Monday, December 12, 2011

Where Schools Fall Short

A NYT editorial that correctly captures that it's not just enough to increase the number of students getting their high school degree (though that's an important first step) – they really need to be college ready, and today nowhere near enough are:


NYT editorial, December 4, 2011

Where Schools Fall Short

Millions of students attend abysmally weak school systems that leave them unprepared for college, even as more jobs require some higher education. The states have an obligation to help these students retool.

More than 35 percent of students need remediation when they reach college, according to the federal government. A study by the organization that administers the ACT, the college entrance exam, finds that only a quarter of the 1.6 million 2011 high school graduates who took the exam met college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math and science.

Some students need one or two remedial courses before they can enroll in credit-bearing college classes. Others need so much remedial work that they will exhaust state and federal student aid without ever getting a degree. This is especially troubling because many of these students have passed state exams that are supposed to certify them as ready for college.

The City University of New York system began addressing this problem in 1999, when it required applicants to its four-year colleges to show higher scores on the state Regents math and reading exams than those required for graduation. Despite rising test scores and graduation rates in New York City schools as a whole, city officials say that only about 34 percent of public school graduates met the CUNY standard in 2010, only slightly higher than five years earlier. To raise that number, the state and city will need to strengthen the curriculum, build a more robust teacher training program and add programs so that more students can reach the college-readiness goal.

State lawmakers also need to put more money into the successful early-intervention programs that CUNY has developed. Its College Now program, for example, offers pre-college and college level instruction to 20,000 city high school students, who generally perform better than their peers once they enroll.

New York is not alone in having to deal with the problem of mass remediation. Many states are adopting rigorous new academic standards for high schools, but those improvements could take years to put into place. In the meantime, states need to provide the resources to help the unprepared succeed after high school.

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