A majority of community college freshmen and a third of four-year students must take at least one remedial class. Aligning high school teaching with college demands can slash the need for remediation, writes Brad Phillips, president of the Institute for Evidence-Based Change, in GOOD.
In San Diego, 95 percent of West Hills High graduates — many with A’s and B’s in English courses — flunked the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District placement test. Yet, when allowed to start in college-level classes, 86 percent passed, staying on course to a degree.
The English Curriculum Alignment Project teamed college faculty with high school teachers to evaluate student performance. San Diego educators learned that taking advanced English courses through 12th grade wasn’t preventing students from needing remediation. Finally, they had a “eureka” moment.
High school teachers taught mostly literature, focusing on characters and story lines in many classic works of fiction. Meanwhile, English faculty in the community college were teaching students about argumentation and writing clearly to inform, persuade, and describe—key skills needed to succeed at work, think critically and contribute to their community.
. . . Together, San Diego teachers developed standards-based high school lesson plans that helped students organize content and write clearly with deep understanding of genre, audience, purpose, and argument. The thoughtful blend of literary and rhetorical values in the English classroom and an emphasis on rigorous writing, reading and critical thinking skills put students on a track for success in college and career.
Only 24 percent of California students placed in the lowest level of English remedial courses make it to college-level work, Phillips writes.