By Mel Riddile (

“80% of success is having enough whys.”

Anthony Robbins

If we are going to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), then we are going to need a lot of whys, and it will be up to school leaders to provide those whys. The fact is that many of our staff members will view these new standards as just another set of standards—same old, same old. For example, in a recent survey, 73% of teachers indicated that they believed they were already prepared to teach the CCSS. The reality is that these standards are not the same. The changes required by these standards are monolithic in scope.

Compelling Reasons for School Leaders

At a time of high unemployment, many jobs go unfilled. Many frustrated manufacturers say jobs are going unfilled because qualified workers are missing.

  • Unemployment hovers above 9%.
  • Foreign competition has thrown many out of work.
  • Many contend that the United States needs more manufacturing work.
  • Many manufacturers say that, in fact, the jobs are already here. 
  • A recent report by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute, based on a survey of manufacturers, found that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled.
  • What’s missing are the skilled workers needed to fill them. “We need more people. The trouble is finding them.”

Much of the demand for skilled workers arises because the automated factories demand workers who can operate, program, and maintain the new computerized equipment. Many of those who have been laid off can operate only the old-fashioned manual machines.

The leap in technology means that many of the workers who once toiled on the old machines, and had become proficient on them, can no longer find jobs.

Because technology has driven up complexity, more jobs require higher skill levels and postsecondary education and training. Unfortunately, our college graduation rate has been flat for over 30 years. In that time, the United States has fallen in comparison to other industrialized nations, from a tie for second place to 15th in the world. Here are some more “whys”:

  • In Texas, a recent study revealed that only one-in-five or 20% of eighth graders will earn any degree within six years of graduation from a Texas high school.
  • In Ohio, state leaders say, “It’s time to face the truth! Graduating from high school in Ohio doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for college or a career. That won’t do anymore, said Ohio Gov. John Kasich “The current system is letting kids down,” said state Superintendent Stan Heffner. Fourty-four percent of Ohio school districts were rated “excellent” or better on state report cards in 2009, but more than 40% of Ohio high school grads who went to state public universities that year needed remedial math or English
  • In Kentucky, just 38% of 2011 graduates were ready to enter college without taking any remediation courses, State Supt. Holliday said. “While 70[%] to 80% of students were at least at a proficient level under the old system, officials are expecting that rate to drop 15[%] to 20%.”
  • Thirty percent of Washington’s students in two-year and four-year colleges require remediation in math; 41% of employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ abilities. Only 18% of employers believe that new graduates, with no further education beyond high school, have the skills necessary for advancement.

The Bottom Line

Today, an 18 year old without the skills needed to be college- and career-ready is relegated to a lifetime of marginal employment and second-class citizenship. High school completion can no longer be our focus. Postsecondary education and training is the new average.

Mel Riddile is NASSP’s associate director of high school services.

AP Insight, Vol. 4, Issue 4