Only Half of High School Grads Feel Prepared for College and Work

But there's still pretty of room for optimism, according to survey figures

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Last week we reported on Americans' desire for parents to do more to get their children to succeed academically. About two-thirds of American adults polled said there isn't enough parental pressure on U.S. kids when it comes to school.

Perhaps the kids agree, too. According to a survey conducted for the College Board (PDF), slightly less than half of high school graduates one year out of school say that their high school prepared them well for college and the working world.

The situation looks better once the statistics related to college and to work life are parsed. 66 percent of students said their high school did a good job of preparing them for college-level studies, while 58 percent said they felt well-prepared for the working world upon graduation. But when combined, 49 percent said secondary school prepared them well for both. The full breakdown from the College Board survey is offered in the pie chart below.

So clearly there's reason for optimism, which is a rarity in news coverage of education in the U.S. A majority of the members of the class of 2010 are happy with their high school experience overall and say that their first year after graduation was a positive. Most, though, say that the requirements for graduation were "easy" rather than "challenging," and most also wish they had worked harder in school. (If only their parents had put more pressure one them!) A substantial minority--44 percent--wishees they had taken different courses in high school--specifically, more math- and science-related ones. Liz Dwyer at Good tempers that optimism further with a first-hand anecdote of her high school physics class:

Are these results simply a matter of students thinking that college would be easier than it turned out to be? For some respondents, maybe. But in many cases, the curriculum taught in high school isn't up to par. My AP physics teacher, for example, was pretty terrible, but almost everyone in class got an A after we wrote extra-credit papers. If I'd decided to take college-level physics, I would've been way behind the students who'd had a really excellent teacher.

Perhaps this is the most worrisome statistic out of the survey: 55 percent of recent grads indicated that paying for higher education would be "pretty challenging" or "very challenging." College tuition has been increasing at a faster clip than inflation, as we've reported on the Wire before, an indication, according to some, that financial bubble not unlike the ones in tech stocks and housing in the 2000s is forming in the sector of higher education. Nevertheless, recent high school grads are up on college: 60 percent say that the benefits of college still outweigh the coast, according to the survey.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.