Teachers believe preparing students for college and careers is a top priority, but obstacles remain to postsecondary access and success. According to the new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers, a substantial majority of teachers, parents and Fortune 1000 executives believe readying all students for college and careers should be one of the nation’s highest priorities in education. The survey is the 27th in an annual series commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive. The first of two reports from this year’s survey, Part 1: Clearing the Path, released March 9, examines the importance of being college- and career-ready, what this level of preparation includes, and what it may take to get there. “Part 2: Teaching Diverse Learners” will be released March 23. It looks at student differences, how teachers are addressing them, and how well students feel their needs are being met.The survey represents the views of middle and high school teachers, students, and parents, as well as Fortune 1000 executives.
Despite agreement overall on the importance of college- and career-readiness, the survey reveals that not everyone prioritizes it in the same way. Although large numbers of secondary school teachers (85 percent), secondary school parents (93 percent) and executives (80 percent) believe that graduating each and every student from high school ready for college and a career should be a priority, views differ on how high a priority. As a group, parents (73 percent) are the most likely to say the goal “must be accomplished as one of the highest priorities in education,” in contrast to about half of teachers (54 percent) and executives (48 percent).
When it comes to students, most agree with parents on the importance of this goal as well. Eighty-four percent of middle and high school students believe that it is absolutely essential or very important that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career, while only 16 percent say that it is somewhat important or not at all important.
Key findings in the survey include:
- The importance of college and career readiness
- Executives and students see post-secondary education as a career necessity. Most middle and high school students (84 percent) and Fortune 1000 executives (77 percent) agree there will be few or no career opportunities for today’s students who do not complete some education beyond high school.
- Teachers (57 percent) are most likely to believe that strengthening programs and resources to help diverse learners with the highest needs meet college-and career-ready standards should be one of the highest priorities in education, and a significant proportion of parents (59 percent) also rate this as one of the highest priorities.
- Expectations for going to college
- Students have high expectations for college, and these expectations have increased over the past two decades. In 1988, 57 percent of middle and high school students said it was very likely they would go to college. By 1997, this level had increased to 67 percent. Today, 75 percent say it is very likely they will go to college.
- On average, teachers predict that 63 percent of their students will graduate high school ready for college without the need for remedial coursework, and that 51 percent of their students will graduate from college.
- Defining college- and career-ready
- Nearly all English (99 percent) and math (92 percent) teachers rate the ability to write clearly and persuasively as absolutely essential or very important. But far fewer English (45 percent) and math (50 percent) teachers view knowledge and ability in higher-level mathematics, such as trigonometry and calculus, as absolutely essential or very important.
- Despite a national emphasis by many corporations to improve America’s math and science teaching, just three in 10 executives surveyed (31 percent) say advanced science courses are absolutely essential or very important for college- and career-readiness. Only 40 percent say advanced math knowledge and skills are this critical. In contrast, executives rate critical thinking (99 percent), problem solving (99 percent), and strong writing skills (97 percent) as absolutely essential or very important.
- Two-thirds of teachers (63 percent), parents (63 percent), and Fortune 1000 executives (65 percent) think that knowledge of other cultures and international issues is absolutely essential or very important to be ready for college and a career—including about two in ten who think such knowledge is absolutely essential—the highest ranking (19 percent, 24 percent, and 18 percent, respectively).
- Paying for and getting directions to college
- More students worry more about having enough money to pay for college (57 percent) than about being able to get into college (31 percent) or to succeed in college (33 percent). Hispanic and African-American students are more likely than white students to worry about being able to succeed in college (48 percent vs. 34 percent vs. 27 percent).
- Parents say schools are not doing enough to tell them how students can get into and pay for college. About half of parents rate their child’s school as fair or poor at providing information to parents on the requirements to get into college (46 percent) or about the availability of financial aid for college and how to get it (52 percent).
- Middle school students and parents in particular express a need for information. Half or more of middle school students (53 percent) and parents of middle school students (60 percent) rate their schools as fair or poor in providing information to students about what the requirements are to get into college.
“We can learn great lessons from parents and students and teachers, as well as from our nation’s business leaders, about how to create a path that enables every child to succeed in school and beyond,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation.