National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School

Year Published: 2008
Paper/Research Report

Today, college readiness also means career readiness. While not every high school graduate plans to attend college, the majority of the fastest-growing jobs that require a high school diploma, pay a salary above the poverty line for a family of four, and provide opportunities for career advancement require knowledge and skills comparable to those expected of the first-year college student.

ACT data show that fewer than two in ten eighth graders are on target to be ready for college-level work by the time they graduate from high school. In recent years, there has been heightened awareness of the importance of early childhood education and high school as intervention points in the educational lives of America's children. Less attention has been paid to the importance of the upper elementary grades and middle school and the role they must play in the preparation of students for life after high school. The results of The Forgotten Middle suggest that, in the current educational environment, there is a critical defining point for students in the college and career readiness process?one so important that, if students are not on target for college and career readiness by the time they reach this point, the impact may be nearly irreversible. The authors advocate focusing on getting more students on target for college and career readiness by the end of eighth grade, so that they are prepared to maximize the benefits of high school.

Moreover, this research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school. This report also reveals that students' academic readiness for college and career can be improved when students develop behaviors in the upper elementary grades and in middle school that are known to contribute to successful academic performance. The implication is clear: if we want not merely to improve but to maximize the college and career readiness of U.S. students, we need to intervene not only during high school but before high school, in the upper elementary grades and in middle school. Modified author abstract.

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