A Common Core
A large proportion of U.S. high school graduates are
ill-prepared to meet the challenges of college or career.
The new common core state standards can help.
The common core state standards, which have now been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, differ from most
previous state standards in many ways.
Perhaps the most significant difference,
however, is that the new standards were
explicitly designed around the goal of
ensuring college and career readiness for
all students. How likely are the common
core state standards to achieve this goal?
Ready or (Mostly) Not
In the past decade, a growing body
of research has shown the increased
importance of postsecondary education.
A 2004 study by labor economists
Frank Levy and Richard Murnane, for
example, found that technology is transforming the workplace by reducing the
© PHIL BLISS/THEiSPOT
need for routine skills and placing a
premium on problem-solving and communication skills. Carnevale, Smith, and
Strohl (2010) quantified this workplace
shift. They projected that 62;percent of
U.S. jobs in 2018 (compared with just
28;percent in 1973) will require education beyond high school.
The resulting shortage of college-educated workers has driven up the
wage premium for postsecondary education: Workers with bachelor’s degrees
earned 74;percent more than those with
high school diplomas in 2010, compared with 40;percent more in 1980.
If current trends continue, college-educated workers will earn twice as
much as high school graduates by 2025
(Carnevale & Rose, 2011).
Unfortunately, the proportion of U.S.
students with college degrees is not
rising fast enough to meet the demand.
Although the U.S. college graduation
rate increased from 42;percent in 2000
to 49;percent in 2009, the rate increased
much faster in other countries. As a
result, in 2011, the United States ranked
15th among 20 major industrialized
countries in the number of adults
ages 25–34 with bachelor’s degrees.
In fact, the United States is the only
country in the Organisation for Eco-
nomic Co-operation and Development
in which the college-completion rate
is lower among younger people than
it is among older workers (Organi-
sation for Economic Co-operation and