Just because students graduate from high school doesn’t mean they’re ready for college. This line has long been a familiar one in the world of education policy, often introducing some alarming new statistic about remediation or dropouts. But the trouble with high school may not be that it’s objectively bad; it may be just that it isn’t informed by what actually happens in college.

According to a piece in Science Codex, high schools actually spend a lot of time measuring things that indicate college readiness; they just measure the wrong things:

High-stakes tests such as the SAT, ACT and the myriad achievement tests used to judge adequate yearly progress by states… are not aligned with college-level material, [said University of Illinois education professor Debra] Bragg.

“Those kind of tests tell us a little bit about what a student has learned in high school, but not enough,” she said. “Nationally, we really need to get the conversation going between high schools and community colleges about what they teach, how they teach, and what and how they assess. We need to get teachers from both levels on the same page so there’s not such a big gap for students.”

Now that, according to federal policy, high school officially exists to prepare people for college, why not make this transition more efficient? This would not only reduce remediation, but also cut down on the amount of time students have to waste in high school. As the article explains:

One idea for reform that’s gained some traction would allow 10th graders who pass a series of tests to bypass their junior and senior years and immediately enroll in community college. A poor performance on such a test could provide students with an early warning about the knowledge and skills they need to master in high school before they go off to college.

If students aren’t ready for life after high school, provide them with what they need to get there. Perhaps equally important, if they’re ready for college, they can just go there. Sounds promising to me.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer