Ready or not, college prep for all

Starting with this year’s ninth graders, nearly all San Francisco students must take college-prep classes required for admission to state universities, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Currently, 49 percent of graduates pass the college-prep courses with the minimum grade of C or higher.

Almost all of the district’s 4,200 freshmen will have to pass 15 courses, including four years of English, three years of math — through advanced algebra — and two years of a foreign language to graduate.

Skeptical about college for all, Darren takes a closer look at the high school in the Chronicle story. Most Mission High students aren’t mastering basic skills, according to the state exam.

. . . anywhere from about 58-84% of all tested students (seniors aren’t tested) are less than proficient in English/Language Arts; in Algebra I, 85% of all tested students are less than proficient; and in Algebra II, 89% of all tested students are less than proficient.

At a minimum, high school is supposed to prepare students with the basic skills and knowledge needed to function in the adult world, Darren writes.

. . .  Mission High shouldn’t be trying to make its students college-ready. It might start setting the bar at getting more than just a few of them proficient at high-school academics.

San Jose Unified made the college-prep A-G courses the default curriculum back in 2002. The graduation rate hasn’t gone down; the percentage of graduates eligible for state universities is up, writes Educated Guess.

For 2008, 41.3 percent of all graduates were eligible for a CSU school, with a C in every course, compared with 33.9 percent statewide. For Hispanics, the results were 29.1 percent CSU-eligible in San Jose Unified, compared with only 22.5 percent statewide and 23.6 percent in Santa Clara County. The percentage of CSU-eligible African-American graduates, a tiny portion of San Jose Unified, was identical to the state: only 23.3 percent.

But college prep for all pushes all students into the same mold, regardless of their ambitions or abilities. Teachers are pressured to pass students who haven’t really mastered the course material. They end up in college remedial classes.

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  1. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Re: Requiring college prep classes for all HS students–more idiocy from public education policywonks in California. Bottom line… not every student can or should go to college. Get rid of remedial classes in college, a travesty due to too many students who are not college-ready. Bring back comprehensive vocational/technical/trade school education to secondary schools. There is nothing inherently more valuable about doctors, lawyers or sociologists in society than plumbers, electricians, or mechanics. We need all these people, with a variety of skills. Snobbery and elitism drive this, usually coming from pseudointellectuals. Added to the elitism is the incessant drive to socially engineer and recompense (via the taxpayers) every historically and economically ‘oppressed’ minority group. When the demand for college/university goes down, the obscenely bloated college tuitions should decrease, too. (and the Feds should get out of the student loan middleman business, as well!) ‘Nuff said.

  2. The drive to prepare all students for college comes partly from the reality that more education is needed, on average, for today’s young people to succeed than for their parents/grandparents. But it comes even more from our sense that we need to continue to educate young people, or at least most young people, to the point where society will be willing to say of them, “you’ve qualified as a potential employee.” In other words, we need to validate our youth, not as having learned anything specific, but just validate them. Unfortunately, high school graduation doesn’t elicit that response from society any more. So we push on to the next possible validation — college graduation. But two things make that a poor response to the problem. One, we really cannot afford to turn our colleges and universities into high schools for older youth. That would cost too much, and would make most of them fail at their original missions. Second, the real problem is with our high schools and pushing everyone into college allows us to avoid the harder task of fixing them. Already, a huge proportion of the students who go to community college are not well enough prepared to get the degrees and certifications offered there. Or, they didn’t really want to attend college but no-one offered them an alternative.


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