Unprepared students, dumbed-down teaching

Community colleges have lowered reading, writing and math standards to avoid failing their poorly prepared students. Many high school graduates leave 12th grade to study 8th- and 9th-grade material in community college, writes the NCEE’s Marc Tucker. About a third are not ready for 8th-grade work.

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  1. This is the certain and totally predictable consequence of the push for ever-higher HS graduation rates. We need to get back to the old-fashioned idea that you don’t pass a grade unless and until you master real, grade-level work; period. That means a return to leveled classes, by subject, for all kids.

    • Now wait, there’s no law saying the colleges have to take these unprepared kids! We can have the highest graduation rate possible and totally content free students; but the colleges don’t have to TAKE these kiddos. What’s their incentive?

      If only there was a nationally normed test that could help us get a handle on whether or not these kids had mastered the material to do well. You know, something like “a score below 23 indicates that the student is not prepared for college level math.”

      Then the government and the colleges could adjust financial aid; saying “Timmy, you’re not a good risk, we won’t foot the bill; the colleges could decide how much aid to give out from their unrestricted scholarship pools to have Timmy on campus for other, non-academic reasons.”

      • “Now wait, there’s no law saying the colleges have to take these unprepared kids!”

        Not yet… But then again, we’re finding surprise after surprise in Obamacare as its fully unveiled… You could make the (weak) connection that, since education supposedly leads to longer life, denying education means denying health care (in a round about way)…

      • “…the colleges don’t have to TAKE these kiddos. What’s their incentive?”

        No secret there – their incentive is green, and it goes in a bank ~

        • Do you think that, 20 years from now, they’ll have remedial college classes teaching fractions, decimals, and long division? 😛 (Maybe that’s not so funny…)

        • Lee: Yeah, sorry, I knew, but can’t figure out how to use the Sarcastica font on this forum. It’s probably going to support some mid-level educrat more than sitting in the bank. As several regulars have noted: If you want more of something, subsidize it, less, tax it. Though I’m not sure how well that works with irrational consumers.

          Elim: You bet they’re teaching this now in the CC’s and above. In the science classes, I wouldn’t be surprised that they’re covering the metric system and Celcius to Fahrenheit conversion. I’ve tutored kids at nationally ranked HS’s (OK – top 1000 in US, but still!) who didn’t get the mole concept until March, but were off to college. Couldn’t do fractions, algebra or master subject verb agreement either. I’m also sure they’ve graduated.

  2. “Many high school graduates leave 12th grade to study 8th- and 9th-grade material in community college, writes the NCEE’s Marc Tucker. About a third are not ready for 8th-grade work.”

    This is all you need to know about how truly fundamentally broken our entire education system is in this country. This is just, simply put, a cluster—-.

  3. This is exactly why college should NOT be in the business of remediation, period.

    If you cannot do the following work as a freshman, you have NO business being in college, period:

    English 101/102 (6 credit hours)
    Poly Sci/US History (4 credit hours)
    Science (Biology/Chemistry/Geology/Physics/etc) 6-8 credit hours
    Sociology/Psychology/Economics/Philosophy (6 credit hours)
    Math (finite math, stats, precalculus, calculus, etc) 8 credit hours
    Multicultural/Arts/Foreign Lang (3-6 credit hours).

    Keep allowing people into college who don’t belong there will cause NOTHING but trouble, period…


  4. @ElimGarakDo you think that, 20 years from now, they’ll have remedial college classes teaching fractions, decimals, and long division? 😛 (Maybe that’s not so funny…)

    Yes. Until elementary school goes back to competently teaching the complete grade level curriculum to bright and gifted children, few students will have these math skills mastered. Colleges can’t stay in business without students, so they will extend the degree to six years and the students will pay to get the education they could not get in public school. Then they will default on their loans.

  5. I agree with Elim Garak, this is the output of a fundamentally broken system. Sure, there are lots of really excellent high schools out there, but there are also plenty of “just-push-’em-through-and-out” high schools that don’t educate worth a damn.

