21.1.06

IT'S CALLED DIVISION OF LABOR. There's more commentary on the recent study suggesting that college graduates struggle with the simple. Former schoolteacher and editorial writer Joanne Jacobs notes,
Half of students who start college never complete a degree. The survey looked at the successful half who were about to graduate. Without learning how to read an editorial -- I wrote editorials for nearly 20 years -- or figure out whether they had enough gas left to make it to the service station.
I will have more to say about that defect rate, possibly tomorrow. (It's going to be a long post even by my standards.)

Current Advanced Placement teacher Betsy Newmark might be suggesting a more honest way of producing that defect rate.
These kids aren't getting these skills in the younger grades and then they're marching off to college to study who knows what. If these kids can't analyze news stories and understand documents, how are they going to master the readings that they do in college? The possible answers are dismaying. Either they're not understanding what they read but are somehow managing to pass anyway. Or the professors don't give them material that they need to understand for the class and just spoonfeed them all the material in class. We certainly don't see 50% of the students flunking out of college, so the standards somewhere are being lowered to such a degree that kids who can't understand a newspaper story can still manage to pass history or science classes.
Question: is that large defect rate a proxy for what an honest appraisal of some students would yield?

Economics professor Kng Banaian reminds readers that taking universities to task for deficiencies that were someone else's responsibility might not be the best strategy. On the other hand,
Three of the four tasks on that list are quantitative; it doesn't surprise me much at all in a world where math is de-emphasized in universities' general education program. ... The study makes clear that no more than 30% have even basic quantitative literacy, like being able to look at a menu and figure out the cost of a sandwich and a salad sold separately. An older NAS study shows that only 10% of schools surveyed had a math or quantitative general education requirement that had no exemptions by 1993 -- over half had none whatsoever. And the courses taken now as the math requirements are set even below finite math ... The same is true with the natural sciences. Most problematic is that students who are not in the sciences or in business often are given options for math-lite.
That, and given the freedom to let the calculator or the laptop do the arithmetic, with no sense of the magnitudes being produced.

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