By Haddon Libby

With the high temperature recorded last weekend in the Coachella Valley, you might be interested to know that we have a ways to go to reach the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.  That happened on September 13, 2012 in Libya when it reached 136 degrees.

As we reach our highest temperatures of the year, school is back in session.  Here in California, approximately 6.7 million students between the ages of 5 and 17 or 17.6% of our state’s population will go back to school over the next few weeks.  All but 460,000 of these students will use the public school system.

The first public school was founded in 1635 in Boston.  It wasn’t until 1870 that all states had free elementary schools making the United States the most literate society in the world.  Currently, the United States is the 15th most literate country in the world.


The first public high school was founded in Boston in 1820.  In 1851, Massachusetts was the first state to make education compulsory in order to help immigrants become “civilized”.

If you ask high schoolers, most would say that school would be more civilized with a later start time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees and has recommended that high school start no earlier than 8:30am.  The later start time is needed because biological rhythms shift during puberty causing adolescents to go to sleep later at night and therefore need to sleep later in the morning.  The AAP found that the failure of high schoolers to get enough sleep leads to numerous problems such as obesity, depression, poorer grades and other aberrant behaviors.  The best thing that parents can do to try to combat the sleep deprivation problem experienced by most high schoolers is to limit access to smartphones, computers and television at night so as to help their children get eight hours of sleep every night.

Eighty percent of California high schoolers can be expected to graduate within four years.  This is an all-time high.  The highest graduation rates are amongst those identifying as Asian (92.3%), Filipino (92.1%) and Caucasian (87.4%).  The lowest graduation rates are in the Black (68.1%), Native American (70.1%) and Hispanic (76.4%) communities.

California ranks as the 27th best school system in terms of student scores on standardized testing versus the rest of the country.  Massachusetts is ranked #1.  The highest rated public high school in the Coachella Valley was Palm Desert High School where three in ten students graduate ready for college – 20% higher than the national average.

Only 30 years ago, the United States had the highest rankings in the world for the quality and quantity of high school graduates.  The United States currently ranks 36th in the world.   More specifically, the U.S. ranks 24th in math, 21st in science, 15th in literacy and 12th in college degrees for adults between 25-34 years of age.

This school year, there will be 7,000 high school dropouts every day and equates to 1.2 million people a year.  If these same young adults completed high school, they would have earned an additional $260,000 over the course of their lifetimes.  According to the National Center for Education, the average high school dropout earns $360 a week.  Those with high school as their highest degree earn $537/week, college grads $985/week and those with advanced degrees like MBAs or Ph.Ds earn $1,435/week.

U.S. manufacturers were recently polled and stated that 40% of all 17 year-olds have the math skills and 60% of the reading skills necessary to hold down a job.

When we consider our slipping global rankings and the fact that the majority of high school graduates do not have the skills required for manufacturing or college, we have to ask ourselves if there is a better way to educate our youth and prepare them and our country for tomorrow.

Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an investment management and advisory firm, and can be reached at