Archive for November, 2011

Education Matters: In College, Working Hard to Learn High School Material

The New York Times recently published an article highlighting the failings of many New York high schools (and, undoubtedly, many across the country) to adequately prepare students for college courses. Many students find themselves failing the required CUNY placement tests, and thus placing into remedial reading, writing, and mathematics courses. With good reason, students wonder why they are in this position after passing Regents exams and graduating high school with sufficient grades. It doesn’t help but call to question how we define secondary education success. While Mayor Bloomberg has improved the high school graduation rate, up to 61% in June from 46.5% percent in 2005, the rate does become less impressive when looked at next to the percentage of high school graduates that need remediation in these three core subjects when they enter CUNY community colleges: 22.6% in 2010 (2,812 students), up from 15.4% in 2005 (1,085 students). 74% of NYC high school graduates enrolled at CUNY’s six community colleges take remedial courses in at least one academic subject.

But what’s perhaps more troubling is that the problem doesn’t end there. Students who require remediation in all three subjects, likely discouraged,  are at the highest risk of dropping out.  To respond to the large number of students in academic need and to prevent dropouts, CUNY has developed the Start program, an intensive semester focused on remedial  reading, writing and mathematics. The program has proven successful and given students the much-needed help they require. Of the 300 students enrolled thus far, 241 stayed the duration of the semester, and 159 of these students after taking the course, passed all three remediation tests.

CUNY is taking the right steps to help students facing all too common of a problem: not being prepared for college level material. As the Times article points out, it calls to question what Regents exams, which so often drive school curriculum, are actually measuring. Unfortunately, in many cases, it seems the tests do not accurately reflect what students need to know for college success. So how do we better prepare students academically for college? NYC’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, says the solution isn’t adjusting passing and “college ready” scores, it’s  “to give kids more challenging, rich and authentic work.”

What’s your take?