Unprepared

California students who take college-prep classes in high school, earn A’s and B’s and go on to the California State University system often find themselves unprepared for college work. Eduwonk guest host Richard Lee Colvin links to a story in the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California on remedial English classes at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles. Colvin writes:

Some of the quotes in the story are just heartbreaking. “In high school, I was a 3.8 (grade-point average) student,” one said. “Now that I’m here, it’s embarrassing—there’s so much I just don’t know.”

The story notes that 8 out of 10 first-time freshman enrolled at Dominguez Hills last fall needed remediation in English and 7 in 10 needed remediation in math. Throughout the 23-campus CSU system, only 43% of the entering freshmen were proficient in both classes. Dominguez Hills president James Lyons summed it up: “There’s a disconnect between what they’re doing in high school to earn that GPA, and what is required and expected at the university level.”

“One girl, who graduated in the top 10 percent of her class, asks: “Why is my report card lying?”

California high school juniors now can opt to answer some extra questions on the state exam: If they do well, they won’t have to take the California State University placement exam; if they do poorly they’ll know to spend senior year sharpening their English and/or math skills.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    I always wonder they the non NCLB crowd who get excited about every story of teachers and administrators cheating of “high stakes exams” never get excited (or say anything) about the blatant fraud committed by schools who give students A’s in 12th grade classes when the students are not anywhere near being able to perform at the 12th grade level.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why not a bonus program for high schools based on the first year performance in college of their grads? Something like $5000 per student divided between that students’ senior year teachers for 2.5 GPA or better and no Dumbbell classes.

  3. KateCoe says:

    And as we all know–more public school teachers in CA graduate from a Cal State than any other insitution. What a cycle!

  4. Or another solution would be for the students to enter colleges with self-esteem building curricula and when they matriculate get a self-esteem building government job with a self-esteem building paycheck. Meanwhile the Indians’ll clean our clocks.

  5. ragnarok says:

    Er, we won’t actually have any clocks, having been forced to sell them to pay the salaries of those high-self-esteem workers.

  6. I have a philosophical objection to AP classes, especially in the humanities, but I am coming to realize that my position is incorrect.

    It’s difficult to maintain high standards without an objective standard.

  7. Pity those poor high-school hotshots who find out in college where they really stand, and how little education they have! The educrats, with their zeal for socialization (meaning social dominance), claim they are preparing children for the real world. Apparently the “real world” never includes post-secondary education, or for that matter, employment.

  8. And as we all know–more public school teachers in CA graduate from a Cal State than any other insitution. What a cycle!

    I didn’t see anything here that indicted Cal State. The problem was apparently with the incoming freshmen.

    I have a philosophical objection to AP classes, especially in the humanities, but I am coming to realize that my position is incorrect.

    What was the objection? Or do I want to know?

  9. I’m a college prof, and I see this All. The. Time.

    One of the questions a colleague of mine regularly asks students who come in to talk to him because they’re failing his class is “How long do you study each day?” or “How long do you study before each exam?” Invariably the answers are disbelief to the first (“Study EACH DAY?”) and “An hour” or something like that to the second.

    I see students who don’t know how to take notes, who highlight or underline EVERYTHING in their textbooks (like that’s going to help), who have poor study skills. The problem is a lot of high schools let the basically smart kids skate through and they get lazy and learn bad habits.

    We teach a lot of “remedial” classes here. It makes me sad that we have to, and it makes me sad to see the numbers of students who have to take them.

    I regularly get reamed on my evaluations for being too hard, for assigning too work, for expecting too much of them. Tough beans. The workplace is hard. Getting and keeping a job is hard. If you learn good study habits, good research habits, and know your stuff, it will help you.

    All I can say is, my parents sent me to a private academic high school. I got mostly A’s and B’s, took a lot of AP classes. When I got to college, I got mostly A’s and B’s (first semester even), wound up tutoring people in my dorm on topics I had had in high school chemistry that they had not had, and I wound up graduating a year early.

    Sure, I was a highly motivated kid and was a product of a household where education was valued and I was expected to put in a certain amount of time studying each day, but I think also the preparation given me by my prep school made a HUGE difference. (To this day, I’m far more inclined to send donations to my prep school’s fund rather than to my undergraduate institution.)

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    You see my cookie above – my whip would be to take the cost of dumbbell classes out of the high school budgets.

  11. I believe I’ve quoted the Russian general Suvorov here before: “Hard training–easy combat. Easy training–hard combat.” High school administrators who court popularity by making things easy for the students now ensure that things will be very hard for them for the rest of their lives.

  12. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Diane Ravitch recently wrote an important article lamenting the decline of vocational ed. in high school and the overemphasis of college prep classes ‘for all’, regardless of ability. The recent idiotic decision by the LA Bored of Education to require A-G (UC and CSU) requirements for ALL H. S. students is pie-in-the-sky thinking at its worst. Attending a university is certainly a worthy goal, but NOT FOR EVERYONE. People have diverse aptitudes, talents and interests. Many students aren’t college material, but could excel in a vocational curriculum. We should be offering a smorgasbord of opportunities, instead of wasting more taxpayer dollars down the sinkhole of dropout students, which will increase in LAUSD after even more students can’t pass their additional classes. I blame the elites and the snobbery of those in academia~~~there is nothing inherently nobler about being a college grad rather than being a plumber or auto mechanic.

  13. Mr. Davis says:

    ricki,

    Thanks for your work and ignore the evaluations as much as you can, but don’t get fired.

