Remedial classes: the end is closer

Many readers will remember Joanne’s post some time back about a proposal to end remedial classes at community colleges that was working its way through the legislature.

Well, that bill has now passed both houses of the CT legislature.  Connecticut is that much closer to one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard of in a while.

What I wanted to focus on today, though, was two quotes from from the most recent news article which I think perfectly set forth the ridiculousness of the discussions on this issue.

First…

Bye, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Joint Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, said she came to support to measure after hearing that some students could pass high school classes and be placed in remedial college courses after failing to do well on college placement tests.

Let me ask a hypothetical question.  Let’s say you’ve got a bakery.  There’s a guy who mixes the dough, a guy who kneads it, and a guy who rolls and cuts it.  You notice that the guy who rolls and cuts it is working more slowly than you’d like.  So you ask him, “What’s going on?”  He looks at you and shrugs.  “I try to roll it, but it’s not ready to be rolled.  We were getting thin, hard rolls instead of fluffy, scrumptious rolls.  So I’m doing a little kneading on each batch before I start rolling.”

In such a hypothetical situation, does it make sense to tell your roller that what he needs to do is stop kneading, and incorporate more kneading into his rolling?

Maybe instead you kick the kneader in the pants and say, “Do your damn job and stop telling him the dough is ready when it’s not.”

Second…

Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, said students who take remedial courses incur debt and do not have anything to show for it. “At the end of day (these students) are walking out the door without certificate or degree,” she said.

Hmmm.  What exactly are you supposed to get for taking and passing a remedial course, other than the knowledge and skills that you’re already supposed to possess?

I get the feeling that the Honorable Roberta Willis doesn’t quite understand what remedial means.  It doesn’t mean building new things or making advances.  It means fixing problems… getting back to (what should be) the status quo.

If I pay $100 for a hard drive, then I break it, and I pay $50 to get it fixed (laughable, I know), I don’t “get” anything for my $50 that I didn’t have already.  I don’t get one-and-a-half hard drives.  I just get the one hard drive that I paid $100 for.

When you take remedial classes, you’re not paying to get a degree.  You’re paying to remedy your ignorance — ignorance which makes you unprepared for handling college-level coursework.

If we have to give students something in return for their remedial efforts, maybe we could give them a sticker to put on their high school diploma that says something like, “And this is actually worth something now.”

There are two causes for “remedial problems” in college.

The first is admissions offices.  Now, to be fair, they often don’t have a choice; some of them have to let anyone and sundry into the school.   But at some point, a college admissions office should tell someone “No, you’re just not ready.  We can’t take your money.”  Would this be economic suicide?  Maybe.  But if so, then maybe the schools aren’t worth funding.

The second is high school teachers, who water down their courses and commit a sort of academic fraud by giving passing grades in Algebra II to students whose greatest mathematical achievement is a macaroni collage.  (I’m being figurative here, though I’m sure if I looked long enough I’d find something close to that level of egregiousness.)  I’m not blaming the teachers, mind you.  They may have very good reasons for doing what they are doing.  They might be under pressure from administrators, or coping with woefully unprepared students who have been passed on by Middle School teachers, or under pressure from parents.  But even if the teachers aren’t to blame, they are responsible when a student leaves their classroom without the skills of which the teacher has, by giving a passing grade, certified possession.

Colleges didn’t set up remedial programs because they consulted the Magic 8 Ball and it said, “Make a mango taco, hop on one foot, and set up some remedial classes!”  Those classes are there for a reason, and if they are revealing an uncomfortable truth through their operation, well…

I guess shooting the messenger has a long and distinguished pedigree.

Comments

  1. I think your example needs a bit of work to more accurately depict the situation.

    The kneader’s 6’3″, 260 pounds and has a reputation for beating up people who annoy him. Oh, and the bakery’s in the old Soviet Union where complaints about the quality the bread are met with indifference. The guy who does the cutting and rolling only kneads the bread because he’s got some pride of craftsmanship, a pride that garners him nothing but a case of the warm fuzzies.

    Nope, that still doesn’t work since the community colleges are getting tuition – charging – for doing what the high schools ought to be doing but aren’t. So the cutting-rolling guy ought to charge extra for the rolls he’s made that have that little extra work he puts into them on top of the charge for a roll for you model to work.

