Students need to know what college demands

It’s time to bridge the divide between K-12 education and community colleges, writes WestEd researcher Thad Nodine on HigherEd Watch. Many students waste their high school years taking easy classes, not realizing they won’t be prepared for community college classes.  An estimated 75 percent of incoming community college students are required to take remedial courses in English or math, even though they passed their high school requirements in these core subjects.

As part of a two-year study, WestEd researchers asked California community college students about their experiences in high school and college.

Community college students reported that when they were in high school they thought they did not need to do anything extra to prepare for community college — that graduating from high school was sufficient.

A student told us, “It’s like, oh my gosh, I just basically wasted four years [in high school] by taking the easy track, when I should have taken the more advanced.”

Many students were unprepared for college placement tests. Few met with a counselor to discuss their course-taking options or develop an educational plan.

Nodine recommends:

School leaders and state policymakers need to work with community colleges to develop and provide high school students with diagnostic college assessments by the junior year. These tests will be eye-openers for students who are not prepared for college-level classes. For students who need to catch up in math or English, high schools need to provide that coursework during the senior year.

Community colleges need to continue to experiment with innovative and promising practices in student services and instruction that will facilitate the links between high school and college for students. This includes the development of better diagnostic assessments to determine the specific areas where students need additional work. It also includes finding ways to accelerate students’ progress through basic skills development, and more effective delivery of counseling services.

Many states need to agree on common placement assessments statewide, Nodine adds. These common assessments should tell students where they need to improve.

Sending a clear, consistent message is important: Middle school and high school students need to know about the academic rigor of community colleges.