Gateway 5: Leaving High School with a Diploma and the Skills to Succeed

Graduating from high school not only marks the beginning of one’s passage to adulthood, it is an increasingly critical milestone on the road to opportunity. A high school diploma represents the successful acquisition of the knowledge and skills needed to function in the working world and to pursue further education and training.

A person who graduates from high school with the skills to succeed is more likely to go to college, obtain a postsecondary degree and be able to earn a self-sufficiency income. While a high school diploma itself often is not enough to succeed in the 21st Century workforce, it is an essential step along the way.

A person who does not graduate from high school or acquire the skills a high school diploma represents will have far fewer employment options and is likely to earn a much lower income than is needed to be self-sufficient, or to secure a place in the cycle of opportunity.

Indicator 1: High school graduation rates
A high school diploma is the minimum level of education needed to enter jobs that pay self-sufficient wages. Those who graduate from high school are more likely to go on to college.

Indicator 2: Proficiency on the 10th grade math CSAP test
Math achievement in high school is a good predictor of whether a student will go on to post secondary education or training.

Indicator 3: Performance on the 11th grade ACT test
One of the biggest barriers to a college education is not being prepared to do college level work. The 11th grade ACT test is a good measure of Colorado students’ readiness for college.

Indicator 4: Access to and success on advanced placement tests
Taking and passing advanced placement tests to earn college credit while in high school is a measure of students’ readiness for college, and a way to trim the cost of a college education.

Indicator 5: General education degrees awarded as a percentage of adults without a high school diploma
The GED represents a second chance to get back on the path of opportunity for those students who did not graduate from high school through the traditional process.

Read the whole chapter on Gateway 5: Leaving High School with a Diploma and the Skills to Succeed in Colorado: The State of Opportunity 2002 report2005 report