When high school graduates need remedial classes in college, who pays? Mississippi and Maine may hold school districts responsible for the costs of teaching basic skills in community colleges, notes the Hechinger Report.
In Mississippi, more than 40 percent of community college students need remediation. Fifty percent take developmental classes at Maine community colleges.
New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon legislators have considered similar proposals over the last five years, but bills haven’t gotten far.
“High school students, when they get a diploma . . . they ought to be able to go to college,” said Mississippi Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo. “They should not have remediation.”
Nationwide, as many as 70 percent of new community college students are placed in remedial courses, Hechinger reports.
College remediation has long been a subject of debate: It costs the states nearly $4 billion annually, and opponents say remedial courses don’t even prepare students for college level work. In Mississippi, remedial courses currently cost the same as regular classes based on credit hour, so students must foot the bill for the extra classes. Fewer than 10 percent of these students end up graduating from community colleges within three years, according to Complete College America.
These arguments have prompted more than 20 states to cut funding for remedial education. Some community colleges have started to restrict admission to students who have at least a seventh-grade proficiency level, directing them to local adult basic education classes and saving on remediation costs.
High schools and community colleges need to work together on aligning curriculum, says Kay McClenny, the director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “Ultimately, what we need to have is not finger pointing and rock throwing across the fence of various segments of education, but really much better collaboration,” she said.
High schools are under heavy pressure to raise graduation rates. If every graduate has to be ready for college work . . . It’s not a realistic expectation. Perhaps the introduction of new, higher standards will force states to adopt a college-ready diploma and a less-rigorous diploma.
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.”
More than a million high school students are taking at least one college class through “dual enrollment” programs that let them earn high school and college credit at the same time, I write on U.S. News.
Unlike Advanced Placement courses, which are geared to high achievers, dual enrollment is usually open to a wide range of students. Some programs target students at risk of dropping out.
High achievers are going to college in any case, says Katherine Hughes of the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dual enrollment can motivate students who aren’t on the college track, she says. Even those who’ve struggled in high-school classes can rise to the challenge, motivated by the chance to “try on the role of a college student.”
. . . Advocates of dual enrollment say it exposes students to rigorous classes that prepare them for college success, builds their confidence, and speeds their way to an affordable degree.
But researchers disagree on whether dual enrollment improves students’ odds of success.
Hughes’ research shows dual-enrollment graduates are more likely to start at four-year colleges, earn higher grades and keep going toward a degree. Here’s what we’ve learned about dual enrollment, she writes in response to new research in Florida. Students who took college classes on a college campus were more likely to go on to college and earn a degree, but there were no gains for students who took dual-enrollment classes on their high school campuses.
Teaching college classes at high schools poses a series of dilemmas for Community College Dean.
High schools prefer to run “bite-size” classes five days a week, while college instructors are used to longer classes taught two or three days a week. High schools have a longer school year, but take more days off. There are no support services in the summer to help students apply for classes and make sure they’re qualified.
Students have to test out of remedial English to take the classes the dean’s college offers. “A disturbing number of the high school seniors who are motivated enough to sign up for college courses” turn out to be ineligible. That can mean there aren’t enough left to fill the class.
I’ve floated the idea of just setting aside some seats in some online sections of classes we’re running anyway. That way, I thought, we’d get around both the ‘travel’ issue and the minimum size issue. If, say, six students out of twenty-five in a given Intro to Psych class are high school seniors, the class can run just fine. I’d even argue that they’re getting a more authentic college experience, to the extent that their classmates are primarily 18 and older.
But that doesn’t always meet the needs of the high schools. For reasons of their own, they need to have students in prescribed places at prescribed times, with someone who is paid to teach/supervise them.
In a Florida study, dual-enrollment students showed gains if they took classes on a college campus, but not when the classes were taught at their own high school. Apparently, it’s harder to provide college-level rigor and a real college experience in the high school environment.
Read the comments on Inside Higher Ed from people who’ve taught college classes at high schools.
Working together, high school and college instructors can improve student success rates, writes Jordan E. Horowitz of the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success, or Cal-PASS, in Education Week.
First, postsecondary institutions must be able to clearly state and explain what is expected of entering students. It is not enough, for example, to require a certain number of years of math, English, and other subjects; nor is it enough to require a passing grade in Algebra II. We must identify the specific knowledge students need to succeed in college-level math.
Second, we must develop longitudinal student-data systems that allow us to track students from year to year, school to school, and educational segment to segment.
Community college instructors should work with teachers from feeder high schools to analyze remediation and course failure rates, align curricula and tests and develop solutions, Horowitz writes.
In California, Cal-PASS lets all 112 community colleges and nearly all public universities share transcript and test data with more than two-thirds of K–12 districts.
The database currently holds more than 415 million records representing approximately 25 million students, with the ability to track back as far as 15 years. Without divulging student identities, Cal-PASS enables practitioners to track cohorts’ progress from kindergarten through middle school and on to college.
Teachers and college faculty from the same disciplines meet monthly in professional learning councils to diagnose strengths and weaknesses and align school and college curricula.
