college admission requirements. The authors provide a comparison and summary of coursework requirements for high school graduation and weigh them against public university admission requirements for all 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The analysis compares high school and college requirements for years of study by subject course type and sequence. It also examines how high school graduation requirements compare with measures of quality (see Appendix A). The authors found (a) a preparation gap in nearly every state, where high school coursework requirements fall short of college admission requirements; (b) that students are not receiving adequate college and career planning from school counselors; and (c) a lack of available resources to ensure students meet their college and career aspirations.

The report outlines six recommendations for state policymakers to address this misalignment and ensure quality high school coursework graduation requirements:

  • Align high school graduation coursework requirements with college admission requirements.
  • Require a minimum 15-credit college-ready curriculum for high school graduation.
  • Offer a career-readiness diploma that includes additional career and technical education (CTE) coursework.
  • Publish high school graduation rates by subgroup and diploma type.
  • Provide sufficient resources so that all students can achieve their post-secondary goals.
  • Establish and implement a monitoring system to ensure quality data collection at the district level (para. 127).

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College- and Career-Readiness Standards & Assessment E-Newsletter