(Dornbusch, 1994; Eccles and Harold, 1996);24 implementing and supporting supplementary educational opportunities; and increasing student access to skilled counselors and mentors who can help them plan and implement strategies for educational attainment and achievement.
Most people agree that an important goal of high school is to prepare students for further education and future work. However, a high school diploma currently does not guarantee success in either domain. This situation derives partly from a decentralized and disconnected system of K–12 education in which students encounter differing sets of requirements and expectations as they move from elementary school to the middle grades and on to high school. The disjuncture is exacerbated further by the lack of articulation and coordination between secondary and higher education in terms of what students need to succeed academically in college (Kirst, 1998).
In 1999 almost 66 percent of high school graduates nationwide had completed some college by the time they reached age 28. This number represents an enormous increase as compared with the proportion of 28-year-olds who had completed some college in 1971 (43 percent). Yet despite this increase in matriculation, the proportion of high school graduates who have completed a baccalaureate degree by the time they reach age 28 has risen by only 10 percentage points (NCES, 2000a).
Many policymakers and higher education faculty view students’ inadequate preparation for the rigorous demands of college as a failure on the part of high schools. Others contend that the situation represents not a failure on the part of high schools, but a misunderstanding of what it means to be prepared. The diverse nature of colleges and the corresponding diversity of their academic offerings and expectations contribute markedly to this lack of understanding. Given this diversity, teachers and guidance counselors can be unclear about what students should know and be able to do before they begin college work.
A cursory review of the placement examinations administered to incoming freshmen at many institutions is all that is required to reveal just how varied these expectations are. Even in the same state, each public institution
See also The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education at http://www.ncpie.org/Resources/Subject_HigherEducation.html (February 11, 2002).