    Naw, too complicated by half and not really worth the effort.

    The K-12 system’s not educating the kids and the community college system’s helping obscure that shortcoming the K-12 system and charging the students in the bargain. Sweet!

    But taking aim at the community colleges to resolve this problem makes all sorts of political sense.

    If it’s a choice between attracting the umbrage of the K-12 community dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo or taking a bloody hunk out of the community colleges it’s not a tough choice. The community colleges aren’t likely to fire up a recall campaign or run someone against you come next election but the local something-EA sure might. That’s why what’s a transparently stupid idea is being enacted into law. Something’s got to be done but that doesn’t mean it has to be something that endangers the re-election chances of the incumbents.

    The alternative would be to require the K-12 system to live up to its obligations.

    There’s no punch line and that wasn’t meant as a joke.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      The kneader’s 6’3?, 260 pounds and has a reputation for beating up people who annoy him. Oh, and the bakery’s in the old Soviet Union where complaints about the quality the bread are met with indifference. The guy who does the cutting and rolling only kneads the bread because he’s got some pride of craftsmanship, a pride that garners him nothing but a case of the warm fuzzies.

      That was laugh-out-loud hilarious. 🙂

    • That comment was so spot-on and truthful, that I fear for your safety…

    • Interesting – and apt – analogy, Allen. However, I would step back just a bit from saying we need to expect k-12 to live up to its expectations. For, if we look at history, we can pretty clearly conclude that the expectation to graduate from high school was not the same as being prepared for college. In fact, it wasn’t for the grand majority of students. Now, clearly that has changed – but the system hasn’t. And changing the expectation – or obligation – to all students being prepared for college is, in itself, an unrealistic expectation. Clearly, not all students should go to college, and perhaps more accurately, not all want to. Thus, when they don’t pursue that goal for themselves, it’s a bit pretentious to argue the school is not meeting its obligation. If we look at the data, we can conclude that based on various socioeconomic levels, a success rate of 45% college ready and successful is the appropriate obligation and expectation. For, currently the country only has 29% of its population with bachelor’s degrees – and there is no reasonably argument to increase that to 80%.

  2. Didn’t someone in another thread just insist that there’s no such thing as teacher-bashing?

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      I don’t know. Maybe.

      Are you saying that I’m teacher-bashing?

      • no, Allen’s analogy of the huge kneader who has a reputation for beating up people who annoy him.

        • Ah yes, the charge of teacher-bashing.

          Dragging the old jalopy out to see if there’s a bit of life yet in it?

          I’d suggest your re-read what I wrote but it just may be you see what you want to see so maybe not that worthwhile a suggestion.

  3. What’s teacher bashing, we’ve tried every educational reform in the last 30 to 40 years without much success (despite spending a fortune on it), but when students cannot handle college level coursework (which for a typical freshmen should be English 101, Biology or Chemistry, Poly Sci 101, Pre-Calculus, and perhaps sociology/psychology), it doesn’t do the student a bit of good spending money in college taking coursework they’ll never be able to apply towards a degree.

    IMO, a better investment might be a collection of ‘Dummies’ books, and some free tutoring at the local library…It would be a darn sight cheaper, and the student could take their time learning what they should have learned in K-12.

    • Yet, Bill, we improved dramatically from 1900 to 1970. 5% college grads to 30%. And 10% high school grads to 80%. So, perhaps we have maxed out. Is there any logical argument against that? Is there any reasonable expectation that any country can or should be able to educate 80-100% of its population – especially one as large and diverse as the US – to a university level?

  4. It’s not accurate that there hasn’t been much success — there’s an easily found body of work on the degree to which educational attainment in U.S. K-12 schools has significantly improved. Richard Rothstein’s work is one example.

    We haven’t found the solution to successfully overcoming the challenges of poverty and related social ills; nor to effectively educating English-language learners and in many cases children with disabilities. But overall, academic achievement has improved considerably.

    Part of the culprit for this community college remediation issue is the wrongheaded notion that all students must go to college, which leads to curtailing or eliminating vocational/technical/career education in high school.

    “What’s teacher bashing” — I was referring to Allen’s amusing image of the bread kneader who is “6’3?, 260 pounds and has a reputation for beating up people who annoy him. Oh, and the bakery’s in the old Soviet Union where complaints about the quality the bread are met with indifference.”