  14. The most insidious part of this is that the students are given a false expectation as to what is “A” work and then get mad then they fail. Mad at the teacher that is, not at themselves. In fact, very seldom will a student fail one test and then comes back to get a B in my classes. More often they keep doing the same stupid thing and get the same stupid grade. The ones who can make a mid-term correction are the ones I’m convinced are destined for great things.

    Students also expect to be able to work full time and go to school full time and get great grades. For most of them, that is not going to happen.

  15. KateCoe says:

    Bart–the freshmen at CalState are largely from public schools (not many people who graduate from Harvard-Westlake in LA go to CalState LA, etc.)and so have been taught by the substandard teachers who also graduated from CalState. Did I really have to spell that out?

  16. Andy Freeman says:

    Vocational ed has another nice property – much of it can’t be faked. If you don’t have relevant skills and knowledge, vocational ed projects don’t work.

  17. Cardinal Fang says:

    I always wonder the non NCLB crowd who get excited about every story of teachers and administrators cheating of “high stakes exams” never get excited (or say anything) about the blatant fraud committed by schools who give students A’s in 12th grade classes when the students are not anywhere near being able to perform at the 12th grade level.

    Speaking as a NCLB skeptic, I think it sucks that students in bad urban schools get A’s in English when they can’t write a simple five paragraph essay. Their teachers should not be grading on a curve. If nobody in the class can write, nobody in the class should get an A.

  18. BadaBing says:

    KateCoe:

    Hey, don’t look at me. I graduated from a CalState and just flunked 66 sophomores and juniors. But I did three years at a private Christian institution for the first three years of undeergrad. When I transfered to CSU, I did notice that standards were a little lower than at the private school, but that didn’t make me any less eager or ambitious to learn. A lot of my education I got on my own. Becoming an educated person was my whole focus. I don’t think it quite fair to slam CSU. If you really want to learn and you are self-motivated, you can get just as good an education at a CSU as you can at the University of Spoiled Children. While a grad student at CSU, I taught myself Latin good enough to get an A in the subject as a Ph.D. student at UCI.

  19. Apparently I’m the odd one out here, because I experienced the exact opposite situation. High school was BRUTAL: I regularly spent 3 hours a night on math homework alone. Compared to that, college is pathetically easy. I only study an hour before a test because that’s all it takes to get an A.

    10th grade pre-AP English required a 13-page research paper; college sophomore English required two 3-page papers.

  20. Cardinal Fang says:

    I’m a bit confused by the Cal State bashing by some in this thread. It seems to me that Dominguez Hills is doing exactly the right thing here– not accepting the poor standards some of its freshmen have previously been afforded, it offers non-credit courses to bring the kids up to where they should be. One of my favorite mottoes is “You have to start where you are,” and Dominguez Hills is doing exactly that.

    I used to think that state schools and community colleges shouldn’t have remedial courses like Punctuation or Pre-Algebra. Now I’ve completely changed my mind about that. Public education for adults ought to offer the education that students need, and if students unfortunately reach the age of 18 without being able to compute percents or place commas where needed, they can’t magically go back and be 12 again and learn the subjects when we wish they had. Instead of criticizing the 20-year-old taking Pre-Algebra, I try to admire her for recognizing she has a problem and trying to overcome it.

  21. dogbert2 says:

    This issue is not confined to california, but in many states. The Education Trust just put out another report in which High School Graduation Rates are woefully inflated, and that the amount of remediation which is needed by recent high school graduates is about 30% nationally.

    The only thing which will help these students is more intensive preparation starting no later than 6th grade (or before, if the student is not able to perform at grade level).

    I see a number of students who get the easy grades in high school, but often struggle when they get to college due to the fact they did not prepare well during grades 6-12 (someone correct me on this if I am wrong).

    m00!

  22. Engineer-Poet says:

    Cardinal Fang:  I’d argue that community colleges should have remedial courses, but state universities should not be wasting space and time on them.  Students requiring remediation should be going to community colleges to get it.

    This would help to solve the problem of lousy K-12 education by making it visible.  If a student can be graduated from high school and admitted to a state university without being able to read, write or do arithmetic, they’d be almost invisible in a “dummy” class at State U.; if they had to go to County Community College to remedy the deficits before State U. was allowed to admit them, Lousy High in Mediocrity Intermediate School District is much more likely to get the negative attention it deserves.

  23. Cardinal Fang says:

    It might be the other way around. That is, if kids from Lousy High School go to state college and are woefully underprepared, maybe the state college will start leaning on the high schools to do a better job. In fact, the article Joanne cites states this is happening.

    One problem is that a lot of the kids cited in the article are not native speakers of English, and didn’t come to the US until they were 11 or 12, when the window of optimum language learning is closing. So they are going to have a lot more difficult time learning to write English than kids who were speaking English at a younger age.

  24. Engineer-Poet says:

    As I see it, kids from Lousy High have been admitted to State U. for years, and whatever feedback Lousy High got was ignored.

    If Lousy High’s students were publicly shunted to County Community, it would be much harder to sweep it under the rug.  It would be even better if the state achievement tests showed how well students were doing in various subjects vs. the admissions criteria for various schools, what’s needed for certain jobs, etc.

  25. Engineer-Poet wrote:

    As I see it, kids from Lousy High have been admitted to State U. for years, and whatever feedback Lousy High got was ignored.

    Well there’s the nub of the problem. Closing the feedback loop.

    I don’t think you’re going to do it by shaming the local school districts. Think “water off a duck’s back”.

    Since there’s no more substantive threat then that waggling finger, the school districts have the attractive option of displaying a finger in return indicating the feedback loop isn’t closed.

    What then?

  26. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Allow the colleges to decide who gets a high school diploma.