Bridges to college success

Bridge programs — often created by employers — are springing up to help adults learn the academic skills they need to succeed in college job training programs.

As part of National Journal’s discussion, Steve Peha of Teaching That Makes Sense rejects “bridges” to “readiness.” He argues that if the bridge programs are so great at teaching low-skilled adults their expertise should be used in K-12 classes so we don’t produce more low-skilled adults. And if the would-be bridgers have no special expertise, what’s the point of adding another layer to the education system?

In my response, I write:

Basic skills instruction tends to be more effective when it’s part of job training.  Adults are likely to be more motivated in industry-sponsored programs directly linked to a future job than they’d be in the traditional community college remedial class. So, let’s try the bridge concept and see if it works.

However, our real problem is not that older people forget academic skills when they’re years out of high school. The problem is that many people never master reading, writing and ‘rithmetic in the first place. A lot of 18-year-olds are on the wrong side of the academic gulch.

Maybe we need a “bridge” from third grade to fourth grade and fifth grade to sixth grade and eighth grade to ninth grade and . . . Well, I hate to beat a good metaphor to death. We need to get serious about teaching K-12 students so they’ll be able to learn as adults.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Online students need to learn academic computing skills — and it’s not just the older, returning students who are struggling, instructors say.  Johnny can use social media and play games, but doesn’t know how to format a term paper or do an Internet search.

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  1. As I’ve noted before, the issue reform should, as much as possible, function on the “whatever works” model. Certainly, if these bridge programs work, and there is enough community support and money to pay for them, they certainly wont’ harm. Beyond that, the argument they should be used to avoid low-skill kids in the future is a bit of a utopian panacea. If it were that simple, it would have been fixed by now.

  2. Goodness, the commenters on the National Journal piece do go from the sublime to the ridiculous.  On the ridiculous end, “right of passage”?  “Dummed” down?  If there was any question about the need for rigor in education (as the previous, very long comment claimed), that should settle it in the affirmative.