Duke TIP

Lost in Space—the Information Gap

October 7, 2007

By now we’ve all heard about the “achievement gap” that No Child Left Behind was enacted to address. But a survey of middle school students reveals an “information gap” between their educational goals and their ability to follow through on them. Many have high confidence levels in their ability to succeed in school (90 percent), however, 83 percent of students said they knew very little or nothing about what courses they would need to take to graduate from high school. Only 32% responded that they had quite a bit or a great deal of information about the core courses that are required to get into college. Data from ACT backs this finding up, showing that only 56 percent of high school graduates in 2005 took the appropriate college preparatory curriculum.  Many students also lack information about financing a college education and say that it costs too much for them to be able to attend college.

Based on the students’ feedback, the report recommends that “educators and policy makers provide middle-level students with an academic, social, and financial compass that will guide them through their educational journeys.” This would include filling the vacuum created between middle school and college by

  • clearly mapping out core college-bound curriculum;
  • making the courses required for college accessible to every student; and
  • improving access to low-interest student loans, increasing funding for low-income students, and aligning community college curricula with four-year college requirements.

Other recommendations include increasing the use of the Internet in classroom instruction, keeping middle and high schools safe and orderly, providing demanding course work, initiating collaborative learning and a nurturing ethic for teachers, and balancing standardized assessment with classroom tests and grades. A complete list of survey data can be found on the Web sites of the following sponsoring organizations:

Phi Delta Kappa International
National Association of Secondary School Principals

Bobbie Collins-Perry