Posts tagged ‘unprepared for college’

June 27, 2014

Even in affluent areas, many high school graduates are not ready for college

by Grace

Even in one of the most prosperous and highly educated counties in the United States, less than half of high school graduates are ready for college.

Only 48% of Westchester County high school graduates are prepared to do college-level work.  This measure is based on students scoring “at least 75 on their English Regents exam and at least 80 on a math Regents exam”.

For my local high school, located in Westchester County, 64% of graduates are considered college ready.  This is a school district that spends about $25,000 per student each year and enjoys a student/teacher ratio of 14:1.

Using AP participation figures, US News determined that my local high school has a College Readiness Index of 44.5

On a national basis “SAT scores indicate ‘most freshmen aren’t academically prepared for college'”, so it appears this problem is not limited to high schools near me.

Are these college readiness numbers surprising?  Should they be higher, given the resources being devoted to education?  Or is it unrealistic to expect higher percentages of college-ready high school graduates, even in some of the most affluent areas of the country?

Some possible reasons for the low number of high school graduates who are prepared to do college-level work:

  1. The measures are flawed and do not give an accurate representation.
  2. Teaching and/or curriculum is mediocre, or worse.
  3. Schools do no place sufficient focus on academic goals, specifically on preparing students for college.
  4. We’re not spending enough on education.
  5. The money we spend on education is used inefficiently.
  6. No matter the demographics and despite how much a school tries, a certain percentage of high school graduates will never be ready for college work.
  7. “Kids these days.”
  8. Parents are not doing enough to support their children’s education.

I dismiss the first reason listed, having some familiarity with the New York State tests used to measure college readiness.  A high school student on the college-prep track should definitely be able to meet the scores required.  These tests are notoriously easy and/or graded on a very forgiving curve.

Achievement levels do not correlate closely with money spent on education, so I cannot see #4 being an important reason.

The rest of the listed reasons probably play some role in creating the disappointingly low college-readiness figures.  In theory, schools have the most control over remedying reasons 2, 3, and 5.  In practice, most experiments innovations that schools implement only seem to make things worse.

———

Gary Stern and Dwight Worley, “Local high school grads not up to more ambitious state goals”, The Journal News, June 23, 2014.

Graduation Rate Data – June 23, 2014, New York State Education Department

March 12, 2014

Public universities want more ‘smart students who can pay’

by Grace

Public colleges and universities have shifted their financial aid priorities away from need-based to merit-based awards.  Low-income students are feeling the brunt of this change, but pressure on schools to admit only college-ready students and to raise revenue will probably cause this trend to continue.

Public colleges are turning away from their mission to offer access to an affordable college education for all students.

A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that, from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants—as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts—to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.

Universities feel the dual pressures of raising their revenues and ratings.

Why have public universities across the nation shifted their aid?

“For some schools, they’re trying to climb to the top of the rankings. For other schools, it’s more about revenue generation,” said Donald R. Hossler, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington.

To achieve those goals, colleges use their aid to draw wealthier students—especially those from out of state, who will pay more in tuition—or higher-achieving students, whose scores will give the colleges a boost in the rankings.

Private colleges have been using such tactics aggressively for some time. But in recent years, many public colleges have sought to catch up, doing what the industry calls “financial-aid leveraging.”

The math can work like this: Instead of offering, say, $12,000 to an especially needy student, a college might choose to leverage its aid by giving $3,000 discounts to four students with less need, each of whom scored high on the SAT and who together will bring in more tuition dollars than the needier student will.

Those discounts are often offered to prospective students as “merit aid.”

The student profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Ed article offered a clue to the reason many low-income students are losing out.  They are academically unprepared for college-level work.

Ms. Epps had a combined SAT score of 820 on mathematics and critical reading…

That score is below the College Board SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, indicating a lack of “skills and knowledge that research demonstrates are critical to college and career readiness”.  The same low SAT scores that disqualify some students for merit aid also signal they are at high risk for dropping out of college.

Problem should be addressed before the college years.

The answer is not to give more need-based aid to students who are not prepared for college, but to do a better job of educating students to be college and career ready.  That is the job of K-12 education and community colleges.

Related:  Increasing college merit aid decreases enrollment of minority and low-income students (Cost of College)

November 8, 2013

Dumbing down algebra in high school leads to remedial classes in college

by Grace

Passing Algebra II in high school used to be a reliable indicator of college readiness, but not anymore.

