Many college students can’t do math or read well, write Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman on Minding the Campus.
Estimates of those needing remedial classes before taking credit courses range from 30% of entering students to 40% of traditional undergraduates. . . .
A 2004 U.S. Department of Education study reports that 42% of freshmen in public two-year institutions need remediation.
. . . More than half of all college students will not earn a degree or credential, according to a 2009 Gates Foundation report drawing on national education statistics. For community college and low-income students, it notes, the numbers are much worse.
What to do? Teaching college skills to college-bound high school students would seem like an obvious answer. But Stotsky and Wurman fear a push to change college coursework to be doable by the minimally skilled.
The Gates Foundation . . . faults our post-secondary institutions for not having “responded to their students’ increasingly complex and diverse needs.” One goal of Gates’ Postsecondary Success Initiative is to make both curriculum and instruction at the post-secondary level “more effective and engaging” by integrating technology into instruction, redesigning entire courses, and “contextualizing” these courses “to match students’ field of interest.” Details are lacking, but this seems to mean that academic degree programs would be versions of programs now offered in vocational technical high schools, the kind of schools these students should have had the opportunity—and encouragement—to enroll in.
Raising high school expectations would not increase the dropout rate, they argue. Massachusetts, which has the toughest standards in the nation, reduced its dropout rate by 12 percent in 2008, they write.