    I don’t know the mechanism to use, but schools that use public funds and graduate kids that don’t have an education should be considered failing in their fiduciary duties and liable, somehow. Of course, this means changing more than just the schools, but it needs to be done.

    • Rob: Please, it’s not just the schools. I’ve seen parents and kids fight tooth and nail for nice easy inflated grades. Woe be to many the teacher who stands up and says “This IS the standard, and you MUST meet it, or ELSE.” Please, until parents and kids can accept that not 100% can, neigh SHOULD, get A’s and endorse the schools no change will take place. Schools provide a good, they serve customers, the customers don’t WANT rigor; the schools happily deliver. Personal responsibility has to come into this too somewhere. Not everybody can be expected to drink the hemlock when given a choice.

      I was once telling my students about how Dallas ISD had implemented a policy where if more than 20% of the class was failing, the teacher would have to essentially place themselves on probation and write a turnaround plan. My students wanted to know what I’d do in that case (at that point, more than 20% were failing). I said, I’m good at math, I’d work a few easy grades in so only 19% failed; that intervention stuff is alot of work! (And of dubious efficacy.)


      Year after year, Americans say there’s something wrong with education in this country. But they rate THEIR schools just fine. Why is that?

      • We’ve been saying the same thing for the last quarter century or more.

        Parents, students, and educators should get the book:

        Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add

        by Charles J. Sykes and actually read the content from front to back (it will be a kick in the to many parents and educators, trust me).


      • Of course you’re right, that’s why I said, “Of course, this means changing more than just the schools”

        There are two distinct problems here: schools and our American culture. Schools have, in too many instances, gotten complacent and dumbed down. They themselves have lost sight of the values they should be teaching. Much worse, IMHO, American culture has lost sight of too many values, such as “education is good for you as a citizen, whether you need it for your job or not” and “the country can only be great if the citizens take their job as citizens seriously” and so on. We’re paying a terrible price for our modern focus more on social melioration than on individualism.

        I think that a prime purpose of government in a democracy is to balance the rights, responsibilities and privileges of the individual with the rights, responsibilities and privileges of the group. American culture used to hammer at the responsibilities, in particular, of the individual (see any old episode of Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best or hundreds of old black and white movies if you doubt this). We’ve changed to a focus on the privileges of the group (endless new “rights” for everyone, such as the “right to health care” and “the right to work” and the “right to a ‘living wage'”).

        There is nothing wrong with rights, but rights HAVE to come with individual responsibilities (expecting responsibility from a group is expecting a lot). To give someone rights without responsibilities is to invite the worst in human nature.

        A decline in the perception of each individuals’ responsibilities, coupled with an increase in their declared privileges (rights, that is), is by nature a recipe for absolute disaster.

        Lest you think that seeing the obvious (the above) means I have some great insight into the solution, let me say I have no clue. The train seems to have left the station, the genie is out of the bottle and I have no idea how to fix it.

      • It’s the same psychological problem that causes most Americans to say that Congress is bad – well, except for *their* two Congress members, of course. It’s why the “let’s clean house and get rid of all incumbents” never works – most people think their incumbent is OK, and it’s everyone else’s that’s the problem! We see the same thinking here in education, too…

        • Elim: I think your analogy is flawed. In the case of Congress, they’re doing a good job exactly because they bring in $1.25 in appropriations for every $1 in taxes paid. Sure, that behavior hurts us as a society in the end; but that’s WHY they were elected by their district, to bring home the bacon.

          In the end, where’s the $1.25 the districts are giving us? The kiddo’s get good (but meaningless) grades, but go to college and need remediation and/or flunk out. I don’t see the problems as being of the same type. I guess maybe it’s parallel in the same way as Mutual Assured Destruction was – District A is watering it down, guess we better keep up and pray the music doesn’t stop.