Saturday, March 01, 2008

College (un)readiness--what's wrong with this picture?

Our kids are going to school for 13 years of their lives thinking that by the time they finish high school they, at the very minimum, will be prepared to function adequately in their world.

However, many of them have much higher ambitions. They want to attend college. It's the natural next step...and these days high school is no longer enough.

Unfortunately, the reality is, many of our kids are not being adequately prepared in the schools they attend. As they move into the college process, they don't have the education needed to succeed. Thus, many of the students are required to take "developmental" courses. Reading, Writing, and Math courses that are below college level. Courses that cost money that financial aid sometimes won't pay for (depending on the school). Courses that gain them absolutely no credit toward a degree, but take time to complete...sometimes several semesters depending on how far behind the student is.

Many of the students in these situations are not likely to complete college due to many different factors anyway. Add to that 1 or 2 semesters of college that cost money but don't even count?!...Kids get discouraged and decide there are better and quicker ways to begin making money.

We can spend time blaming this lack of adequate education on parents, teachers, government, or whoever we'd like. But the bottom line is that our children are suffering. We are the people. We have a democratic society. We have to stand up and speak out.

We need to help our children.

Read the report below for the facts in Massachusetts...and realize that the facts are probably the same or even more striking in Dallas.

Our children need ADVOCATES...and they need to be taught to advocate! We need to connect people in power with the voices of the children and the families who expereince these situations so that the laws that are created, the funding that is cut, the resources that are deemed "unnecessary" don't adversely affect those who are the most vulnerable. I don't believe that this lack of education is happening "despite our best efforts." I know we can do more. If you visit one of our urban schools and compare it to a suburban school in the same area, I think you will agree.

State report shows many students are not ready for college
By Rodrique Ngowi
The Boston Globe / February 28, 2008

BOSTON—Massachusetts may have one of the highest rates of students going to college, but the first statewide "school-to-college" report shows that 37 percent of public high school graduates who go for public higher education may not be ready.

The joint report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Education and Board of Higher Education analyzed the performance of the class of 2005 and showed that students lagging behind needed remedial courses in college.

State education officials say about 80 percent of Massachusetts high school students go to college. The report found that more students from low-income families, some racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not speak English as their first language, and those who receive special education services in high school go to community colleges -- where most of them need remedial academic help. Remedial courses add to the cost and time it takes to graduate, increasing their likelihood of dropping out, the report said.

Higher education officials were not surprised by the finding, saying they hope the report leads to new efforts to help students.

"This reports what we've known anecdotally for some time, and that is there are certain groups of students that, despite our best efforts, are still not graduating from high school ready to pursue college-level work immediately," said Eileen O'Connor, spokeswoman for the Board of Higher Education.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education Jeffrey Nellhaus said: "We hope that the data in this report serves as a catalyst for steps to be taken statewide to improve the academic preparation and performance of the Commonwealth's public school students."

Key findings in the report:

--African American students, Hispanic students, low-income students, those who were not fluent in English and those receiving special education services in high school were more likely to enroll at a community college. Asians were more likely to enroll at a state university.

--About 65 percent of students enrolled in a community college took at least one remedial course, as did 22 percent of students at state colleges and 8 percent of students at state university campuses.

--About 63 percent of students who received special education services in high school needed remedial courses, as did 59 percent of African Americans, 59 percent of Hispanics, 52 percent of those from low-income families and 50 percent of those with limited English proficiency.

--Fifty percent of students who scored as needing improvement on the Grade 10 Math MCAS exam enrolled in remedial math in college.
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