External Author Name: 
Mark LeBoeuf

Deloitte LLP
November 2009 

This national report assessed, from the perspectives of students, teachers, and parents, the purpose of high school. To some of us, the answer appears manifest: to prepare students for post-secondary education and successful careers. However, the results from this survey portray a culture that believes otherwise.

The Deloitte 2009 Education Survey Overview highlights the blinding case of myopia that has pervaded our school system and its potential impact on low-income high school students. For example, when teachers in the study were asked to define their primary mission as a teacher, 38 percent responded to “help students master the subject you teach”; a scant 9 percent replied “prepare students for success in college.” On the contrary, when students and parents were surveyed, both overwhelmingly identified the most important purpose of high school as “getting prepared for college.”

For low-income students, a college education is becoming one of the only ways to escape the cycle of insolvency all too familiar to their relatives, friends, and family. It is essential for teachers to help these students believe that a demographic characteristic will not predict their fate.

The report also noted the difference between a student’s desire to go college and their ability to actually complete college level work; 70 percent of students said they “definitely” wanted to attend college, but less than a quarter actually felt “very prepared” These sentiments were echoed by their parents, as 89 percent thought it to be “very important” that their child attend college, yet 29 percent felt that their children were “very prepared” to handle the course work.

In Ohio, similar patterns have emerged. Students clearly want to attend college but lack the preparation to do so. In a 2005 survey by the Ohio Board of Regents, only 24 percent of Ohio’s first-time college freshman had taken a complete core of college preparatory classes; 41 percent took at least one remedial course during their first year. Compound the problem with scant funding and lack of assistance to students traversing complex admissions processes, and it becomes clear why low-income students nationally and in Ohio are underrepresented on college campuses.

Although the survey’s sample comprised only a drop in our education system’s bucket – 400 teachers, counselors, and administrators, as well as 400 parents and 601 high school students in total – the implications are significant. The value of a college diploma in today’s society is at an all time high, and so must be the belief that, regardless of a student’s socioeconomic status, the central role of high school is to prepare students for college. Read the report here.

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