Unready at CUNY

Graduating from a New York City public high school — even with good grades — is no guarantee of college readiness, reports Michael Winerip in the New York Times.  Seventy-four percent who enroll in City University of New York’s community colleges require remediation in at least one subject and 22.6 percent need remedial reading and writing and math. One semester of intensive remediation – five hours a day of reading, writing and math, five days a week — is working for some students.

In June, Desiree Smith was graduated from Murry Bergtraum High. Her grades were in the 90s, she said, and she had passed the four state Regents exams. . . .

She failed all three placement tests for LaGuardia and is now taking remediation in reading, writing and math. So are Nikita Thomas, of Bedford Stuyvesant Prep; Sade Washington, of the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem; Stacey Sumulong, of Queens Vocational and Technical; Lucrecia Woolford of John Adams High; and Juan Rodriguez of Grover Cleveland High. “Passing the Regents don’t mean nothing,” Ms. Thomas said. “The main focus in high school is to get you to graduate; it makes the school look good. They get you in and get you out.”

CUNY’s Start has enrolled 302 students so far: 241 stayed the entire semester, 159 of whom were able to pass all three remediation tests. That compares favorably to traditional remedial classes.

This semester, 700 Start students are studying at the six campuses. Many are attracted by the $75 cost, compared to $1,800 a seemster to take primarily no-credit remedial classes.

Start teachers strive for understanding, students say.

“In math in high school if you got called on to answer a problem and gave no answer, the teacher moved on,” said Pedro Vargas, a 2011 graduate of Richmond Hill High in Queens. “Here they keep asking, they want you to explore.”

Ms. Washington, 18, said that in high school, a lot of time was spent gaming the system. “The big thing they cared about was keeping the graduation rate up,” she said. “Whatever they had to do to get you to graduate — if it means like a little trick to get you out, tell you to do this, do that and you’re out.”

Many students who require remediation scored between the 65 needed to pass the Regents exams and the 75 the state believes predicts college readiness, said Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer for city schools.

Next year, evaluations of city high schools will include college readiness, notes Gotham Schools. That will lower grades for some schools.

Chicago also plans to evaluate high schools based on graduates’ college readiness.