… taking and successfully completing an Algebra II course, which once certified high school students’ mastery of advanced topics in algebra and solid preparation for college-level mathematics, no longer means what it once did.  The credentialing integrity of Algebra II has weakened.

This is the conclusion reached by Tom Loveless in his recently released Brookings report, The Algebra Imperative: Assessing Algebra in a National and International Context.

Pushing more students to take higher level math courses has resulted in an increase in students completing Algebra II.

Percentage of 17 Year-Olds who Completed Second Year Algebra (1986-2012)
1986 —– 44%
2012 —– 76%

Look what happened to test scores over the same period.

 NAEP Math, 17 Year-Olds who have Completed Second Year Algebra (1986-2012)

20131105.COCAlgebra2Scores1


Research indicates too many unprepared students are being pushed to take advanced math.

Foundational problems begin in elementary school, and by middle school many poorly prepared students are enrolled in Algebra I.  California recently abandoned its ill-advised experiment of requiring algebra for all eighth-graders after finding that aggressively pushing low achievers into higher-level middle school math courses hurt their likelihood of math success in high school.

In the end, the transition to college unmasks the charade….

Students graduate high school unprepared for college-level math.

… students are taking advanced, college-prep courses, passing them with good grades, and yet do not know the advanced subject matter signified by the titles of the courses they have taken….

The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study (HSTS) found that high school graduates in 2005 earned more mathematics credits, took higher level mathematics courses, and obtained higher grades in mathematics courses than in 1990. The report also noted that these improvements in students’ academic records were not reflected in twelfth-grade NAEP mathematics and science scores. Why are improvements in student coursetaking not reflected in academic performance, such as higher NAEP scores?

“Counterfeit” math courses hurt students and waste resources.

The researchers found that course titles often don’t mean what they say.  NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley summarized the study’s main finding in an interview with Education Week, “We found that there is very little truth in labeling for high school Algebra I and Geometry courses.”[iii]

As unprepared students flow through a series of counterfeit courses, the entire curricular system is corrupted.  Algebra II teachers are expected to teach mathematics to students who passed Algebra I with good grades but who, in reality, have not mastered elementary grade concepts that are fundamental to understanding algebra.  Parents get false signals about how well their sons and daughters are prepared for college.   Schools misallocate resources dedicated to remedial programs by assuming that students know material that they, in fact, do not know.

It is estimated that half of four-year college freshman take remedial classes.

In the end, the transition to college unmasks the charade.  In California, the California State University System draws students from the top one-third of graduating seniors.  In 2012, about 30% of entering freshmen taking the Entry Level Math test failed the exam and were placed in remedial math classes, despite earning a mean GPA of 3.15 in college prep high school programs.  That doesn’t make sense.  Good grades in tough courses, yet remediation was needed.

The problem is not confined to California.  Nor is it limited to mathematics.  A report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE) estimates that about half of all four-year college freshmen must take remedial classes….

More testing could help?  Loveless suggests that having high school students take Algebra I and II computerized adaptive tests, which permit “accurate assessments at varying levels while lessening test burden from excessive questions”, could be a way to begin to restore the “credentialing integrity” of these college prep courses.

Related:

October 11, 2013

SAT scores indicate ‘most freshmen aren’t academically prepared for college’

by Grace

only 43 percent of SAT takers among this year’s freshmen are ready for the academic rigors of college studies.

College readiness is determined by meeting the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark score of 1550.

… The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher, which in turn is associated with a high likelihood of college success. Studies show that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to persist beyond the first year of college and complete their degree.


A consistent pattern over the last few years:

20131004.COCSATCollegeBenchmark1

SAT math scores have stagnated over the last six years while reading scores have slipped.

Leaders and laggards among SAT test-takers

Students planning to major in some of the liberal arts and sciences performed significantly better than many who are aiming at more vocationally oriented degrees. Students wishing to major in multi/interdisciplinary studies earned the highest combined SAT score (1757), followed by the physical sciences (1673), English language and literature (1665), and social sciences (1661).

Significantly lagging behind were students hoping to major in three of the most popular fields — education (1442), psychology (1484), and business management and marketing (1497). Some of the lowest scores came from  students wanting to major in parks and recreation (1328) and construction trades (1274).

Related:

May 14, 2013

‘Pell Grants Shouldn’t Pay for Remedial College’

by Grace

Michael Petrilli argues that Pell Grants should not be used to pay for remedial college courses.

 … A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system.

Current Pell Grant spending is wasteful.

About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.

