In a few years, high school graduates in North Carolina will earn diplomas showing their readiness for university, community college or careers, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Each seal requires a minimum 2.6 grade point average, basically a C+.
To earn the community college readiness seal, graduates must have completed Algebra II or integrated math III.
In February, the community college board decided graduates with a minimum 2.6 GPA can skip placement tests and start in college-level courses. The system’s research showed that 20 percent of students placed in remedial courses could have succeeded at the college level. High school grades are the best predictor of college success, the study concluded.
To earn the career readiness seal, students must
take four career/technical courses, score well on ACT’s WorkKeys exam, or have an industry-recognized credential, such a car repair certificate, Microsoft suite certification, or SAS programmer credentials.
What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready? Community colleges expect little of first-year students — and get even less, concludes the National Center on Education and The Economy.
The report paints a grim picture.
High school graduates have trouble reading textbooks written at the 11th- to 12th-grade level, so instructors provide study aids to help poor readers get by. Students do little writing. When they do write, ”instructors tend to have very low expectations for grammatical accuracy, appropriate diction, clarity of expression, reasoning and the ability to present a logical argument or offer evidence in support of claims.”
Despite taking high school algebra, geometry and often advanced algebra, most students are placed in remedial math. They’re not prepared for “college math,” which amounts to “Algebra 1.25,” basic algebra with a bit of geometry and statistics. Yet what students most need to succeed in college courses is mastery of “middle school mathematics, especially arithmetic, ratio, proportion, expressions and simple equations.”
Community colleges enroll 45 percent of U.S college students: About half hope to earn a bachelor’s degree, while the rest are pursuing a vocational credential, NCEE estimates.
It’s not enough for community colleges to raise expectations, the report concludes.
We need to bear in mind that a very large fraction of high school graduates does not meet the very low expectations that community colleges currently have of them. The nation may have to learn to walk before it runs, which means that it is important, first, to enable our high school students to meet the current very low standards before we ratchet those standards up.
Common Core Standards, if implemented well, will help, eventually, the report concludes. But there’s a long way to go.
Researchers analyzed textbooks, tests, assignments, student work and grading at seven community colleges in different states. The study focused on general education and popular career programs: Accounting, Automotive Technology, Biotech/Electrical Technology, Business, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Information Technology/Computer Programming 1 and Nursing.
Only one program at one college required mastery of advanced algebra, the study found.
Increasingly, high schools are requiring students to take Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, with hopes they’ll make it to Calculus. That should be only one option, the report recommends.
Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so. . . . fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the (algebra to calculus) sequence in their college or in the workplace.
Students shouldn’t take algebra till they really understand middle-school math, the report advises. If they wait till 10th grade, that’s OK. They can study statistics, data analysis, applied geometry and/or mathematical modeling to prepare for a range of careers.
States should “build alternative math pathways through the last two years of high school that are aligned with student interests and career plans,” says Harvard Education Professor Robert Schwartz. “If the Report’s assertion is correct —that only 5 percent of jobs require the mathematics embodied in the calculus pathway —then our education system should focus more on the mathematics that most young people will actually use in their civic and work life, e.g. statistics, data, probability.”
However, the path to 12th-grade calculus usually starts with eighth-grade algebra. At 12 or 13, students would have to decide whether they’re aiming for a university degree in engineering or science. Imagine a STEM-prep track for 5 percent of students — or even 20 percent — with everyone else preparing for a low-tech university degree or a community college job training program. The future engineers and physicists are likely to predominantly Asian-American, white, middle class and male.
An all-day conference on the report will be livestreamed today starting at 9 am EDT.
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would require college coursework as a condition of graduating from high school. The move would increase the number of students going to college, make their degrees more affordable and encourage students not considering college to continue in higher education, said Sen. Mark Hass, a Beaverton Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor.
Oregon students must pass 24 high school classes to earn a diploma. In its current form, Senate Bill 222 would require six of those classes earn college credit, starting with the class of 2020. It promises funding — how much is unstated — to train high school teachers to teach college-level courses.
It’s nice to know Oregon students are so accomplished that all can be expected to complete high school work in three years and move on to college work.
A North Carolina bill backed by Gov. Pat McCrory would create a “career ready” diploma in addition to a “college ready” diploma. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is headed for the House. “Career and technical teacher licensing requirements also would be revised to help develop more teachers in those fields,” reports AP.
“Soft skills,” such as punctuality and teamwork will be factored into grades for many students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in North Carolina, reports Inside Higher Ed. Next year, the college will issue workplace readiness certificates in addition to traditional credentials.
Located in Asheville, N.C., A-B Tech, as it is commonly known, has developed a template that helps faculty members determine how to incorporate eight primary workplace expectations into grading, including personal responsibility, interdependence and emotional intelligence. Soft skills should count for 8 to 10 percent of grades in courses that adopt those guidelines, college officials said.
“We’re teaching our students to walk the walk,” said Jean B. Finley, an instructor of business computer technologies.
A-B Tech will grade students on how they work with classmates in study groups and interact with instructors in professionally worded e-mails.
The main goal is to encourage students to take personal responsibility and display a strong work ethic, said Melissa Quinley, A-B Tech’s vice president of instructional services.
. . . Quinley said local employers are generally pleased with the technical and academic accomplishments of A-B Tech students. But soft skills can be a problem. For example, she said the college recent held a focus group with welding companies, where some participants said A-B Tech graduates were talented and got the welding part, but that some showed up late for work too often.
Students don’t pick up “soft skills” by osmosis, writes Community College Dean. Teaching students “the rules of the game” is the egalitarian thing to do.
I’ve been to more than my share of employer advisory boards over the last dozen years, at three different colleges. They’re remarkably consistent; every time, the feedback is that we’re doing well with the specific technical skills, but that many students arrive with serious gaps in communication, presentation and general employee conduct.
Students need to understand the importance of punctuality, meeting deadlines and communicating frustration in an acceptable way in the workplace, the dean writes. ”The odd blend of surface egalitarianism and deep hierarchy that defines many workplaces can be a minefield if you don’t know how to read it.”
Years ago, I did a series on welfare reform for the San Jose Mercury News. Two of the long-term welfare mothers we followed found jobs — and ran into trouble because they didn’t know unspoken workplace rules.
Despite California’s strong content standards, many high school graduates aren’t ready for college-level classes or careers, write Bill Tucker and Anne Hyslop in Education Sector’s new report, Ready by Design: A College and Career Agenda for California. They discovered a disconnect between what high school English classes are teaching and what colleges expect students to be able to do.
San Diego County’s West Hills High School has many of the hallmarks of a solid school. Its middle-class students consistently master state standards, perform well on state achievement tests, and graduate at a high rate. But four years ago, school leaders realized they had a big problem. A stunning 95 percent of the top students in senior English courses who were headed to nearby community colleges failed the colleges’ English placement tests.
. . . Alarmed, West Hills’ teachers joined with faculty at the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to see what had gone awry. They investigated years of student transcripts, exchanged lesson plans, and shared curricula.
They discovered high school students who’d done well in literature classes weren’t prepared for college classes that required “argumentation skills, analytical thinking, and writing clearly to inform, persuade, and describe.” (When I was in high school, we did nothing but expository writing, but that was before the invention of the journal.)
High school teachers revamped their English classes and persuaded local community colleges to let A and B English students skip the placement test and start in college-level courses. Success rates are high –86 percent — for West Hills graduates.
California needs to assess whether high schools are preparing students to succeed in college — not just enroll — and in careers, the report ecommends. The state’s Academic Performance Index looks only at test scores and graduation rates.
In addition to test scores, Florida measures participation and successful completion of advanced coursework like AP, IB, and dual enrollment, and industry certifications and performance on college entrance exams, Tucker and Hyslop write. “Although these additional measures are only predictors of preparedness, they are more closely related to desired outcomes than state test scores alone.”
Should public colleges focus on academics or vocational skills? The battle lines are drawn in Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick wants community colleges to be drivers of workforce and economic development, writes Melissa Goldberg on the Workforce Strategy Center blog. But Is it the right debate? she asks.
In the Boston Globe Magazine, Jon Marcus asks whether higher education’s purpose should be knowledge or vocation.”
(Bob) Britt had watched as friends and relatives went to college only because it was expected. “They were 18, and so they went,” he says. “And when they got out, there wasn’t anything for them.” So when Britt enrolled at North Shore Community College, it was for a new kind of program that is being closely watched by industry executives and policy makers alike. It’s a program connected to the real world of work that all but guarantees its students something universities and colleges are being pressed to provide in exchange for their spiraling costs, and at a time when employers complain they can’t find workers for high-tech jobs in a fast-changing economy: useful skills.
Britt’s two-year associate’s degree program in manufacturing technology is a collaboration between the college – which furnishes faculty for classroom work – and General Electric. GE needs highly trained machinists to replace the large number of employees nearing retirement at its River Works aircraft engine plant in Lynn, which has been chugging along while recovering from the 1980s recession. GE pays the students while they learn and covers the costs of their academic courses in advanced manufacturing. That’s a high-growth field, one in which Britt is virtually assured a job after graduation that pays an average of $62,400, with ample opportunity for advancement.
“It’s not a dead end,” Britt says.
Employers want workers with an academic foundation andworkplace skills, writes Goldberg. It’s not either or. ”Everyone will need some opportunity to gain practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, or perhaps working their way through college” whether they pursue a technical or liberal arts degree. The question is: How do we enable young people to learn academic and workplace skills?
Here’s a sobering statistic: “For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less,” reports Investors Business Daily.
States should spend more on education, President Obama said at the National Governors Association luncheon. ”The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”
President Obama is a “snob” for pushing the college-for-all message, said GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum last week. (Remember “egghead?”) Not everyone wants or needs college, said Santorum, who complained of indoctrination by liberal academics.
In his speech Monday, Obama stressed workforce training at community colleges.
“The jobs of the future are increasingly going to those with more than a high school degree. And I have to make a point here. When I speak about higher education we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment.
The president also urged states to mandate school attendance through age 18.
“I think that we all realize that everybody’s not going to be headed to college, that we have to have … community colleges and good job training,” said Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, after the luncheon.
“We want someone to be career ready or college ready,” said Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. “If we haven’t done one of those two things for the young people, we’ve failed you. You don’t have access to the American dream.”
Is Investing in Community Colleges a Good Idea? asks Charlotte Allen on Minding the Campus.
President Obama’s $8 billion program Community College to Career Fund assumes colleges can partner with employers to train 2 million workers for high-demand jobs in health care, technology and “green” industries.
Most community college students aren’t prepared for college-level courses, especially in math, Allen points out. Developmental classes don’t seem to help much.
. . . most of the anticipated job openings in the U.S. during the near future will require workers who possess exactly the sort of math and reading-comprehension skills that most community-college students these days seem unable to master. There is currently a shortage of skilled employees in high-tech industries, and some two million manufacturing jobs are expected to open up by 2018 thanks to expected retirements–but most of those jobs require workers who can operate sophisticated machinery, follow complex instructions, and demonstrate some facility at math and statistics. The training itself for 21st-century jobs can be expensive.
Successful job training programs at community colleges tend to be “small-scale, dependent on modest grants from the involved industries themselves, and centered around nationally recognized certificates,” Allen writes.
Key to many of the programs was ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which measures recipients’ math and reading abilities. . . . Shoreline Community College near Seattle . . . used a grant from the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Institute of Manufacturers, to integrate the NCRC and certification from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills into a three-quarter-long manufacturing program. The program’s retention rate (95 percent) and job-placement rate (100 percent) were stellar–but it was also a small, highly focused program with only 50 students per cohort.
Allen wonders whether small, focused training programs can be “replicated on a large scale with widely varying students, faculty, and educational standards — along with the potential for waste that a spigot of federal dollars always presents.”
Two-fifths of high school graduates are unprepared for college or the workforce, according to a study (pdf) by Johns Hopkins and University of Arizona researchers.
One-third of high school students complete a rigorous college-prep track that increasingly includes Advanced Placement courses, the study finds. One-quarter take advantage of career-prep programs. The remaining 40 percent are “a virtual underclass” with little chance of success in college or job training, the researchers write.
Workers in high-demand fields can earn more than the average four-year graduate, notes Daniel de Vise on College Inc. Career-prep students are prepared to earn a vocational certificate or associate degree at a community or career college, preparing them for a decent job.
But the structure of American high schools is trapped, the authors write, in a culture that “blindly advocate(s) bachelor’s degrees as the only valuable option and the cure for all social ills.”
“Underclass” students often take courses with college-prep labels that demand very little, the study concludes. Even AP classes may lack the rigor needed to prepare students for college. (If nobody passes the AP exam, that’s a bad sign.)
The solution, the authors write, is to abolish tracking altogether and to reimagine high school as a tool to prepare all students for both college and careers.
The ideal high school curriculum, they argue, would incorporate the best aspects of both tracks: academic rigor and cutting-edge career preparation. Students might choose one of several academic “pathways” that “include both academically rigorous, college-preparatory requirements and challenging professional and technical knowledge grounded in industry standards,” they write.
Many high schools “steer students into various career-oriented pathways that also (in theory) immerse students in rigorous college-preparatory academics,” writes de Vise. While some are rigorous enough to prepare students for college, most are not.
College is great, say recent high school graduates, but they weren’t prepared for college-level math, science and writing.
College Board’s One Year Out (pdf) survey asked members of the class of 2010 how their high school experience prepared them for work and college. In addition to wishing they’d taken harder classes in high school, 47 percent said they should have worked harder, reports College Bound. Thirty-seven percent said high school graduation requirements were too easy.
Ninety percent agreed with the statement: “In today’s world, high school is not enough, and nearly everybody needs to complete some kind of education or training after high school.”
Those who went on to college found the courses were more difficult than expected (54 percent), and 24 percent were required to take noncredit remedial or developmental courses. Of those taking remedial programs, 37 percent attended a two-year college and 16 percent did not make it through the first year of college.
To succeed, 44 percent of graduates said they wished they had taken different classes in high school. Among those, 40 percent wished they had taken more math, 37 percent wished they would have taken more classes that prepared them for a specific job, and 33 percent wished they had taken more science courses. Others thought they would have benefited from more practical career readiness and basic preparation for how to engage in a college environment, including how to manage personal finances, the College Board survey reveals.
Curriculum Matters has more on the study.