    But I think Allen is missing the issue here: “…it’s a choice between attracting the umbrage of the K-12 community dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo or taking a bloody hunk out of the community colleges…”

    No — a better choice would be to do the obvious, smart thing and offer meaningful, effective vocational/technical/career education in high school so students who weren’t prepared for or interested in college academic work had the training to go to work. (This is the way it’s done in every other developed nation.)

    • “We haven’t found the solution to successfully overcoming the challenges of poverty and related social ills…”

      Unfortunately, there is no solution here. If your culture and your personal priorities are screwed up, nothing can save you, try as society might.The only way out of this trap is to reject the culture whose priorities got you into that mess, and go with a culture whose priorities are in the right places.

    • So which one is it Caroline? Significantly improved or we haven’t found the solution to successfully overcome the challenges of poverty?

      See how those are sort of mutually exclusive, right? We could either have “significantly improved” or we could have those unsuccessfully overcome challenges of poverty which means there hasn’t been much significance to the improvement.

      Things have gotten better and they haven’t gotten better? Got it.

      It’s also nice that you’re willing to concede that only part of the responsibility for the need for so much in the way of remediation is a result of the vastly oversold value of a degree but let’s not lose sight of what institution is tasked with stuffing the knowledge into those dim, teenage heads to preclude the need for remedial classes. That would be the K-12 system in case I’m being a bit opaque.

      Oh, and let me explain why your red herring about the deplorable state of voc-ed isn’t going to fly.

      It’s just another excuse for failure and the electorate’s clearly running out of patience with excuses, showing no sign of returning to the state of blessed apathy the public education system’s come to depend upon for much of it’s existence. Solutions that’ll take effect some time in the indeterminate future just won’t do and neither will warnings about taking precipitous actions issued by the folks who are pretty happy with the current state of affairs. The authority granted to elected officials and delegated to the professionals has been misused. The faith extended to the same people’s been shown to have been misplaced.

      It’s the rescission of both that’s in the process of occurring and not in some vague future but right now.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        So which one is it Caroline? Significantly improved or we haven’t found the solution to successfully overcome the challenges of poverty? See how those are sort of mutually exclusive, right?

        Sort of. If my income goes from $30,000 to $35,000, it has significantly improved. However, I have not found the solution to successfully overcome the challenge of buying a million dollar mansion.

        Catherine is absolutely right. The goal of turning every 18-year-old in the United States into a legitimate college student is ridiculous. It is unattainable, and it undervalues all the useful work which does not require a lot of academic achievement. And, to go all moralistic, it undervalues all the people who do that work.

        • Well said, Roger. Allen tends to live in a rather myopic and illusory world in which the successes of education don’t count if they don’t meet 100% of his expectations. If one student fails, or 10% in one school, or 20% of all schools, then the hundreds of thousands of high school students doing college level work (AP/IB) in high school and going on to fabulous success in college literally don’t matter.

          That’s why few rational solutions or progress come from him.

        • So it’s a significant improvement that’s utterly insignificant. That clears things right up.

          And of course there was an over-emphasis on college preparation, of course that’s a problem but what a wonderful scam, hey?

          The colleges love it because it funnels lots more students, each of which is covered in money and just ripe for the plucking, into the colleges. The K-12 system thinks it’s peachy because voc-ed’s a big pain in the butt and the emphasis on academic subjects allows for a de-emphasis on voc-ed. The parents love it because they have visions of their bundle of joy ascending the income ladder. Other then the fact it’s a massive con game everyone’s happy.

          Well, everyone’s happy until the tale starts to unravel as it’s in the process of doing.

          • I disagree that the “K-12 system thinks it’s peachy” — every teacher i know agrees with me that “college or shame” is a crazy trip to la-la land. And many parents would love it if their kids were offered voc-ed options in high school and are befuddled by the “college or shame” system. Also, in most cases the parents have to deal with the financial issues of college. It’s definitely out of touch to say they “love it.”

    • We haven’t found the solution to … effectively educating English-language learners

      Excuse me?  Once upon a time, the children arrived speaking Italian and Polish and German and learned English on their own.  They were educated quite effectively, judging from the results.

