Remedial prep

Edupundits’ focus on teacher quality, misses the point, argues Will Fitzhugh on The Concord Review. What counts is whether students do serious academic work in high school, such as reading history books or writing a research paper.  Academics Lite students aren’t prepared for college reading and writing and often end up in remedial classes, doing high school all over again.

They’re not prepared for the workforce either. Employers spend more than $3 billion a year trying to teach writing skills to their employees, according to the Business Roundtable.

Students aren’t held responsible for doing the work, Fitzhugh complains.

As Paul Zoch has so regularly pointed out, the message (sent) down the line to students is that their job is to get through high school with a minimum of work, while it is someone else’s responsibility to educate them.

. . . We should not kid them about the need for serious reading and academic expository writing, and when we do, we are not educating them, we are cheating them.

Many students, especially those whose parents aren’t college-educated, have no idea what skills, knowledge and work habits are required to pass college classes. They pass classes labeled “college prep” with B’s and C’s. They think they’re doing well enough.  If they knew they were in remedial prep they might work a lot harder.

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  1. Many schools around here are dropping the “honors” label because of the vicious backlash against “tracking” and the insistence of many parents that “their children are ‘honors’ students and should be allowed to enroll in those classes regardless of actual ability. If you can’t differentiate between basic remedial, CP and honors, then you probably won’t be able to differentiate between CP and nonCP.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    Sounds like we need full disclosure in education — long, long overdue…of course this means stopping grade inflation, stopping social promotion, initiate full tracking, stop mainstreaming, etc…true education is long overdue…sadly…think it is too late…government schools in particular the default/zone schools truly are becoming schools of last resort…I truly feel for those kids that want to learn but for whatever reason have no alternatives available to them other than the default school…ugh

  3. Cardinal Fang says:

    Rule of thumb: If a class has “College” in its name, it’s remedial. So in high school, “College Prep” means the stuff you should have already learned in middle school, and in college, “College Algebra” is the math you should have already learned in, well, middle school or at the latest in 10th grade.

  4. timber,

    Unfortunately not all parents are like you. One of the big reasons our district dumbs down education is because certain parents (some of whom are on the school board) raise holy hell if we try to hold kids accountable for learning. For example, it’s impossible to retain any kid in our district, even the ones who don’t do a lick of work.
    Many teachers I know would love to ramp up the rigor, but the pressure from our community and school board prevents our superintendent and principals from supporting us.

    I think we are guilty of child neglect. By postponing the negative consequences til college, we’re setting these kids up for catastrophic failure. Remediation at that stage can only do a little. We’ve effectively robbed kids of an education and made true college-level education impossible. The book to read is City on a Hill by James Traub, whose great reportage reveals the truth about remedial education at City College in NYC. Americans don’t want to hear it, but we need to be more old-fashioned –not more modern –in our approach to education.

  5. Hear, hear, Ben!

  6. I’m curious what corporations mean by remedial writing training. I’ve worked for two major corporations and have friends who work for different ones, and I’ve never seen any remedial writing classes. Corporations do job training where they train employees on the specific requirements of their jobs. But this isn’t remedial writing training. Does the Business Roundtable just throw this $3 billion number out there and we accept it as true? Or do they offer some sort of evidence for it?

  7. Would someone please tell me HOW to “make” the students do the work they need to do? I am not alone in my inability to understand our current crop of 9th and 10th graders who WILL NOT STUDY, will not do homework, and do not care if they get F’s. Parents only show up when they get report cards, and many go the entire year not seeing or asking their kids for a report card and then throw a raving fit at the end of the year when the kids fail. Emails, phone calls, and letters go unanswered.
    There are many high school teachers out here who are sincerely trying to teach these kids but something very bad is going on and I can’t figure it out. If this lack of effort is the new normal, we need to be very afraid. Is this the result of years of NCLB–did the kids get the message that it is all the teachers’ responsibility and not theirs?

  8. Sal-
    Nope, this is the result of a long slide into a culture that does not respect education at all and is unwilling to be real parents. Instead, parents focus solely upon the end results – whether the student passes at the end of the year. They are too distracted by work, reality TV, Facebook, drinking with their friends, etc. to actually give a darn about what their child does in school each day. Of course, this a generalization, but it does correctly describe a significant portion of our population that is essentially pulling everyone else down with them.
    This is an outgrowth of the 60’s self-fulfillment movement that put a greater focus on an individual’s momentary happiness than their responsibility to their family or community.

  9. I think what happened in many schools that have a 60-40 tilt, majority URM-white, have lost the stigma of an F. Instead of the white suburban kids influencing the low income URM kids, it works backwards. Marginal white kids see lots of failing blacks or Hispanics repeating the classes, seemingly untroubled, still able to compete in sports and so on, and think hey, what’s the problem? And so failing a class and repeating it starts to become no big deal for the white kids, too.

  10. Actually, the stigma of being labeled a failure carries a lot less weight in school today than 30 years ago when I was in high school.

    Back then, students who were constantly in trouble weren’t chased down by teachers and the administration, they just simply let the students drop out (of course, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was still possible to get a decent job being a dropout).

    A student who doesn’t want to do the work in school, or bother to come to class has no business being in school in the first place, but perhaps if those students don’t want to go to school, make then spend 6-8 hours a day cleaning up parks, litter, etc (like community services), or perhaps have them go pick crops in the field for 6-8 months.

    This might sound harsh, but given what is termed a ‘high school’ graduate today, I’m not sure what the solution is, unless you wanted to bring back strict discipline in the schools, and have students compete to get into schools (though the USSC Plyler decision in 1982 was one of the biggest mistakes the high court ever made, stating that all students are entitled to a public education, regardless of their immigration status).

    Given how many students simply do not care about getting an education anymore, I have to ask myself, why continue to try to reach the students who don’t want to be in school (the answer usually is that they’ll turn to crime if they can’t find a job, but then again, what company is going to want to hire persons who cannot read, write, perform basic math, or even bother to show up to work on time)?


  11. We’re only a few generations now from a combination of “1984” (the book) and “Idiocracy” (the movie). Those not in jail will be slaves to pop culture (and mandatory drugs will help), and the few people who actually know what’s going on will be scientific dictators of the (once again) ‘unwashed masses’.