We’ve all heard the damning statistics about the state of the country’s educational system. It’s clear that we’re not keeping up with other wealthy nations, at least as far as the standardized test scores say. And while we continue to watch the federal government slash funding, while the two major political parties debate the validity of the arts or sports programs, the real evidence of problems can easily be seen closer to home, in our local school districts. The truth is, schools aren’t doing as much as they need to do to prepare our children for the future. Just ask the kids. A recent poll performed by AP-Viacom did just that, and less than half of the high school students polled declared they were satisfied with their educational opportunities. Around 20% of the students asked said they were fully unsatisfied. College students seem to be enjoying their experience on a much more consistent basis, but what about the kids that don’t make it that far? We need our high schools to prepare our children for college and inspire them to push through difficult times, and not all of them are doing it. So how can you tell if your district is up to the task?
There are a few different areas that you should look at, and determining the quality of your child’s school will take a deep involvement on your part. You must stay in touch with the teachers and guidance counselors, but always ask your child his opinion as well. Sure, it’s not exactly normal for a kid to love high school. It probably wouldn’t be high school if you didn’t hate it a little bit. But if you ask the right questions, you’ll quickly discover if what you are dealing with is that basic teenage grumpiness, or a real issue with the quality of available education.
The first area to look at is how the school is helping your child decide what he wants to study in school. Too many kids head off to college with no real idea, and end up changing majors several times before landing on what they want. While you can’t expect every child to go into his freshman year knowing what he wants to do with the rest of his life, that much fence-jumping can lead to extra semesters, additional loan debt and a ton of wasted money. In high school, your student’s teachers and guidance counselors should be able to squeeze in at least a couple of conversations designed to help your child vocalize what they are interested in.
On top of this, how well is your teen’s high school preparing him for the workforce? Sure, much of that will occur in college, but in high school there must be some amount of experience with modern technology and the subjects that are the most in demand in this economy. Are they learning practical financial skills, or calculus that they won’t ever use again? In addition, it’s become quite clear that kids who graduate with degrees in science, math, engineering or computer technology will have a real advantage over the next several decades. Is your teen’s high school aware of this trend, and helping your child find his place within those fields? There are still ways to incorporate a love of art or language inside these disciplines, but whatever your child’s passion may be, the high school should be helping him discover how to apply that in a real world manner.
Finally, is the high school helping your child choose a college effectively? In most instances, your child might only have a couple of meetings with his guidance counselor where specific colleges are discussed. Is that enough? Are there opportunities for your child to get any better ideas? A good high school will have a couple of college fairs, so your child can see the options first hand. After all, he may want to eventually pursue some high-priced graduate urban planning programs, but what’s the first step on that road? And what colleges offer degree programs that will lead to that field? You can do a good deal of research online to help things along, but the high school should be aiding your child as well.