Amid a growing discussion about whether America is too focused on college-going at a time of rising tuition and a foggy white-collar job market, the College Summit organization is tacking in the opposite direction. A new report argues that “America must redefine the purpose of high school to create schools that students experience not as destinations, but as launch pads for college and career success.”

The report — given support at a recent Aspen Institute panel discussion by education notables like Linda Darling-Hammond, co-director of the Stanford University School Redesign Network; Jon Schnur, Founder and CEO of New Leaders for New Schools; Matt Gandal, Executive Vice President of Achieve; and Susan Traiman, Director of Education and Workforce Policy at the Business Roundtable – proposes that the development of a college-going culture in low-income high schools is the surest way to solve the dropout rate.

“The strongest motivator for students to work hard in high school is their future,” say the report’s authors. “In order to raise graduation rates, we must ensure that all students experience high school not as a final destination, but as a launch pad to their college and career success.”

Darling-Hammond has identified one policy recommendation from the report — training in college planning – as the most critical. “You need to teach students and parents how to engage this pathway and pursue it; it doesn’t just happen,” she told Education Daily. “It has to be explicit.”

Darling-Hammond, who is leading President-elect Obama’s education transition team, suggested providing more federal support for schools to include structures to build college-going culture.

“Part of the mind-shift for teachers is to say, ‘You are responsible for students, not subjects’ . . . but also to put the support structures in place to make that possible,” she said.

You can download the report (or a summary) and hear a podcast of the panel discussion at the College Summit website. For a very lively discussion of whether college-going should be the ultimate goal of all high school graduates, see this recent blog post by TLN Forum member Anthony Cody at the Teacher Magazine website. Don’t miss the many comments, including some back and forth between Cody and Kilian Betlach, of Teaching in the 408 blog fame, now working as a policy associate for Education Trust West.

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