Parents should help ensure children's academic rigor



"Upon the subject of education, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject in which we as a people may be engaged."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Every parent owes it to his or her child to examine the quality of the education being delivered by a school -- whether public or private. An Aug. 18 Wall Street Journal article warned: "New data show that fewer than 25 percent of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses. The results raise questions about how well the nation's high schools are preparing students for college."

At Augusta Prep, our mission is to provide a college preparatory education of the very highest quality. This spring, I surveyed the Class of 2006 to see how well Augusta Prep prepared them for college.

FIRST, IT SHOULD be noted that 100 percent of the class attended a four-year college or university, and that every member of the class completed the survey. The findings are astounding, and speak directly to the quality of a Prep education:

- 100 percent of the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 will graduate from a four-year college or university.

- 70 percent of the class graduated from college in four years or less.

- 94 percent of the class has graduated or will graduate in five years or less.

By contrast, the national four-year college graduation rate was only 36 percent (private, 51 percent; public, 29 percent), according to a 2010 longitudinal study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

- The cumulative college grade-point average for Augusta Prep's Class of 2006 was 3.4.

- 84 percent of the class graduated with a GPA equal to or above 3.0.

- 42 percent of the class graduated with a GPA equal to or above 3.5.

According to a 2010 Teachers College Record article, the average college GPA is 2.8.

- 40 percent of the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 graduated from college with academic honors.

- 28 percent graduated with honors, high honors, and/or Phi Beta Kappa honors.

- 33 percent graduated cum laude (2 percent), magna cum laude (19 percent) or summa cum laude (12 percent)

The most common majors for Augusta Prep Class of 2006 were:

- biology or chemistry -- 20 percent;

- Spanish and/or international affairs -- 20 percent;

- finance -- 10 percent.

The most common future plans for the Augusta Prep Class of 2006 include:

- medical school -- 23 percent;

- master's degree or research -- 18 percent;

- law school -- 15 percent.

These findings reinforce a critically important fact: According to a longitudinal study completed by the National Center for Education Statistics, success in college correlates most directly with the rigor of one's high school curriculum, not SAT scores.

STUDENTS MAY NOT want to be challenged academically, but they need to be. To the degree that you can, all parents should ensure that their children are being challenged at every stage of their education.

As British zoologist Jane Goodall aptly noted, "If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way."

(The writer is head of school for Augusta Preparatory Day School.)