      Today they arrive speaking Spanish and Mixtec and the like, and have astronomical dropout rates even when given bilingual ed and other assistance.  If the results of the students “left behind” in their home countries are compared to those here (e.g. USA Hispanic PISA reading score average 466, Mexico 425), we can be all but certain that the schools are not the problem.  It’s the students.

  5. Too many teachers are threatened with loss of their jobs for not passing enough students – particularly if those students failing are minorities.

    In most systems, the noob teacher is the one that gets the classes of unprepared, unskilled students. If you threaten him/her, the pressure usually works.

  6. Our K-12 system produces a product of which some (Larger or Smaller Number) are defective. Why not send the product back to the local school district (grade 13?) for remediation?

    Why, in the name of God, are others expected to complete the work in progress?

    Regards

    JJ

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Because the local school district will (a) most likely fail again, and (b) spend some money on this remediation rather than on the new students. (b) shortchanges the new students. It isn’t like we are going to give this school district more money.

    • Sean Mays says:

      Education is a work in progress, it’s never done; but it’d be nice perhaps to hold those responsible in the first place responsible?

      But seriously; for some segment of the kids, and we can debate how big a segment this is; it just won’t work. We’re giving away the education for free – either it’s worthless, or it’s priceless. There are a segment of kids who take the first view and in their case; I’d argue that putting a price on it actually creates a motivation to learn. Perhaps too late, but still. As a thought experiment I like to imagine the government sending cash stipends to families to pay for education. When you walk into Algebra I class, you leave a couple bucks in the till; coin must pass. We solve some of the agency problem and you have skin in the game. Somebody brush off the micro economics of that please; it’s been better than 20 years.

      Final observation. Every year I’d buy a couple gross of pencils so kids had something to write with on exam day. By early in the 2nd semester, no more pencils. The kids would borrow them (good!) but then snap them into pieces at the end of class and leave the trash on the floor (bad). Not every kid in that remedial ed is the fault of the schools. Blaming the teacher is counter productive; we as parents and as a society have set up crazy incentives and let it spiral out of control. Teachers who give honest grades are about as welcome as Cassandra.

      • “But seriously; for some segment of the kids, and we can debate how big a segment this is; it just won’t work. We’re giving away the education for free – either it’s worthless, or it’s priceless…”

        VERY true. This is the truth no one wants to admit. For some people, learning and knowledge has no interest for them, and NEVER WILL. And NOTHING you do or try to do will ever change that. Period.

        • And what if there were vocational training and those students had learned plumbing or hairdressing or welding in high school? Of course there will be some utter screwups who won’t do anything — but far fewer than if you judged everyone by whether they were ready for and motivated enough to succeed in college academic courses.

          • Sean Mays says:

            I’d love to have viable vocational educational training available as an option; I’m sure it would ameliorate many of the issues. Not all, but I can believe many.

  7. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Everyone who graduates from high school should not go to college. That doesn’t mean some students don’t deserve to graduate from high school. The problem is linking the first with the second.

    These remedial classes have existed for a very long time — it’s not like they’re a new development.

  8. Why are some of you saying that it’s a failure in our high school system? In California, students have to pass the CAHSEE to graduate. High school graduation does NOT mean “ready for college”.

    Would this be economic suicide? Maybe. But if so, then maybe the schools aren’t worth funding.

    You can’t be serious. They aren’t accepting everyone because they need the money. It costs money to let in these students. They accept everyone because any standard would have unacceptable racial impact.

    People who blame the teachers, or who protest that teachers can’t fail students are missing the point. First, the students have no choice in most schools. They can’t opt out of these advanced classes. So if you fail them, you are kicking them out of high school, ultimately. Pretty cruel.

  9. Ponderosa says:

    The root of the problem is fuzzy thinking among us educators. We think those kids who flunk year after year will still be OK if they “get it in gear” when they’re 18. But they won’t be. We don’t grasp how essential vast KNOWLEDGE is for becoming a competent reader and writer. A kid who doesn’t know anything is going to be lost in college, no matter how much native smarts she has. And vast knowledge cannot be acquired quickly; it needs to be built brick-by-brick, day-by-day for a dozen years prior to college. Until more teachers grasp this, they’ll continue to falsely believe that promoting these kids is more humane than harmful. Maybe ending remedial classes will help expose the abject failure of our “no retention” approach.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      Can I get an Amen?

