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.
Pell Grant recipients, who come from lower-income families, often start college in remedial classes and drop out before earning a degree. Requiring evidence of college readiness, such as SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a 2.5 grade point average in high school, would boost success rates, but limit access.
California leads the nation in poorly educated adults and in low-income workers, not a coincidence. Should community colleges take over adult education?
Can “novice learners” succeed in all-online courses? San Jose State is working with Udacity on three basic math courses — all online — with round-the-clock online tutors to answer questions.
Self-paced, online courses backed by data analytics could help community colleges get remedial students up to speed, said Khan Academy founder Salman Khan in a keynote speech at the American Association of Community College convention. Some community colleges are creating their own online tutorials, often geared to remedial students.
College readiness is in the eye of the beholder: 89 percent of high school teachers think their students are “well” or “very well” prepared for college in their subject, but only 26 percent of professors say first-year students are well prepared for entry-level courses, according to the 2012 ACT National Curriculum Survey.
Two-thirds of teachers who were aware of the Common Core State Standards said they will need to change their current curriculum no more than slightly in response to the standards, the survey found.
In Colorado, 40 percent of first-year college students required at least one remedial course in 2012, including 66 percent of students who enrolled in community colleges and 24 percent at four-year institutions. Among unprepared students, 51 percent required remediation in mathematics, 31 percent in writing and 18 percent in reading.
Weak math skills disqualify would-be workers, manufacturers say.
High school graduates applying for jobs at Tacoma’s General Plastics Manufacturing have to take a math test. The company makes foam products for the aerospace industry.
Eighteen questions, 30 minutes, and using a calculator is OK.
They are asked how to convert inches to feet, read a tape measure and find the density of a block of foam (mass divided by volume).
One in 10 pass the math test. And it’s not just a problem at General Plastics.
“Manufacturers are willing to train people about the specifics of their machines and technology,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of Work Force Central, a partnership of government, business, education and community organizations that trains workers in Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County. “But they can’t afford to hire someone who needs to relearn basic math.”
Math teachers know their students will need math knowledge in the real word, writes Darren, a high school math teacher, on Right on the Left Coast. But he’s turned off by the story’s “drooling over Common Core Standards. Many teachers ”doubt . . . the so-called cure.”
Having students write about math isn’t a real cure. Group work isn’t a cure. Collaboration requires everyone have some background knowledge on which to draw so everyone can contribute. I wouldn’t mind cutting a few topics out so we had more time to cover the remaining topics more deeply, but to insist on so-called discovery learning is an exceedingly inefficient use of instructional time.
Instead of trying to make math “fun” or “applicable”, perhaps we could consider instilling in students, or insisting on, some perseverance and a sense of responsibility, and maybe even some delayed gratification.
Employers would value those traits too, Darren believes.
Many students who slid through high school without really learning math enroll at community colleges with hopes of training for a job or eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. Placement in remedial math is the single biggest dream killer.
New York City high schools are flooding community colleges with unprepared students. Eighty percent need remedial reading, writing or math — especially math — when they enroll, up from 71 percent a few years ago. “Faculty members have been transformed into de facto high school teachers,” complains the Village Voice.
The city’s community colleges are trying intensive math catch-up courses to improve abysmal success rates for remedial math students.
In a remedial math workshop at Indiana’s Ivy Tech, students stack wooden blocks to visualize math concepts. Students learn basic skills and take college-level math in the same semester, which has tripled the pass rate.
At another community college, a hard-working special ed student fails remedial English for the fourth time. His professor thinks it’s hopeless.
California college students could bypass wait lists and earn credits online under a bill introduced by a Democratic legislative leader. State colleges and universities would be required to accept credits from faculty-approved online courses for about 50 high-demand, lower-level classes with long wait lists.
Nearly two-thirds of community college students place into remedial math. Half of students in Statway — Carnegie’s intensive, yearlong developmental math pilot –passed a college statistics course in the second semester. By contrast, only 5.9 percent of non-Statway remedial students at the same community colleges earned college math credit in their first year; that rose to 15.1 percent in two years.
In the “second-chance club,” dropouts, immigrants and people trying to start over must learn to write a thesis sentence, make verbs agree with subjects and master the comma to pass remedial English and move on to college-level courses.
A Wisconsin high school now works with employers to offer 22 dual-credit career classes in business, marketing and information technology. When seniors filled out surveys, three-fourths said they planned to enroll in four-year colleges and universities. It turned out half were going straight to the workforce with minimal skills; only 20 percent enrolled in four-year institutions.