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75 Percent of Students "Not Ready" For College

From the Washington Times:

Three out of four graduates aren’t fully prepared for college and likely need to take at least one remedial class, according to the latest annual survey from the nonprofit testing organization ACT, which measured half of the nation’s high school seniors in English, math, reading and science proficiency.

Only 25 percent cleared all of ACT’s college preparedness benchmarks, while 75 percent likely will spend part of their freshman year brushing up on high-school-level course work. The 2011 class is best prepared for college-level English courses, with 73 percent clearing the bar in that subject. Students are most likely to need remedial classes in science and math, the report says.

The truth is that if American high schools (and middle and elementary schools) were doing their jobs, many students could get all the formal education they need in 12 years.

In any case, we need to move from a ‘time based’ to a competency based educational system.  You don’t get a high school diploma because you have spent 12 years in classrooms; you get a high school diploma because you have demonstrated a certain level of core competence.

A fortiori for BA, MA and JD and PhD degrees.  American students could learn much more in much less time — and at much less cost — than they now do. Making this move quickly and effectively is one of the keys to American success in the new century.

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  • Richard F. Miller

    Where to start….

    Only two points. First, subsidize it and they will come. Federal politicians have been inflating the Higher Ed Bubble for at least two generations. Stopping at high school, or at best, community college, makes absolute sense for many. But for most, college is akin to home ownership, and both are subsidized heavily by Uncle Sugar.

    Finally, and I admit, stupidly, was there any correlation in this study between college preparedness and public schools, vs. charter schools, vs. parochial schools, vs. non or nominally sectarian private schools, vs. home schooling?

    Just wondering.

  • Anthony

    United States ACT average 21.1% (49 states); students are considered college-ready if they score 18 (English), 22 (Math), 21 (Reading), and 24 (Science). “For most of the twentieth century and increasingly in the twentyfirst, income level and general competence have been correlated with scores on a reading test.” The equity gap among our high school children whereby 75% are deemed not ready is problem of elementary/high school preparation. Knowledge is cumulative and K-12 education has not ensured that all U.S. students receive both high quality and equity in classroom/school context. Core competence comes via elimination of diversity of preparation in our schools.

  • Stephen

    We certainly need to change the education system in the US. Currently, while spending an enormous amount of money, we fail to teach most of our children even the basic skills needed to succeed in our society and for our society to compete in the worldwide economy. We then exacerbate the problem by loading the students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in exchange for an often mediocre college education. This is an area that is ripe for experimentation. Because we are failing so badly already, we have little to lose if even many of the attempts fail lead to improvement.

    Building upon Professor Mead’s suggestion that many students could finish school in less time, I suggest that college bound students finish the first two and perhaps three years of college level work while still in secondary school. From my experience, the first years of college are spent primarily in survey and basic competency courses. These are either taught by graduate assistants of are of the very large lecture variety. There is little or no interaction between the university professors and these underclassmen students. I believe that these students could be better served in the high school environment where more interest is taken by faculty into the their success. This is also a far more economical way to impart this basic knowledge and skills. The final year or two would be spent at University in classes taught at the senior/graduate level by Professors teaching in the fields of interest. This would give the student the opportunity to develop valuable relationships with leading scholars and the chance to be recruited into graduate studies by the faculty of the schools.

    Students who are either unmotivated or unable to complete the college level material need to be prepared for entry into the job market. Skills such a mechanics, welding, CNC machine programming, computer programming, accounting, nursing and others should be taught as an alternative to the college prep/introduction curriculum. These students would leave high school with skills needed for the jobs available in their neighborhoods. Businesses should participate by providing internships and instructors.

    In America we believe in second chances and late opportunities so there would still be a role for Community Colleges. Already a major consumer of these schools, those students who failed to take advantage of the college track in high school could catch up with courses taught at local Community Colleges or perhaps night school taught at the high school.

    Ideas worth discussion?

  • Lola-at-Large

    There’s a real disconnect here. So many people raving about teachers and how awesome they are, yet the majority fail to deliver. I submit that college education programs are a huge part of the problem. What good is it to learn how to deliver subject matter of you don’t actually know the subject matter?

    We need serious reform in our education system and it starts at the college level and taking away the iron grip college education departments have on the hiring process. Let people with degrees in subject sit for qualifying tests to teach.

  • Marke

    It doesn’t surprise me that preparedness is so poor in math and science. I once had the director of the math and science department of a local private junior high school tell that he didn’t think math could be fun or interesting. He said he had always felt that it was “just something you had to slog your way through.” Math in particular is a top of the bell-curve skill. Most teachers seem to come from the middle of the bell-curve at best.
    The brighter kids seem to up pick math skills on their own, and there is little cultural incentive for the others” to slog their way through. “ I had started think that the wall street- quants had found a way to get respect for math skills, but now I am suspecting that it may just have been smoke and mirrors, e.g., insider information, ponzi schemes.

  • Charles R. Williams

    It is a simple matter to measure the competencies we expect from education. The EEOC will not allow employers to screen applicants on the basis of these measurements. Since such practices have a “disparate impact” on favored minority groups employers bear the burden of proving they are directly relevant to the hiring decision. For some reason using educational credentials for the same purpose passes muster – even though no one can really say what competencies a BA represents.

  • William D. Livingston

    How anyone can be surprised at this finding is itself a surprise.

    The same was more or less true 53 years ago, when I wobbled off to college terribly unprepared but determined to do what it took to escape a life of manual labor, I born to a blue collar family in Galena, Kansas.

    So what’s Galena’s claim to fame? It’s the only Kansas town mentioned in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Indeed, Steinbeck has two of his principal supporting characters in the novel, Ivy and Sarah Wilson, to hail from Galena.

    Even today Galena is as shabby & impoverished as Steinbeck’s mention of it decades ago implied it then was. That’s part of the reason I’m proud to have earned my B.A., a terrific struggle while working part-time, regardless I was graduated very near, if not right at, the bottom of my class at the Univ. of Kansas in ’65.

  • Suzanne

    Lola (#4) is right–we have education departments that pretend (or really believe) that there’s such a thing as “teaching” separate from actual knowledge of a subject. They claim to turn out “teachers” who know how to “teach” (as opposed to mathematicians or scientists who understand something of their field).

    That’s to go along with the unions’ idea that it’s justifiable for a certified teacher to be handed the textbook for another subject, in which he’s not certified, and have him perform in lieu of a real teacher. Anyone who has taught probably knows that you can’t succeed without actually knowing the subject.

    But then, the fashionable view is that there really aren’t any subjects, right?

    And haven’t you heard those people who like to say, “I don’t teach math (or biology, or English), I teach children”?

  • Justin

    I agree with Suzanne-the low quality of teachers reminds me of the McKinsey study from a few years ago comparing education systems of various nations, and found that the best systems (Singapore, Finland, South Korea) have 100% of teachers graduating in the top third of their college classes-the best go on to teach. In America, the stat is something like 25%, so we’re handing the future of nation to some of *least* competent of college graduates. That’s not to say there aren’t great teachers, and I’ve been blessed to have in my public high school years, but the overall trend is frightening.

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