Are Half of New England Students Graduating High School Unprepared for College and Career?

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Contact: Jackson Murphy
Solomon McCown & Co.
(617) 933-5011

Contact: Catherine Rauseo
The Rennie Center
(617)354-0002 ext. 8

Are Half of New England Students Graduating High School Unprepared for College and Career?
New poll results show 90 percent of New Englanders believe
student-centered learning can improve readiness across region.

QUINCY, Mass. – February 7, 2017 – According to the results of a new poll, New Englanders overwhelmingly believe that at least half of high school students across the region graduate unprepared for college and a career, and that student-centered learning environments are part of the solution to this readiness problem. The poll, released by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (Nellie Mae) and conducted by the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, surveyed 2,400 individuals across the region from August 5-31, 2016. Its findings shed light on growing concerns that our children are not fully equipped for life after high school, representing a tipping point in public opinion that positions student-centered learning—which tailors education to the interests and needs of each student—as an answer to providing young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed upon entering post-secondary education and the workforce.

“Although graduation rates are at an all-time high, New Englanders are well aware that a diploma alone is no longer sufficient to ensure success for our students after high school,” said Nick Donohue, president & CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “Too frequently students arrive at college requiring developmental or remedial classes to strengthen basic skills just to move on to college-level material, or they begin careers without the tools and skills necessary to help them early on in their professional lives. The situation is more severe for people in traditionally marginalized communities – places that we need to prosper so our society can advance. The good news is that student-centered approaches to learning represent a path forward in which all students can succeed.”

According to Nellie Mae, across New England, only 50 percent of high school students are graduating with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed after high school. These poll results show that New Englanders not only agree this is unacceptable, but that 90 percent believe that student-centered learning environments are part of the solution toward ensuring high school graduates are college and career ready. Nellie Mae defines student-centered learning as personalized and happening anywhere, anytime. In student-centered environments, students move ahead based on mastery of content rather than class-seat time and they exert ownership over their own learning.

“It is encouraging that so many New Englanders recognize the importance of moving away from a one-size-fits-all model of education. Student-centered learning is already helping students achieve success in innovative schools across the region,” said Chad d'Entremont, Executive Director of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. “As we work to spread evidence-based practices that focus on the needs of each student, it is crucial that communities and policymakers collaborate with educators to develop programs that work best for their schools.”

New Englanders found teachers to be among the most trusted group when it comes to educational decision-making and showed confidence in their ability to improve public education. Respondents also reported having confidence in parents and school and district leaders for improving education. The poll comes amidst efforts by Nellie Mae to reshape public education in New England to reach an aggressive benchmark of 80 percent college and career readiness among our high school graduates by 2030. The Foundation is investing $200 million in grantmaking efforts toward advancing student-centered learning in schools and districts across the region in order to achieve this goal. To read the poll report in its entirety, please visit

About the Nellie Mae Education Foundation:
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the high school level across New England—where learning is personalized; learning is competency-based; learning takes place anytime, anywhere; and students exert ownership over their own learning. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a four-part strategy that focuses on: building educator ownership, understanding and capacity; advancing quality and rigor of SCL practices; developing effective systems designs; and building public understanding and demand. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $210 million in grants. For more information about the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, visit

About the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy:
The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy’s mission is to improve public education through well-informed decision-making based on deep knowledge and evidence of effective policymaking and practice. As Massachusetts’ preeminent voice in public education reform, we create open spaces for educators and policymakers to consider evidence, discuss cutting-edge issues, and develop new approaches to advance student learning and achievement. Through our staunch commitment to independent, non-partisan research and constructive conversations, we work to promote an education system that provides every child with the opportunity to be successful in school and in life. For more information about the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, visit