Monday, March 28, 2005 | Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, recently declared to the nation’s governors: “We have to do away with the outdated idea that only some students need to be ready for college and the others can walk away from higher education and still thrive in our 21st century society… [We should] declare that all students must graduate from high school ready for college, work and citizenship.”

Roughly 60 percent of jobs in today’s labor market require at least some postsecondary education, and the median earnings for a college graduate are 62 percent higher than for a high school graduate.

The U.S. is ranked No. 16 out of 20 developed countries in high school graduation rates. Only 71 percent of all high-school students graduate on time, and worse, only 50 percent of black and Latino students do so.

For every 100 students who enter ninth grade, 68 graduate from high school on time. Of these students, only 40 enter a two- or four-year college, 27 of the 40 persist into their second year of college, and only 18 graduate from college or university on time.

According to the foundation Education Trust, in the 1990s only 13 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were awarded to blacks, Latinos and American Indians combined.

Needs of a high-technology economy

Today, employers are demanding the same critical thinking skills, higher math and excellent communication skills required by college admissions officers. Having acquired these essential skills and knowledge, students will be better off whether they go straight to college or start their careers right after high school. Whichever path they choose, they will be prepared.

There are plenty of examples of high schools in San Diego County that are being redesigned with curriculum that is relevant and engaging and that meets the California college entry requirements. Kearny High School’s Construction Prep Academy, UCSD’s Preuss School and High Tech High Charter School are all examples of high schools that are succeeding with students from all income levels by offering rigor and relevance.

Ron Ottinger served 12 years on the San Diego City Schools Board of Education, seven as president of the board. He currently serves as the national associate director for the nonprofit A.V.I.D. Center, which disseminates the A.V.I.D. college preparation program for low-income students across the country.

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