A proposed solution

What if the government decreed that three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit-bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?

Possible positive effects:

  • More resources could go to ambitious students, giving them an incentive to work hard to prepare for college-level work.
  • K-12 schools would become more accountable if they knew their graduates would only received college assistance if they were ready for college.
  • Colleges would become more selective, rasing their standards of learning.
  • Pell Grant money could be focused on the most qualified students, improving their chances of graduation.

In sum, disqualifying the use of Pell grants for remedial education would substantially reduce the gap between the number of students entering higher education and the number completing degrees.

Possible negative effects:

Yes, there are obvious downsides. Most significantly, many students wouldn’t be able to afford remedial education and thus would never go to college in the first place. Millions of potential Pell recipients — many of them minorities — might be discouraged from even entering the higher-education pipeline. Such an outcome seems unfair and cuts against the American tradition of open access, as well as second and third chances.

Then again, it’s not so certain that these individuals are better off trying college in the first place. Most don’t make it to graduation….

Perhaps the greatest risk is that colleges would respond to the new rules in a perverse manner: by giving credit for courses that used to be considered “remedial.”  …  would further dilute the value of a college degree.

Petrilli suggests the potential upside is sufficiently compelling to warrant a pilot program that would limit Pell Grants only to students ready to do college-level work.  

Perhaps offer the deal to an entire state. Study what happens. My guess is that it would have a salutary effect on the K-12 system, on higher education and on college-completion rates. Let’s find out.

Related:

May 2, 2013

Are colleges exploiting remedial students?

by Grace

It’s a scam for colleges to accept students unprepared to do college-level work according to Naomi Schaefer Riley.

… colleges are regularly admitting students who aren’t ready for college-level work. In 2012, for instance,of the 250,000 who took the ACT (the main alternative to the SAT), only 52 percent scored as college-ready in reading, only a quarter as ready in reading, English, math and science. Yet many started school anyway.

Results? Well, the University of California reported a couple of years ago that fully half of its freshmen needed remedial work in either English or math.

You can blame the high schools that graduate 18-year-olds without teaching them what they need — but colleges that admit them are hardly innocent.

Remedial students are doubly hurt.  They do not receive college credit for remedial courses, and they are more likely to drop out without ever earning a degree.

Related:  Ohio to stop state funding for college remedial courses (Cost of College)

March 13, 2013

Quick Links – Washington State pension trouble; NYC high school grads need remedial help; teacher evaluations are ‘costly experiment’ …

by Grace

◊◊◊  Washington State’s public pension may be in trouble.

The problem, similar to that in other states, has to do with the way pension benefits are valued.

Public pensions such as Washington’s operate under special accounting rules, one of which allows them to assume a long-term rate of return on their investments. Most plans have picked a rate between 7 and 8 percent; all but one of Washington’s plans assume 7.9 percent.

That assumed return is significant, because another special rule lets public plans use it as their discount rate — something corporate pension plans were forced to abandon nearly two decades ago.

Critics such as Munnell and Biggs say this rule ignores the fact that pension benefits are effectively almost as guaranteed as state bonds. That, they say, means they should be valued similarly to bonds.

“The way to value a stream of promised benefits is with an interest rate that reflects the riskiness of the promised benefits themselves, not the expected returns,” Munnell said.

This story is being ‘repeated all across the nation’ according to Walter Russell Mead.

… It’s as well-written a summary of a pension crisis story as you’re likely to get, and this is a story that’s being repeated all across the nation. Then, if you haven’t already, have a look at how much you or your loved ones are relying on generous promises made by state bureaucrats to fund your retirement—and start asking some hard questions.

◊◊◊  Most NYC High School Grads Need Remedial Help Before Entering CUNY Community Colleges (CBS New York)

Officials told CBS 2′s Kramer that nearly 80 percent of those who graduate from city high schools arrived at City University’s community college system without having mastered the skills to do college-level work.

In sheer numbers it means that nearly 11,000 kids who got diplomas from city high schools needed remedial courses to re-learn the basics.

◊◊◊  New York teacher evaluations are a “’grand and costly experiment’ with limited benefits”.

N.Y. schools’ teacher-eval costs outpace federal grants

ALBANY — New York’s small-city, suburban and rural school districts expect to spend an average of $155,355 this year to implement the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation plans, a report Thursday from the state School Boards Association found.

The one-year costs outpace the four-year federal grant provided for funding the program by nearly $55,000, according to an analysis of 80 school districts outside the state’s “Big Five.”

