A new report from Harvard's Graduate School of Education's "Pathways to Prosperity Project" suggests that America is failing to prepare millions of its young people to lead successful lives as adults. The evidence? The dropout epidemic in US high schools and colleges; the fact that only 30 percent of young adults earn a bachelor's degree by age 27; and teen and young adult employment rates not seen since the Great Depression. in
Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century offers a vision for improving educational attainment and contends that our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. It is now clear that this strategy has produced only incremental gains in achievement and attainment, even as many other nations are leapfrogging the United States. In response, the report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.
Robert Schwartz, academic dean and professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, who heads the Pathways to Prosperity Project has remarked, "We are the only developed nation that depends so exclusively on its higher education system as the sole institutional vehicle to help young people transition from secondary school to careers, and from adolescence to adulthood." Schwartz has been a key supporter of the need to raise expectations and academic standards for all young people but has become increasingly concerned about the "college for all" movement, especially as that movement has led states to allow the admissions requirements of four-year colleges and universities to become the default curriculum for all high school students. "Unless we are willing to provide more flexibility and choice in the last two years of high school, and more opportunities for students to pursue program options that link work and learning, we will continue to lose far too many young people along the path to graduation," he says.
"People don't realize how far behind other nations we have fallen. Some of the international comparisons in the report will truly shock people who assume that we lead the world in education and youth development," adds Pathways co-chair Ronald Ferguson, a senior lecturer in education and public policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School, and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. "Crafting a 21st century system that takes lessons from abroad but is tailored to the particulars of our own unique society will require our best effort. It can't be a superficial process and still succeed on the scale that we need it to."
The complete report is available here.