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REFINING HIGH SCHOOL AS A LAUNCH PAD: Deloitte Survey Finds that Teachers Do Not View College Preparation as the Primary Mission in High School

"What parents and students surveyed want from high school is at odds with what we've been asking our high schools to do for close to 100 years."

While students and parents view college preparation as the main purpose of high school, most teachers disagree and rank mastery of subject areas and life skills as more important. This is one of the key findings from Deloitte 2009 Education Survey Overview: Refining High School as a Launch Pad, which was published late last year.

“What parents and students surveyed want from high school is at odds with what we’ve been asking our high schools to do for close to 100 years,” said Barry Salzberg, chief executive officer at Deloitte LLP and newly appointed chairman of the College Summit. “Redefining the mission of high school is an important next step for building a 21st Century workforce.”

Of the 401 U.S. high school teachers, counselors, and administrators surveyed, only 9 percent think their primary mission is to prepare students for success in college. These results are in stark contrast with parents’ and students’ expectations. As demonstrated in the box below, Deloitte found that 48 percent of the 601 U.S. low-income students and 42 percent of the 400 U.S. low-income parents surveyed say college preparation is the single most important purpose behind a secondary education.1




The disconnect is even more curious given that 96 percent of teachers said that it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them that the students from the high school where they teach go on to college.

The survey also reveals that high school students are thinking about college but are not sure that they are prepared to succeed in college courses. According to the survey, 70 percent of students say they would “definitely” like to attempt to get into college and continue their education. However, only 27 percent of these students say they are “very prepared” to handle college courses. In addition, only 22 percent of students and 18 percent of parents think their high school does an “excellent” job of preparing students for the challenges of higher education.

One aspect that all parties agreed upon is the importance of learning basic life skills. Thirty percent of teachers, 21 percent of students, and 34 percent of parents rate this as the number one role of high school. Parents, students, and teachers are also in agreement that parents are most responsible for encouraging their child to go to college. Unfortunately, this responsibility becomes a major challenge for prospective first-generation college students. Of the low-income parents surveyed, only 26 percent stated they are “very knowledgeable” about the sources of information and counsel available on college education.

To read more about the results, visit


1 The survey defines “low-income” as U.S. households with incomes less than $40,000.

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