Cold Spring Shops has for a long time suggested that Distressed Material turning up at college requiring refresher courses in ciphering and writing is the fault of underachieving high schools, which ought to be made accountable by reimbursing the colleges and universities for the expense of teaching high school again.

Now comes a School Report commentary. "College remediation is not just a problem for those ‘other’ kids."  It's as I suspected.  High school is everywhere a joke.
More than half a million college freshmen—approximately one in four students who enter college the fall after high school graduation—had to enroll in remedial coursework during their first year of college, costing their families nearly $1.5 billion annually.

My bet is a lot of parents read these kind of reports about struggling students and education problems and think: That’s a bummer, but that’s someone else’s problem.

That someone else being, um, low-income families or kids of color? Students in chaotic urban schools or remote rural schools? Or maybe new immigrants or students with disabilities? All those students not “cut out” for four-year-colleges?

Pick your “other,” but the problem is not about you or your kid, not about anyone comfortably striving or hailing from the honor roll of all those so-called good high schools, right?

Wrong, in this particular case.
The report is not detailed enough, yet, to identify the school districts that invest heavily in sports facilities as egregious offenders.  But the initial estimates of the bills the colleges would have to send to underachieving school districts look like figures that might concentrate some minds.
Not only does college remediation cut across all income levels, it’s also not a problem confined to community colleges. Nearly half – 40 percent – of remedial students were enrolled in public and private four-year colleges.

While underprepared students average two remedial courses each during their first year, higher-income students at private four-year colleges take more remedial classes than lower-income students at those same colleges, suggesting these schools enroll many lower-achieving but higher-income students.

Which means this: If your kid attends an expensive private university but isn’t ready to write college papers or pass a college math class, you will be paying an extra $12,000 for material he or she should have learned in high school.
Let's focus on that "higher-income students at private four-year colleges take more remedial classes than lower-income students at those same colleges, suggesting these schools enroll many lower-achieving but higher-income students." Revenue matters more than learning.  That's one of the symptoms of a bubble.  I'm repeating myself, but repeat myself I must.  "But there is no point in allocating resources to fund institutions that admit unprepared students and call it access. Fix the common culture and the common schools first."  Here's School Report, linking to The Education Trust's "Meandering Toward Graduation."  Academically Adrift was already taken.
The Education Trust, a D.C.-based advocacy organization, found that almost 70 percent of high school graduates do NOT complete a “college-ready” course of study, a set of classes typically required for entry at many public colleges—like Algebra 2, foreign languages, chemistry and physics. The study, Meandering Toward Graduation, was based on an analysis of a representative sample of high school transcripts from 2013 graduates.  (High schools aren’t preparing students for career tracks, either, with only a fraction taking the kind of health, technology or business courses that would pave a path for job training.)

The problem is not just that students get low grades (below a C+) and never master the material. It’s that more than half never even enroll in the classes needed for college readiness.
Parents with the means might be able to cover the expense, although you'd think that a "good" school that comes bundled with a granite countertop would do the college-prep job right.  But profiling the poor kids as enrollment risks is a mistake.  "So, we’ve got students who aspire to college, but aren’t being challenged in high school with the kind of courses that make that a realistic option. And we’ve got a nation of parents who desperately want to believe that remediation is something that happens to other people’s children." And the erroneously-stereotyped other people's children also lose out.  "Meanwhile striving students who lack the finances or the social connections to get into an institution where some of their classmates might be smart and motivated, even if the curriculum is coreless or trendy, end up in the academic gulags."

There are days when all I want to do is work on the railroad.  But the opportunities to influence, or perhaps to reinforce, people who are still in the fight, and still have a chance to win, keep me on these themes.


Dr. Tufte said...

About 5 years ago, I was told by a quite good student in a 2000-level business math class that I was the first math teacher at any level that had ever critiqued his work or graded him on anything other than a plus/minus basis.

I am not just for billing the K-12 systems, I'm for collecting too.

Stephen Karlson said...

No doubt the operators of K-12 would complain about overworked teachers with inadequate time to offer the proper feedback.