Published: Aug 11, 2010 7:27 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 11, 2010 4:25 PM EDT

WASHINGTON – As many as 40 percent of the nation's high school graduates say they are inadequately prepared to deal with the demands of employment and postsecondary education, putting their own individual success and the nation's economic growth in peril, according to a national survey of 2,200 Americans, including nearly 1,500 recent high school graduates, 400 employers and 300 college instructors.

According to the survey – released today by Achieve, Inc. – college instructors estimate that more than two out of five (42 percent) college students are not adequately prepared by the education they received in high school to meet the expectations of college. Nearly as many (39 percent) recent graduates enrolled in college say they have gaps in their preparation. Meanwhile, employers estimate that 39 percent of recent high school graduates are unprepared for the expectations that they face in entry-level jobs, which is identical to the proportion of recent graduates in the workforce who say that they have gaps in their preparation. Employers estimate that an even larger proportion (45 percent) of recent entrants into the workforce are not adequately prepared to advance beyond entry-level jobs.

"While American public high schools are doing a reasonably good job with a majority of their students, they are seriously failing a substantial minority of young people across the nation," says Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, Inc.

The research indicates that the preparation gaps cut across a range of core skill and knowledge areas – most notably work habits, ability to read and understand complicated materials, and math, science and writing skills. Large majorities of college instructors are dissatisfied with the job public schools are doing in preparing students for college when it comes to writing quality (62 percent) and their ability to read and comprehend complex materials (70 percent). Instructors estimate that half of public high school graduates are not adequately prepared to do college-level math or writing.

To read the complete study or to see how Florida did: