New York City high schools are flooding community colleges with unprepared students, reports the Village Voice. Eighty percent need remedial reading, writing or math — especially math — when they enroll, up from 71 percent a few years ago.
City University of New York’s community colleges have doubled spending on remediation in just a decade, to $33 million a year, reports the Voice. “Faculty members have been transformed into de facto high school teachers.”
The Voice blames the push to raise graduation rates, but it’s also a sign of increased academic ambitions: More high school graduates are enrolling in community college.
Seeing very low success rates for remedial students, CUNY began experimenting in 2007 with other ways to prepare students for college-level courses.
Jahleah Santiago and Ashley Baret, who hated math in high school, are in the START program, an intensive 12-week immersion, at LaGuardia Community College. They spend 15 hours a week in math class.
Nathan Stevens . . . stands at the whiteboard, going over eight homework problems, encouraging all 14 students (average class size is 20) to verbalize their thought processes. . . . “How do you know that you’re finished with the factors now?” . . . as the class simplifies polynomials and multiplied exponents: “Put it into words, Manny. Tell me how you got that answer.”
. . . “In this program we seek to show what’s really happening in the math,” Stevens says. “Rather than teaching my students to memorize the formulas, tricks, rules, I try to reinforce the underlying ideas of what they’re looking at, with the hope that they could solve any problem they see.”
“In my high school, math was kind of under a veil,” says Santiago. “You didn’t know what was going on—you just do that and that and get the answer. Nathan will break it down and do different examples until we get it.”
Sixty to 70 percent of START students reach proficiency in one semester, compared with 20 percent who take regular remedial courses.
CUNY also offers ASAP, a full-year intensive program. It costs more per student plus less per graduate.
. . . of the original cohort who entered ASAP in 2007, 55 percent earned their associates’ degree in three years, compared with 24.7 percent of similar students in the broader CUNY campus and just 16 percent of urban community college students nationally. According to an independent study by the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia, the graduation rates were so much higher that ASAP cost about 10 percent less per graduate.
If New York City’s public schools invested in “small class sizes, mastery-based course design, one additional counselor or adviser for every 25 students,” it’s likely more students would learn math in middle and high school, instead of struggling to learn it in college, the Voice suggests. That would save money in the long run, but it would be saved by CUNY and by students, not by the K-12 system.