For example, one English council was disturbed by transition data indicating extremely high rates of their high school students were being placed into remedial postsecondary English courses that were below college level. Upon comparing curricula, faculty across the different levels of education noted that high school English is literature-based, while postsecondary English focuses on rhetoric and demands greater expository reading and writing skills. Faculty members worked across the secondary and postsecondary segments of education to infuse more nonfiction reading and writing into the high school curriculum. Standardized-test scores improved, school adequate yearly progress improved, and upon placement in college-level English when they matriculated to the local postsecondary institutions, these students passed with a C or better at a higher rate than their non-program peers.
Postsecondary institutions must “define what it means to be college-ready in a way that is actionable,” Horowitz writes.
Few high school counselors are prepared to guide first-generation, minority students to college, writes Patrick O’Connor, past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. College counseling is especially weak at urban and rural schools with predominantly low-income students, he writes.
Parents who aren’t college educated can’t guide their children through the process. Many first-generation students don’t know about application fee waivers or financial aid options; they don’t understand the trade-offs between enrolling at community college, a state university or a private college. They need help.
Via College Bound.
Some community colleges try to create a sense of community — and boost graduation rates — by grouping students together for classes and activities. It’s a nice idea that crashed and burned at his college, writes Community College Dean.
We treated a group of new students as a single cohort. They all took the same sections of every class together, and the instructors for the various sections coordinated assignments for maximum reinforcement. The idea was to bundle everything good into a package, and to see how successful we could get a given cohort to be. They got some of the best instructors, they had opportunities to bond with each other, and they even had special group exposure to various extracurriculars. In theory, they should have been super-integrated into the life of the college, what with all the bonding and suchlike, and their success and satisfaction rates should have gone through the roof.
They hated it.
It felt like high school. Students did well academically, but left the program, and often the college, as soon as they could, the dean writes. Students “wanted some autonomy, even if that came at the risk of some level of distance. In fact, the distance was a bit of a selling point.”
Now the dean’s college is being asked to offer classes on campus to “struggling high school students from struggling districts.” In theory, dual-enrollment programs give students a taste of college, inspiring them to graduate from high school and continue their educations. But some faculty members say “it makes the college feel like high school.” The dean worries that it’s another good idea that will not survive contact with the real world.
In the comments on the dean’s blog, quite a few people express their dislike of learning communities and/or dual-enrollment classes.
The City University of New York and IBM will open a unique school that merges high school with two years of college, allowing students to earn an associate’s degree. Graduates will be “first in line for a job at IBM,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The partnership with IBM for a high school-college hybrid will build on work that the company is already doing in community colleges, said Stan Litow, vice president of corporate affairs for IBM.
“We have every confidence that large numbers of those kids would be able to assume entry-level jobs at IBM and other IT companies,” Litow said.
Students at the school would attend an extra two years of classes to earn a CUNY associate degree and what the mayor called “a ticket to the middle class.”
The Gates-funded Early College High School Initiative aimed to graduate high school students with an associate’s degree or two years of college credit. Programs are rethinking expectations, The Hechinger Report finds.
Since 2002, the Early College High School Initiative has opened over 200 schools, with the two largest concentrations in North Carolina (61 schools) and California (38 schools). The program will soon expand to 250 schools nationwide.
Early college isn’t aimed at top students. Reformers hope at-risk students will be motivated to pass college classes, despite below-grade-level reading and math skills. That’s not always realistic.
In 2009, early-college high schools’ graduation rate was 85 percent with 65 percent of graduates were accepted to four-year colleges. Nearly 83 percent of early-college ninth-graders were enrolled in at least one college-prep math course, compared to 67.3 percent of their peers.
Still, only about 11 percent of early-college graduates nationwide received associate’s degrees, far below the original goal of 100 percent. And the average early-college student graduates with just 22 credits, less than a year’s worth of college coursework.
Hostos-Lincoln Academy, a high-performing, all-minority school is located on the campus of Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. A third of the 90 rising-seniors – the first early-college class – expect to receive associate’s degrees. Another third will graduate with significant college credit.
Hostos learned that while many students rise to high expectations, others simply don’t. Some needed constant prodding to turn in assignments on time. They may have lacked maturity and felt uncomfortable approaching a professor with questions.
The program still aims to teach high-schoolers how to operate in college, primarily through weekly advisory seminars covering basics like taking notes during a lecture and following along with assignments in the syllabus. In the past, students took this course at the same time as their first college course and had to figure out differences between college and high school on their own.
Last year, Hostos-Lincoln decided to let students leave the college track if it’s too much for them.
Starting this school year, all ninth-graders will take an extended seminar in the fall. If they prove during this time that they’re mature enough to take a college course, they’ll be enrolled in the spring.
Hostos will also create an eighth-grade elective for its middle school, taught partially by high school teachers, that will emphasize writing skills and cultural literacy.
Frankly, if early-college programs push schools to improve at-risk students’ writing skills, boost the graduation rate and get the most motivated students to earn a semester or two of college credit, that’s a big success.