      • Second that. Please, let’s end journaling, invented spelling, readers’/writers’ workshops and all of the practices that avoid explicit teaching of phonics, spelling, grammar and composition. Errors need to be corrected daily, before they become ingrained.(Also, journaling used to be called keeping a diary and it wasn’t done in school. All kids need to finish 8th grade able to do ordinary writing correctly and spell-check doesn’t get it done. I see lots of its/it’s. there/their/they’re, flair/flare mistakes and their many cousins. Waiting until HS to teach writing is a complete failure; as Ponderosa says, it takes over a decade of daily work.

        • I was a newspaper copy editor for 15 years, editing baby boomers like me, “greatest generation” veterans and many, many others born, say, before 1975. I saw a constant stream of it’s/its, there/their/they’re, flair/flare etc. etc. too. Here in San Francisco, the Chronicle has a bizarre tradition of believing that a bicycle is propelled by “peddling,” which has existed since WWII vets were on the copy desk. Entire articles about bicycle-related subjects have used that spelling all the way through. At the San Jose Mercury News, it was my suggestion that led to the spellcheck on the now-long-gone electronic newspaper composition system flagging homophones, because the writers were so chronically befuddled by them — and it was absolutely not the case that younger writers had more trouble with this than the geezers.

          Kids learn in different ways. I believe spelling should be corrected, but on the other hand, I see very little kids spelling words as they hear them, sometimes when they’re writing for the joy of it. My 5-year-old neighbor (who is just finishing her K year in a San Francisco public school) wrote quite a sophisticated poem (at home, not at school) just for fun a couple of weeks ago, but she spelled some words as she hears them. Her understanding of phonetics was quite acute. But only a total a*****e would chide her and correct her for the misspellings under those circumstances. Journaling is about getting kids comfortable with writing, though I agree with the criticism that it’s very girl-focused. Part of this is about attempting to get kids (like my 5yo neighbor) to love writing rather than condemning them to fear and loathe it with the “crack the whip” approach.

          I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s not students who were journaling away and using the sounds they heard to invent spellings for the poems they wrote at 5 who are filling up those remedial classes. It’s students with no books in their homes, or no homes to put books in, and parents who may not even be able to write in their native language, let alone English.

          • Thanks for the laugh – i’ve never encountered the peddling phenomenon. Obviously, there’s some wiggle room on the corrections, according to age, but no reason for honors 3rd-5th graders in an affluent suburb to be allowed errors. I had to do the correcting for my kids, and, by HS, they were glad I did. Fortunately, they were reading good-quality books, both fiction and non-fiction, which helped their overall writing.

  10. The question is whether embedded remedial work will fix the problem. Our community colleges are required to admit (almost) any high school graduate. They have different levels of remediation. This is what they say about their use of Accuplacer.

    “The benefit of mandatory placement testing is that Academic Advisors/Counselors are better equipped to place students into courses that will strengthen their academic potential, challenge their abilities, and maximize their academic success.”

    Embedded remediation just hides the problem and pushes the consequences off until later. It also hurts the students who are properly prepared. They would be better off providing free tutors for these students rather than embedding the problem. The fact that kids don’t know the importance of Accuplacer is just silly. That can be fixed without resorting to embedding.

    CCSS is suposed to make it more clear in K-12 whether kids are on track for no remediation, but I don’t know why they don’t just look at what the colleges are using (like Accuplacer) for their cutoff points. Why did CCSS have to create their own world? If no remediation was the goal, then why didn’t they start with what colleges are using for their definitions? Rather than do some vague sort of “workplace analysis”, they could have made a list of degrees and worked backwards from that. If you want to be a marine biologist, you should look at the expectations for that track. It doesn’t do much good if you get into college with no remediation and find that you have little chance of getting through the math requirements for the career you want.

    • BTW, isn’t embedded remediation the same thing as differentiated instruction, which got them there in the first place? Just keep pumping them along and give them a piece of paper in the end. Then we can force employers to embed remediation (called training) in their jobs because the kids have learned how to learn. They have the piece of paper to prove it. They are life-long learners. They are happy and motivated. Tra la la di dah … waiter.

  11. The only problem with vocational education in high school (yes, it was still around when I attended high school in the late 70’s) is that most programs which would provide students with a vocation right out of high school (plumbing, HVAC, and some medical tech careers, or automotive tech) usually require a lot more training than can be crammed into 4 years of high school.

