Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Report: Over a third of students entering college need remedial help - Chicago Sun-Times

Report: Over a third of students entering college need remedial help - Chicago Sun-Times

Ages ago my first intro to college was a placement test that taken twice to see where I would be placed at the City Colleges of Chicago. As it turned out the first time around wasn't a charm, I had qualified for some remedial classes. Took it again and well I did much better but not enough to avoid taking some remedial course that wouldn't count towards either college credit or graduation.

Back then I didn't take that very seriously. The first time around was when I was still in high school and my expectation by the time of my graduation wasn't to attend a city college. So my score sat at another city college (Kennedy-King) until it was time to enroll at a different city college (Harold Washington). Then my task was to transfer it to the other school except that well it was below what I expected it to be and at that had little idea as to how to interpret the placement test.

With all that said and done at the time I took intermediate algebra which wouldn't count for graduation at the city colleges, however, once I got passed that hurdle then college level mathematics was straight ahead. English well I could take college level English, however, there was a component with that course that I had to register for. So it was like a "hand-holding" English course.
Anyway some stats:
Remediation costs City Colleges $29.4 million, or $1,668 per student, each year. For the Fall 2009 semester, of the more than 2,800 CPS high school graduates heading straight into City Colleges, 71 percent needed remedial reading, 81 percent needed remedial English and 94 percent needed remedial math. Forty percent of this group took two remedial courses, an additional 21 percent took three remedial courses and 10 percent took four courses.

For the students who test into the City Colleges’ lowest level of remediation, the vast majority are not likely to transfer to and complete college-level entry courses. Only 17 percent of these math students and 26 percent of these English students successfully finished a college class in that subject, according to statistics from City Colleges.
While City Colleges leaders have been vocal about the issue, it’s not just a city problem, or a community college problem. All but the most selective four-year universities in the state offer remedial or developmental courses, according to statistics from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Community colleges in the suburbs are also dealing with high percentages of incoming freshmen who lack the basic skills to keep up in a college class.
It’s not just schools who are paying. Students in remedial classes are less likely to graduate, burning through government-funded aid like Pell Grants meant to help students obtain a degree. And that same financial aid can’t be used for some of the most basic remedial classes.
The main thing I need to know is why aren't CPS high school able to prepare their seniors for college:
High school teachers and administrators are either unaware of what is expected in college, or unable to align their curricula with college prep because the material on standardized tests does not match material colleges are looking for students to know. Colleges also use a variety of placement tests, which adds to the confusion over what students need to know.

“It starts in first grade,” said Perin from Columbia. “Students aren’t learning strong reading and writing skills and math and the problems get worse and worse. As kids get older it just gets harder and harder to do well in school.”

There is a national push to better align K-12 education with college materials. In Illinois, seven community colleges are working with 70 local high schools on how to transition students successfully through its College and Career Readiness program.

“The alignment between high schools and colleges is not very good,” Perin said. “High schools are not very familiar with what a student is going to need.”

In 2006, Elgin Community College was one of the first schools in the state to set up a monthly meeting of local high school teachers with community college staff. Then, about 24 percent of incoming freshman straight from high school were completely college ready. This year, that number was nearly 32 percent.

Mary Sotiroff, an Elgin High School math and science teacher, joined the group after hearing complaints from parents about their children not being college-ready. Sotiroff said high school teachers are judged based on their students’ ACT and PSAE scores, tests that don’t necessarily cover the material colleges are looking for.

“We realized we didn’t understand each other’s worlds very well,” she said. “I think [community colleges] had a much slimmer list of requirements than we did, which I found refreshing. Then you could spend more time on the things that really mattered.”
OK so that dashed my idea of using the ACT to determine whether or not high schoolers are ready for college. Or at least to use the ACT in part to determine placement at a city college.

Then again I do like the idea of having either a 4-year university or a community college work with individual high schools just to give not only the students an idea of what goes on at the undergrad level, but also the high school teachers and administrations. It could go a long way in preparing our young people for college life. Just wish I could see such a collaboration in action!

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