Reverse transfers need help to graduate

Reverse transfers — students who go from four-year to two-year schools — need help to graduate.

Texas community colleges will continue a campaign to increase graduation rates, despite losing Gates Foundation funding.

About Joanne

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  1. Joanne–and I ask this seriously, not sarcastically–do you ever think about how many of your CC stories involve the colleges spending tons more money on unprepared kids, and thinking this is the solution?

    • CCs don’t spend much more on remedial students than on prepared students, but there are so many remedial students that it does add up. Community colleges know what they’ve been doing is not a solution, which is why they’re trying different approaches.

      I’d like to see much more communication between community colleges and high schools on how many A/B and C grads aren’t prepared for math, reading and/or writing with specifics on which skills are lacking. Then the students should be told if they’re on the remedial track and what they could do about it.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        I’m a high school science teacher and it drives me crazy that we do almost nothing to find out how much we have succeeded in effecting long-term learning. Because we don’t, we don’t know what works and what doesn’t, what we should change and what we shouldn’t.

        We have some idea if we do mid-terms and finals, but I fear they largely test “memorize and forget.” Why do I say that? Because it is astounding how much students don’t know the following year that they supposedly learned the previous year.

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          Schools don’t even use the tools they already have in place. New Jersey, like some other states, has an exit exam (HSPA) given in the 11th grade. It’s a basic skills math and English test written at about the 8th grade level. While the skills ceiling maybe a bit too low, why not assign students classes in their senior year if they’ve passes the test but scored poorly (passing is something like 65%) on one or both sections? Why not assign remedial classes based on the HSPA not just for those who failed it, but for those that just slipped by? Firm up those skills while you still have them in high school.

      • lightly seasoned says:

        We do test our juniors and let them know if they are on the remedial track for community college — then we offer them the remedial community college reading course for their senior year (the teacher teaches it with us and at the cc). It makes a difference for the 12 kids who take it, but most students who are recommended to the remedial course don’t (at least four times that number).

  2. Agreed. I think it comes from the college-for-all mentality in k-12, plus a (reasonable) fear of the dreaded disparate impact lawyers and politicians. Both amount to a refusal to require real work and apply real standards, because the outcomes will not be equal. Sadly, money isn’t the answer – at k-12 or above.

  3. CCs don’t spend much more on remedial students than on prepared students, but there are so many remedial students that it does add up.

    Are you certain of this? At the CSU level, remedial students are eating up huge sums, and everything you’ve posted suggest they cost a great deal.

    I’d like to see much more communication between community colleges and high schools on how many A/B and C grads aren’t prepared for math, reading and/or writing with specifics on which skills are lacking. Then the students should be told if they’re on the remedial track and what they could do about it.

    As you know, I am very aware of remediation, and I’ve done work at my school(s) to raise teacher awareness. I’ve also spoken to many teachers about this.

    At the comprehensive high school level, the problem isn’t that the teachers assume the students are college-ready, but rather they don’t know specifically what they could do to boost a few more students over the line. So their awareness could help push a few more over, but not that many. That is, the community colleges and CSUs are accepting huge numbers of students that, in these teachers’ estimation, should not be in college. So awareness won’t help.

    I’ve spoken to teachers at schools like Summit and majority minority charter schools, and they could care less about remediation and what they could be doing. They are all about showing they’ve got students in a-g courses, or what they are calling those courses. That the students are illiterate isn’t terribly important.

    Colleges assume the problem is that these kids *could* have been made ready, that high school teachers just somehow ignorantly passed them on, unaware that the kids needed better skills. They also assume that all that needs to be done is teach the kids properly, and all will be fine.

    If they really, genuinely understood that the kids they think were just passed through were in fact the object of active intervention and numerous teachers trying to drum knowledge into their heads, maybe they’d realize that the real problem isn’t high school teachers, but their admissions standard.

    Of course, as I’ve said many times, that’s a whole separate can of worms.

    • “If they really, genuinely understood that the kids they think were just passed through were in fact the object of active intervention and numerous teachers trying to drum knowledge into their heads, maybe they’d realize that the real problem isn’t high school teachers, but their admissions standard.”

      But … the problem is that they have A/B/C grades in college prep courses, and yet can’t do college-level work, but need to repeat the same work, and often several semesters of it. I spent a few summers hand-grading mathematics placement tests for a university (recently), and many students had A/B grades in Precalc or Calculus and yet placed into Beginning or Intermediate Algebra.