“Our analysis … shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” said Timothy Kremer, the association’s executive director. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”

The evaluation system is a requirement for receiving funds from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. In 2010, New York was awarded $700 million in Race to the Top grants. About half of the funding will go to local districts over four years to implement the evaluation system and other initiatives.

◊◊◊  20,000 illegal aliens apply for college financial aid under California’s new Dream Act.

More than 20,000 college-bound students are seeking state financial aid for the first time under California’s new Dream Act laws that allow them to get the help despite their immigration status.

While far from a complete picture, that number is the best indicator yet of how many students hope to benefit from a pair of laws that could radically change the college experience for a generation of students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally when they were young — the same group that has taken center stage in the national immigration reform debate.

November 13, 2012

College only pays off for ‘individuals who are bright and motivated’

by Grace

A college degree is not a worthwhile investment for everyone, but it can pay off for the right kinds of students.

James Heckman, the Nobel Prize–winning economist, has examined how the returns on education break down for individuals with different backgrounds and levels of ability. “Even with these high prices, you’re still finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated,” he says. On the other hand, “if you’re not college ready, then the answer is no, it’s not worth it.” Experts tend to agree that for the average student, college is still worth it today, but they also agree that the rapid increase in price is eating up more and more of the potential return. For borderline students, tuition hikes can push those returns into negative territory.

If college only pays off for ‘individuals who are bright and motivated’, should we establish better standards to make sure that taxpayer funds only be spent on students who have a good chance of generating a good return on investment?  Instead of “bright and motivated” I would prefer to describe these students as “prepared and motivated”, although it’s also true that a minimum level of ability is probably needed for most college-level work.  In any case, poorly motivated high school graduates who are unprepared for the rigors of college work should not be wasting taxpayer money taking remedial college classes.  These students are squandering both money and time, and run a high risk of graduating with student loan debt but with no degree to show for their efforts   If anything, these “borderline” students would be better served by other types of assistance that would help them along on an alternative path to a self-sustaining job.

* James Heckman has studied the economics of investing in early childhood education.

September 19, 2012

Quick Takes – Teens not worried about retirement saving, MOOCs accepted for college credit, most students not ready for college, and more

by Grace

—  Nearly 40% of Generation Z (ages 13 to 22) expect to receive an inheritance and don’t believe they need to save for retirement.

Yikes!  Teens: Mom and Dad Will Leave Me Enough to Retire (USA Today)


—  ‘Colorado State Becomes the First American University to Accept MOOCs for Credit’

Udacity and EdX have set up a system for proctored final exams for their Massive Open Online Courses. The NYT reports that Colorado State University has become the first institution to accept such a proctored courses for university credit.  The NYT reports that several European universities have already done so. Given that hundreds of thousands of people are taking MOOCs, expect more to follow.
Jay P. Greene’s Blog


—  ‘ACT Reports Only 1 in 4 High School Students Ready for College’

Once again, the results showed that only one in four students are meeting all college readiness benchmarks in English, Reading, Math and Science, which is on par with The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 results….
Fastweb


—  ‘Ten Reasons to Ignore the U.S. News Rankings’

But the compiled data can be useful.

10. Who’s your Daddy? U.S. News actually does two separate things. First, it presents a huge amount of data about lots of schools, much of which can be quite useful. For example, it allows you to compare the SAT ranges or relative selectivity of a handful of schools in which you are interested. But the editors then go on to make judgments about the relative importance of each of these numbers and build these judgments into a formula.  But why should you accept the value judgments of a bunch of editors sitting in Washington, DC? You can take the numbers and devise your own rankings.
MInding The Campus


—  Head Start doesn’t work according to recently released report and as reported by Joe Klein.

We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.
Via Meadia

Walt Gardner thinks ” it would be a big mistake to dismiss the value of Head Start out of hand”.

August 7, 2012

69% of Americans believe ‘making college education affordable and available’ is important for next president

by Grace

According to a July 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll, 69% of Americans believe ‘making college education affordable and available’ is extremely/very important for next president.

There should have been a follow-up question asking exactly how the president should accomplish this.  Improving the nation’s public schools, considered important by 83% of respondents, would probably help make college available to more students, but I’m doubtful there’s very much the president can do in that regard.

Making college education “affordable and available”  was viewed as “extremely important” by 38% of Obama supporters and by 22% of Romney supporters.

HT TaxProf Blog

Related:  High school graduation goals do not include getting students ready for college (Cost of College)

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