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Making Sure High School Doesn't Waste Your Time


Q. I'd like to advise our daughter that while she's in high school, she ought to be deliberate about having the kinds of experiences that will make her well-rounded and exposed to enough of our world that she will have a better idea of what she would like to major in, in college, and do for her career. I just see so many kids who appear to kind of float through high school, or party through it. What are the most important things for a high-school student to be doing to make sure it's time well spent?


First might be choosing the best high school in which to enroll, or even which state in which to live. In some places in the United States, high school does appear to be a waste of time for many of the students. In a recent year in Kentucky, for example, researchers reported that 46% of the high school graduates who attended colleges in that state after graduation from Kentucky schools had to have remediation in order to pass their course work. This remediation, estimated at $25 million, was paid by taxpayers and the students' parents in the form of college tuition and cost-covering that was on TOP of the billions of dollars the Kentucky public schools spent on K-12 education that supposedly was getting the students ready for college.




Also keep in mind that in Kentucky, the high-school graduation rate is 72%. That means 28% of the kids who begin ninth grade in that state DON'T wind up with a diploma.


(Kentucky data is from the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions,


You might want to find out those two statistics for your state, and if you don't like them, and can find a way to afford it, you might want to: (1) move your child to the best private school you can afford or (2) move to a state with better statistics.


Since neither of those is likely to be possible, and there's not much you can do to improve the quality of high school classes once your child is already there, here are some other ways to make sure high school doesn't waste your child's time:


Scholarship: don't allow your child to settle for the minimum in any subject area. If high school graduation requirements are so easy, your child could graduate a year or two early except for a course or two, maybe that high school is too easy overall for an ambitious, college-bound student. Look hard at the graduation requirements and course descriptions before you enroll, and compare with other high schools.


Leadership: if class work won't discipline and push your child, she will have to discipline and push herself. Challenge her to be a person who will meet and exceed expectations, every time. Challenge her to help her classmates make their personal bests as well. Expect her to be a leader in and out of the classroom. For your part, show academic leadership by not allowing her to slide by with B's if you know she can make A's if she tries her best.


Service: there's a little-known secret among "slackers," or students who don't participate in the life of their school other than showing up for class. The secret is that when you work closely together with other students on a good cause, you make good friends. Even mediocre or poor high schools offer lots of service opportunities for students to help other students or disadvantaged people; encourage your daughter to take advantage of every opportunity she can find, to be of service.



Homework: Here's a report that contends that students really do waste a lot of time "cruising" through high school graduation requirements that are too easy. Among other things, the survey found that only 30% of the students in the so-called tougher college-prep courses felt they were challenged enough, and in the general education courses, an astonishingly low 17% felt appropriately challenged by course content:



By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 148 2008


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