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We Know the Line and We Have Passed It


• Lowell Matthews

Elbert Hubbard once said, “The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it.” I disagree with respect to college and career readiness. We know the line. We have passed it, and we are in failure.

That is what the latest ACT and SAT annual college and career readiness reports are telling us. In August, ACT released The Conditions of College & Career Readiness, which once again revealed that three out of four kids who took the ACT exam aren’t college ready in at least one of the four measured subject areas: English, math, science, and social studies. Almost one in three aren’t college ready in any of those four subjects.

Today, the College Board released its report assessing college and career readiness . Using SAT scores, it found that half of our kids are not college ready in reading, writing, and math. This readiness rate “remain[s] virtually unchanged over time.” Per the SAT report, fewer than 2 out of 10 African American students and 3 out of 10 Hispanic students are college ready.

Our education system is failing our kids. How many generations of our children are we going to lose before we say enough? These are our kids and their livelihoods. An education system that is built upon the needs of adults and propped up on the backs of our children must be overhauled.

PrisonReading-FB_newMuch like we don’t become obese overnight, our country’s education system didn’t just recently begin failing the students it is intended to serve. It took time and lots of poor choices. When presented with facts, we turned a blind eye to data showing that children weren’t learning. We rested on our laurels, assuming past accomplishments assured us of future success. Quality of education suffered.

When pressed for reform, new excuses for poor performance were invented. Bureaucrats created new labels for low-performing schools, like “focus schools,” to hide systemic failures from parents. They used age as a measure of student knowledge instead of competency and socially promoted kids who couldn’t read in the guise of protecting their self-esteem when we knew privately it was to hide the system’s shame.

Unfortunately, these practices of kicking the can down the road and lowering our expectations for what our children can learn and do only hurts their self-esteem when they rapidly fall behind their classmates or can’t find a job. More than 7 out of 10 prison inmates are functionally illiterate. More than 8 out of 10 high school dropouts were struggling readers by third grade. Our education system has failed them.

Parents, ask for proof that your child is college and career ready. Ask for proof that your child can read on grade level. Ask for proof that this is the best the system can do for your child. Ask for the best teachers. If you don’t know who they are, ask other parents. Tell your school you want your child to be ready for the world, and enroll your child in Advanced Placement courses, the International Baccalaureate program, or courses that allow your child to earn an industry certification in good paying jobs. Don’t accept excuses. Don’t wait for the next annual report that shows nothing has changed. We can do better. Our children deserve it – join us today.


About the author


Lowell Matthews

lowell@excelined.org