Three out of four graduates aren’t fully prepared for college and likely need to take at least one remedial class, according to the latest annual survey from the nonprofit testing organization ACT, which measured half of the nation’s high school seniors in English, math, reading and science proficiency.
Only 25 percent cleared all of ACT’s college preparedness benchmarks, while 75 percent likely will spend part of their freshman year brushing up on high-school-level course work. The 2011 class is best prepared for college-level English courses, with 73 percent clearing the bar in that subject. Students are most likely to need remedial classes in science and math, the report says.
» via The Washington Times
When 75% of freshmen require remedial classes, it is time to end the fiction of calling them “remedial.”
It isn’t that students aren’t ready for college, it is colleges that are not ready to accept reality and design curricula that meets students where they actually are, not where ivory tower elitists think students “should” be.
This doesn’t mean “lowering standards.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold high schools accountable for student learning outcomes. It simply means that for better or worse the norm has very obviously shifted, and it does students a disservice to label them “deficient” when they are quite literally “average.”
Starting a college experience branded with a scarlet letter “R” has a direct and immediate effect on student learning and success. Students quickly succumb to impostor syndrome, convinced that they are far less capable of learning than everyone they see around them, when in fact most are nothing worse than “normal.” When their own expectations are not high — and especially when their teachers have low expectations — these students are more likely to see very routine mistakes in the ordinary course of learning as inevitable failures, and plunge themselves into the vortex of a self-fulfilling prophecy from which many never recover.
Well-intentioned “first-year experience” programs only further stigmatize these students. The programs are based on the assumption that these students are in critical need of specialized remedies, and that the role of the institution is to patiently analyze the “problem” and administer the “treatment,” in spite of its uneven outcomes.
If you diagnose nearly everyone as diseased, you should not wonder why you are facing such a massive epidemic.
Faculty design syllabi, deans design programs, and institutions design degrees based on mythical idealized students that do not exist now, if they ever did. The single biggest mistake in higher education is the propensity to create learning experiences based on what you believe students should know, rather than on what they actually do know.
It is not “dumbing down” your curriculum to recognize that real learning simply does not happen without first connecting it to prior knowledge. The gap between what students know and what they need to know is never narrowed by any presumptions of what they ought to know. The question “What is the capital of New Mexico?” can be answered with the correct response, “Santa Fe,” without ever knowing what the word “capital” means, or even being aware that New Mexico is not part of some foreign country.
Students will never be ready for college until college can prove it is genuinely ready for them.
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