School Talk

Are our suburban heads in the sand?

Parents prefer relationships to data. Most of us enjoy people more than numbers and like parent teacher conferences better than bar graphs.  We take comfort in knowing that our kids are being educated in a safe space and worry very little about the high school profile or SAT participation rate in our town.

It’s human nature to listen to our hearts instead of our heads and it’s normal to be driven by connections we feel to teachers and coaches and school leaders to whom we entrust our children every day.

Hard truths however are better learned early than too late. Parents in my little state of Rhode Island deserve to know how their kids match up educationally against kids from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Maryland. Is the education they’re receiving as good as it feels like it is or are there systemic and measurable deficiencies that parents need to acknowledge?

And will those deficiencies impact the future that they have already envisioned and perhaps even planned for their children?

For example, many parents do not realize that their child’s high school profile has a significant impact on how college admissions officers view their application. And unfortunately for top tier students especially, their applications are looked at less favorably because of what other kids in their class are or are not doing.

It’s hard to explain to a kid with a near perfect SAT score that the percentage of their classmates who take the SAT (and their scores) have an impact on his/her chances of getting into a highly selective college or university. But it’s true. And every honest college admissions officer at a top tier school will tell you so.

In my suburban community in Rhode Island, for example, parents are always shocked when I tell them that our SAT participation rate currently sits at 61%; in other words, only 61% of our graduates have the option of attending a four year college. (There are a few highly selective colleges that don’t require the SAT but their impact on the data is negligible because so few students from my community apply to them.)

They are even more floored when I tell them that the two most affluent towns in our state also have SAT participation rates of below 80%. “How can that be,” is usually their immediate response.

When I move on to the percentage of kids actually entering a four year college after graduation, their disbelief seems compounded.

In Rhode Island, only 47% of non urban graduates head straight to a 4 year college after high school. Yes, that’s right. If we take out all the students living in our urban core (Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket), less than half of our high school graduates are even eligible to attend a four year college. Add to that the 18% who head straight to a two year college and we are left with a grand total of 66% of suburban kids moving on to higher education upon graduating from high school.

When I was a student, a 66% was a D. And parents weren’t satisfied with Ds.

The question is, will the parents of Rhode Island start asking for As and Bs?

What do you think?

One thought on “Are our suburban heads in the sand?

  1. If a student has a top score and their peers have lower scores, that actually helps their case for college entrance. Everyone move to Rhode Island.. quick.

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