    Most community colleges offer the above programs as two year degree programs (Assoc. of Applied Science), and usually if a student cannot handle high school level coursework, they’re going to fall flat on their rear end attempting the above programs (not to mention, if they are into the automotive tech or medical tech track, these programs usually have certification exams one is REQUIRED to pass before they can actually be employed).

    Vocational ed is a great thing, but needs to be looked at in a realistic manner. If students need remedial education at a community college, what makes anyone think they’ll be able to succeed in vocational track programs?

    • My FIL was principal of a vo-tech HS, so I am well-aware that this is not an option for the lazy, unprepared or low-ability. However, there are kids in HS who simply lack interest in the college-prep-for all curriculum but would be motivated to work hard enough to get into a vo-tech program. At the MS level, teachers and guidance counselors should communicate the options and stress the benchmarks for entry into various programs, and the ES should be pushed to ensure that more kids are mastering fundamental knowledge and skills.

      Of course, the k-12 system would have to lose its disdain for vo-tech and change the credentialing process for vo-tech instructors. Requiring a college degree and ed courses to teach HVAC, auto mechanics, cosmetology, nursing, medical assisting, surgical tech etc is completely ridiculous and unnecessary. The last is probably the best argument for keeping vo tech as a part-time component of the last 3 years of HS, but in a CC setting, rather than run by the k-12 system. I could see it as a vo-tech addition to MN’s excellent PSEO program, which allows HS kids to take college classes. This would also enable kids from a number of schools to enter these programs. BTW, I could teach in college – including the PhD level – but am unqualified to teach anything in k-12.

      • @Bill, what makes anyone think kids who aren’t successful academically could succeed at vocational ed? Because it works that way, successfully, in every other developed nation, and used to work that way, successfully, in this country until we abandoned vocational ed for the unrealistic notion that all students can and must be forced to do college prep in high school and must attend college or be branded and shamed as failures (and given no other option).

        Even if it’s true that many skilled careers would require additional training after high school, students would STILL have the great head start of the training they’d gotten in high school. I don’t see how that’s a valid objection at all.

        Reality amply demonstrates that many students who aren’t interested in/equipped for college succeed at vocational ed that prepares them for skilled jobs. Your view is that if they can’t succeed at college prep they’ll be a bust at vocational ed too. If you really believe that despite ample evidence to the contrary, do you just assume that every student who isn’t equipped for and interested in college is a loser, a failure and doomed to life in the underclass?

        • Genevieve says:

          I’m curious what level of vocational education you are thinking of. If you are talking about short term certificate programs, I could see this work for a large portion of the high school population. CNA, Phlebotomist, child care worker, etc. However, these certificates lead to low paying jobs.

          for the well paying vocational careers, the classes require lower college level work. For example, my brother-in-law has an AAS in automotive technology. He had to get a C+ in College Physics (equivalent to AP Physics B). Most degrees require at least College Algebra (high school Algebra 2) and 1-2 semesters of English. Students that can’t handle fractions or a basic 5 paragraph essay can’t even get into the decent vocational programs (Nursing and Dental Hygiene require English 101 and anatomy classes before being placed on the waiting list.

          Vocational education could do wonders for the middle group of students that have high school skills. Currently, many attend college and drop out. In Iowa, students can take these types of classes in high school through dual enrollment with community colleges. I think this is a better model than trying to bring back vocational education to the high schools. I also think that generally the community college is better able to provide knowledgeable teachers in the field than the school district. However, I live in a state that doesn’t really have problems with long waiting lists and students waiting to get into necessary community college classes (with the exception of nursing and dental hygiene).

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Genevieve touches on something that I don’t think gets nearly enough attention. Are even vocational training programs overly academic?

          My next door neighbor recently graduated from the high school where I teach phyiscs. He is now a very good and successful automotive technician. He took a physics course in high school that was well below AP Physics. He was not interested in further physics or further academics. However, he is interested in engines and drive trains and all that stuff.

          I strongly suspect that requiring prospective technicians to take and pass an AP-level pysics course is unnecessary. Worse than that–much worse than that–it keeps out the very people who would most benefit from the program and who are failed by the present “everyone go to college unless you’re a loser” mentality.