Nine out of every 10 middle school students across the United States said they plan to go to college.
But only a small fraction of those students will ever fulfill their dream of attaining a degree.
On Jan. 11-13, the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice brought together more than 170 of the nation’s top educators and policymakers to address why many young students with dreams of attending college aren’t adequately prepared to enter higher education and, later, to enjoy productive and fulfilling careers.
The conference showcased promising developments, including a new set of national standards for English and math curriculum adopted by 45 states so far.
Attendees heard from leaders of the Cambridge, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs about the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that students must have to be successful in the 21st century.
“Bringing these standards to reality and giving our children the research, problem-solving and teamwork skills that will be required to secure their futures is a national and international imperative,” said Jerome A. Lucido, executive director of the center.
With technology advancing rapidly, teachers likely are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, making critical thinking and problem solving essential for success in college and careers.
“We need to define what students need to be life-ready, then help them acquire these skills,” said Roderick Chu, former chancellor of the higher education system in Ohio. “If indeed it takes a village, we need to get out of our ivory towers.”
Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of K-12 policy and leadership at the USC Rossier School of Education, presented some stark facts about the state of education in America’s schools.
The current elementary, middle and high school curriculum focus largely on rote memorization, Polikoff said. And America’s teachers are required to teach far more topics than their counterparts around the world: Eighth-grade teachers here must teach 44 topics as compared to their colleagues in Japan who can focus on just 12.
Polikoff was optimistic that the new national common core curriculum would allow teachers to focus on fewer topics and incorporate more in-depth instruction.
Last year, the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice – housed at USC Rossier – brought together top admissions and enrollment officers from across the country to examine what’s become an increasingly competitive college admissions process.
That conference resulted in a slate of proposals that urged participants to make concrete changes on their campuses, such as investing more money to recruit students at underserved campuses and adopting common deadlines to help students more easily navigate the college admissions process.
For a recap of sessions at this year’s conference, visit usc.edu/programs/cerpp/21stcenturyknowledgeandskillsoverview.html