A mere 3% and 5% of Americans say high school graduates are “very prepared” to be successful in college and the workplace, respectively. These findings from Gallup’s most recent survey conducted for Communities in Schools reinforce a consistently negative public perception about the readiness of both high school and college graduates. And although this perception paints a rather dreary picture of the performance of our education system, Americans have very clear and consistent ideas (including across political lines) for what needs to be done to improve.
Shifting from the perceived problem to potential solutions for improvement, Americans point to clear areas of opportunity. When asked what types of support would be most helpful in preparing students for success in college, the most commonly suggested strategies are “financial planning” and “social and life skills.” Remarkably, Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to cite these strategies for improvement, making these suggestions an increasingly rare area of consensus across political affiliation.
Certainly, there are examples of financial planning and social and life skills programs being implemented by various school districts across the country. But whatever impact or scale they have achieved seems quite limited thus far. And Americans are clearly suggesting there is room for more wide-spread and in-depth implementation of financial planning and life skills as part of high school.
When asked about what types of support would be most helpful in preparing high school graduates for success in the workplace, the resounding answer Americans gave was “job shadowing, internships, and entrepreneurship opportunities.” And, like their suggestions for how to improve college readiness, the suggestions given for improving work readiness are consistent across party affiliation; Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to suggest job shadowing, internships and entrepreneurship opportunities as their top choices.
Given how little consensus there are these days across party lines — on nearly any issue — the results from this poll are quite promising. Although Americans give poor confidence ratings to how prepared high school graduates are for college and work, they are in complete agreement about the top ways to address the problem. We should get down to work, then, and find ways to support more programs, curriculum and experiences that help high school students better understand financial planning, build social and life skills, and have real work experiences in the form of job shadowing, internships, and entrepreneurship.