Failing Our Students, and a Way Out
by Anthony Stasi
Aug 05, 2015 | 14772 views | 0 0 comments | 673 673 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's long been the talk about the best way to utilize our community colleges. Other than being stepping stone for a four-year degree, community colleges are useful for focusing on areas where we, as a country, are lacking, such as trade skills. Another potential use would be to pick up where high schools have failed.

Almost all community colleges have remedial courses, but those are specific to one class or two. What if there was an “extended high school diploma” that could take six months to achieve and would then validate what a high school diploma means?

After a young woman told her story to a reporter about her graduating high school without really earning it, the follow-up would be to assume that there are scores of kids who fall into this category.

Let's also include those who passed their classes, but did it by the skin of their teeth. When we add that up, there are way too many students who are moving to the next level without being prepared.

To blame this solely on social promotion is wrong. This is a result of policy making that focuses more on data than on humanity. Schools want to make their graduation numbers, but at what cost?

I realized this when teaching college freshmen. I would have some students who were clearly not ready for college. One student did not even understand what plagiarism meant. Can you fault a man for robbing a bank if he doesn't understand the concept of stealing?

That is how far back college professors have to reach in order to teach their courses. They first need to get their students up to speed before they can start the college course. It does not have to be this way.

High school students, in many ways, are smarter than ever before. I remember a former city commissioner with whom I once worked remarking that he would never get into Harvard today (he was a Harvard Law graduate).

The results are out of balance. Some students are brilliant, and many others write papers as though they are texting friends. The results are too lopsided.

When schools know a student is all but going to fail a semester and not graduate, there should be a contingency plan. A full semester of coursework at the community college level might be better than one remedial course where they just show up.

If they are weak in math, maybe we ask them to take three math courses, not just one remedial course. Students would have to pay for this, but that is part of failing and trying again. It is not supposed to be easy.

The new environment (college) would also be good, since the last one (high school) clearly did not work for the failing student. Students need to be around other serious students, and at least at the junior college level, they will be in a better place.

Forecasters have predicted a burst in what education policy people call the “college bubble.” In other words, there will be fewer people going to college in the next 50 years, due to the amount of debt and the lack of return on investment of higher education.

Therefore, there will be room on some college campuses to re-teach high school students who got the short end of the stick in poor performing high schools. This means we can make a high school diploma harder to achieve instead of easier. Wouldn't that be a nice change?

As for high schools that do not meet their numbers, that is something they need to work out.

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