NYC tracks grads’ college progress

New York City is telling high schools how well their graduates are doing at public colleges, including how many need remedial classes and how many drop out after the first semester, reports the New York Times. High schools are judged on graduation rates, in part, but not on graduates’ skills.

Illinois, Denver and Philadelphia also are tracking high school graduates to see how they do in college, reports the Times. Studies show many high school graduates falter in college because they lack basic reading, writing and math skills.

New York, like other cities, has made a considerable effort to improve its high school graduation rate — now 59 percent, up from 47 percent in 2005 — and push more of its students to enroll in college. But many of those students are stumbling in basic math and writing: 46 percent of New York City public school graduates who enrolled in one of the City University of New York two-year or four-year colleges in 2007 needed at least one remedial course, and 40 percent of them dropped out within two years.

At a third of the city’s 250 high schools, at least 70 percent of the graduates who went on to CUNY needed remedial help.

This is nothing new, community college instructors told the Times.

Elizabeth Clark teaches remedial writing at LaGuardia Community College to high school graduates who are unprepared to write a college essay.

“They don’t know how long it should be; they don’t know how to develop an argument,” Ms. Clark said. “They have very little ability to get past rhetoric and critically analyze what is motivating the writer, and you have to push them past simple binaries.”

There are also more basic problems, Ms. Clark said, such as students not knowing that each sentence must begin with a capital letter or using “u” instead of “you.”

. . . Susan L. Forman said that many of the issues have remained the same for the four decades she has taught remedial math at Bronx Community College, including students easily confused by fractions and negative numbers and becoming paralyzed when they are told they cannot use calculators.

What has changed, she said, is that students are often overly confident.

They don’t understand how much they don’t understand, she said.

Update: Chicago City Colleges can’t afford remedial classes, said Mayor Richard Daley, who called for limiting admissions to students prepared to do college-level work. Daley envisions offering remedial classes at alternative high schools. This would be a dramatic change, if it happens.