      This *does* seem to indicate that they were ‘just passed’ at some point (or multiple points), without understanding the material. I think you might be working off a different definition of ‘just passed’ than others, though. I believe many people, when they say ‘just passed’ do not mean ‘the teacher just gave the student a mark’ but rather ‘the student was assigned a passing grade without having a passing-level mastery of the material’, which seems to be true. I don’t see why ignorantly passing them on is worse than knowingly passing them on.

      Now, blaming the teacher is probably silly. If the teacher is assigning passing grades to students who are nearly or completely clueless, there is undoubtedly some other pressure at work, whether it’s from politicians, parents, or administrators.

      Part of the ‘raising awareness’ is raising student awareness as well. If a student is under the impression that he’s doing well in getting ready for college due to getting Bs in his college prep courses, why should he work harder?

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        But … the problem is that they have A/B/C grades in college prep courses, and yet can’t do college-level work, but need to repeat the same work, and often several semesters of it. [...] This *does* seem to indicate that they were ‘just passed’ at some point (or multiple points), without understanding the material.

        Let me propose a radical explanation. Students who pass a math course can be put into three boxes:

        Box 1. They get it. They understand. They will be able to use it next year or the year after.

        Box 2. They sort of get it. With some reteaching and review, they will be able to use it–and if it is important enough to them, they may then understand it.

        Box 3. They don’t get it. However, with enough practice, they are able to memorize enough “recipes” to pass a test (as long as the test is within a few weeks of the practice). The recipes then fade. By the next year, it is almost as if they never took the course.

        The majority of passing students are in box 3. The second largest number are in box 2. The smallest number are in box 1. This is true whether the school is urban or suburban, whether the students are black or white or any other color.

        The people in box 3 are not “clueless.” In some ways, they are pretty clever. The did what they had to do to pass. They may be “clueless” about the content of the content of the course but fortunately for them, that wasn’t what was being tested.

        Why wasn’t “understanding” being tested? Because it is almost impossible to test. Testing for understanding is difficult and time-consuming. It may well be impossible to distinguish from “memorize then forget” unless the teacher tests after the course is over.

        Instead, we test as we go along and hope/pretend that we are testing understanding. At the same time, nobody wants a lot of students failing. Teachers feel like failures when that happens, and they know that a class of students who figure they are not going to pass will present major classroom management problems (a prison where everyone can get “time off for good behavior” runs much more smoothly than one with non-reducible sentences). Administrators won’t be pleased by failures, nor will the local community.

        So teachers will, over time, tweak their tests and curricula so that an unacceptable number of students do not fail. The same “college prep” class will be harder in a wealthy (“We moved here for the schools.”) suburban district than in a lower income suburb.

  4. Kiana, did you read my post? Read what I said about charter schools. Add in majority minority urban comprehensive schools (I just realized I wrote charter). Of course these schools are giving kids good grades when they are barely functional. There are schools like East Palo Alto Academy in which only 20% of the grade is based on demonstrated achievement.

    Comprehensive suburban high schools are quite different; rarely are non-functional kids given As or Bs. (Cs, yes.)

    Your entire post demonstrates exactly the kind of wrong-headed thinking I’m talking about. First, you think that the kids in question are capable of learning the math if they just work harder, and that they aren’t working harder because they don’t need to. This is simply not the case.

    The kids in question are incapable of learning the math, for the most part. Along the fringe, there are kids that could go from not quite functional to a little bit functional, but never to any impressive degree. Their teachers don’t suck. Their teachers are (again, for the most part) capable of teaching capable kids.

    So the only real issue is this: the system demands that kids with no interest or capability for math take advanced math. The system demands this because, if we let kids make their own choices, the results are unacceptably skewed by race.

    Therefore, teachers are faced with a choice. What do they do with the kids who are required to take the classes in which they have neither interest nor ability? There are several possible responses:

    1. Charter schools: charter schools are set up to commit fraud. That’s their purpose, to bleed off motivated and marginally capable kids and take credit for their “college readiness” by giving them transcripts of college prep courses with great grades. (I wrote about this for the Merc here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fremonthonors/message/525?var=1). There are two types of charter schools in this category. 1)The progressive schools, like Summit, whose actual purpose is to attract white middle achievers whose parents want a cheap alternative to private schools and have too many “brown kids” in their area and 2) majority/minority charter schools, which can be progressive (EPA) but are usually no excuses. However, in both cases, they flatly lie about the kids ability.

    2. Urban comprehensive schools–that is, schools that are 90% or higher black or hispanic, low income. These schools are barely functional, and kids who work hard will get an A. This is less an attempt to commit fraud and more a survival technique on behalf of the teachers.

    The schools above are responsible for the vast majority of fraudulent grades. There may be some rural areas that are passing on white kids, and some urban areas with a lot of Hmong or Laotian kids who are passing on hard workers, but it is much, much less of a problem because these schools don’t feel the same ideogical commitment to fake success.

    3. Suburban schools–say, 50-60 percent black or Hispanic, with 30% white or Asian. These schools do a really good job of educating blacks/Hispanics and aren’t given much credit for it. Teachers in these schools fall into one of two categories. They either are generous at passing (but not giving As) because they think it’s unfair to the kids to hold them to real standards when the kids have no choice. Or they are ruthless , fail kids for not doing homework, and “maintain high standards”. Eventually, their principals will do their best to fire them. (I know a principal who tried to evaluate teachers based on their grades to blacks and Hispanics. The effort was stopped by the union.

    At the heart of these bleats for higher standards and more accuracy is the utter ignorance of this fundamental reality: if teachers gave accurate grades based on demonstrated ability, the vast majority of blacks and Hispanics would fail. Full stop. And not just poor students (poor whites and Asians outscore non-poor blacks and Hispanics). Any school that even tried to do this would either be sued or shamed in the press for its bias in grading.

    • “Your entire post demonstrates exactly the kind of wrong-headed thinking I’m talking about. First, you think that the kids in question are capable of learning the math if they just work harder, and that they aren’t working harder because they don’t need to. This is simply not the case. ”

      I’m really struggling to figure out where you’re getting this. All I’m saying is that claiming that students aren’t ‘just passed’ (which you certainly seemed to be doing) is ridiculous.

      I think the only paragraph where I might possibly have implied they WERE all capable was in the last one. While I’ll surely admit some aren’t, some are. I’ve had students from your “option 2″ schools above who came in with a low degree of functionality do quite well in collegiate math classes, once they managed to overcome the fact that they’d never learned fractions. I’m definitely biased here because I see the most successful ones at the college.

      I’ll agree with you about the ridiculousness of forcing everyone to take advanced math regardless of interest or ability. I also agree with what you seem to be saying about attempting to force racially sensitive passing rates. I just disagreed with where you seemed to be implying that students weren’t passed through. If you intended to say something else, I do apologize.

    • You speak the truth, and the truth hurts. Hurts so badly, Cal, that if I were you I’d now be checking to see if you’re on any government lists… (And they keep many these days.) Will that post come back to haunt you next time you apply for a loan? Try to take a college class? Get on a plane, boat, or train? Get a passport to leave the country for a vacation? It’s a scary ‘Big Brother’ world we live in these days…

  5. Cal,

    So, are you saying that blacks and Hispanics are simply genetically inferior to whites and Asians? Are you a believer in eugenics? Does history back up this theory of yours? (i.e. the Roman and British Empires were white; the Mongol empire was Asian, etc.)

  6. No, I don’t, and it gets old to keep having this conversation. I neither know nor care *why* blacks and Hispanics have lower scores. I only know that the data doesn’t support the reasons that other people give (poverty, culture, blah blah blah).

    You’re the one who jumped to racial inferiority. Probably your favorite reason, huh?

    The only two issues are this: 1) my assertion that blacks and Hispanics would fail in huge numbers and 2) my assertion that such an outcome is intolerable, politically. Anyone who denies the truth of both of these is an idiot. Anyone who thinks that whites and Asians wouldn’t also fail, but in far fewer numbers, isn’t paying attention–it’s just not politically problematic.

    If you can’t figure that much out, don’t wander around calling other people racists.

    • Relax! I was agreeing with you just one post above. :) I didn’t mean for my post to sound like I was fishing; I was just curious, and wanted to go ahead and ask that question point blank to make sure I understood where you were coming from. I’m guessing by how quickly you got into defensive mode that you’ve been picked on for such assumptions in the past?

    • And no, it’s my least favorite reason. Though I DO think culture is the main culprit here; and culture is indepdenent of race, but does tend to glob in with certain groups. I think the blacks and Hispanics have subcultures that don’t value education in this country, and if their subcultures were to change in positive ways, I think it would have a huge effect on their kids’ performances in K-12 education…

  7. ” I neither know nor care *why* blacks and Hispanics have lower scores.”–on average, I mean. That is, there are many blacks and Hispanics who are very good at math. I’ve taught many. The achievement gap is focused on group performance, and is uninterested that many individuals of all races score high, low, and in between.

  8. As I’ve said in many prior postings, students who require remediation simply do NOT belong in a college environment (i.e. – admitted student). If the college wants to provide tutoring to GET the student to the point where they can handle first year college level coursework (English 101/102, Math (stats, finite, pre-calc), Science (Bio 101/Chem 101/Geology 101), Sociology/Psych/Philosophy/Econ, US History/Poly Sci), then that is the method that should be used.

    Meh