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Bennett's Blog: Remediation for higher education? Print E-mail

chuck-bennettby Chuck Bennett, Director of Governmental Relations

One of the most common criticisms of high schools making the rounds among policy makers is that too many Oregon graduates need remedial classes in math and English after being admitted to Oregon's higher education institutions.

The obvious question is whether Oregon's tuition driven college admission system might want to dig deeper than someone's hip pocket and take a peek at something like more rigorous academic admission standards. For years, K-12 in Oregon suggested that proficiency measuring programs like Certificates of Initial or Advanced Mastery might be better predictors of a student's academic future than their grades. The idea has had all the success of a beaver rally in Autzen Stadium.

One of the targets in this discussion is graduation requirements. It goes something like this: High school graduates in Oregon should be ready for college or to enter the work force (ignoring the fact that a substantial number of high school students are already in the work force trying to make sure they are ready for college, or at the least the part that matters -- paying for it). In order to be ready for college or the work place, students need more math, science and a second language. The more ambitious suggest that courses in arts and PE wouldn't hurt either. And the best way to make sure Junior isn't trying to get by on seat time and a passing grade, they say, is to seal the whole deal with a proficiency exam.

This may sound like some sort of flat-earther screed but if proficiency in a second language and advanced math, science and  english are so important for 12th graders entering a university or the job market -- why aren't they all required for a college degree?

Whatever the outcome, the question of high school graduation requirements is coming to a head. Next week the State Board of Education holds its annual Summer Retreat and topping the agenda is graduation requirements to be discussed in a day-long stakeholders discussion and review of the issues that has attracted over 150 invited participants.

Unfortunately, the discussion won't focus on graduation issues running the other direction -- from Oregon's colleges and universities to the K-12 classroom.

According to the Oregon School Personnel Association, elementary and secondary schools face chronic staffing shortages in a variety of areas due to ceilings on graduate admissions placed by the colleges.

A prime example is speech pathology. Only U of O and PSE offer degrees leading to licensure and they have limited enrollment in their two programs to a combined total of 50 each year. PSU alone had 140 applicants for the program.

Last year, EdZapp's data collection showed that Oregon school districts posted 220 speech pathology openings. And with most graduates heading to medical facilities, at best higher education is producing less than 20% of the needed number of these specialists. 

Yes, there is a need for remedial action and better graduation numbers -- the question is who really needs the help.





Comments (2)Add Comment
Superintendent, UMESD
written by George Murdock, August 21, 2006
Good points Chuck. Unfortunately, it works much the same in K-12. The middle school teachers are concerned because the elementary staff didn't prepare the kids adequately. And high school teachers are often critical of the middle school teachers for the same reasons. I suppose even primary teachers are concerned because kids don't enter school properly prepared.

We sometimes hear the same arguments from community colleges which sometimes forget they enroll a number of students who haven't even finished high school.

There is another point that colleges also overlook on occasion. They are the ones training the very teachers they tend to suggest aren't doing the job. It would appear there is enough blame to go around at all levels and that perhaps less blame and more cooperation might produce a better result.
Joyful Response to 12-16 requirements
written by Gene Carlson, August 21, 2006
I am going to re-enter my concerns about end point testing in anything. By the time you do end point testing to see if everything is right, any error in the process is so imbued in the process that fixing it is impossibly slow. The same error will keep repeating itself until the error is found, a fix is determined and approved and the still defective items work their way through the system. This is true whether you talk about one class or four years or a television set.

We are far better off knowing what is expected and looking closely at our work product in incremental steps than waiting for the end of the year(s)and giving ourselves and everyone else a big headache. If the problem occurs in the sophomore year it will be a lot easier to fix if we know the incremental problem within the sophomore year timeframe and not at the end of the 10th grade or the college entrance test.

Let us pretend we are measuring a student in math for college entrance. Does every k-12 school district know what every college in Oregon and/or the northwest or the world expect. Do we in k-12 know ahead of time the mathmatic principles colleges think are so important that they want to test it.

I am not even thinking about teaching to the test. I am talking about teaching what people k-16 think is important. At least give our k-12 staff a chance. I don't even know if the public colleges have thought enough about this problem so that there is a standard entrance test used by the public colleges or if each college has its own test. Should we emphasize trigonometry more? Should we emphasize axioms and proofs from geometry? What?

Our district, grades 3-10, usually have significantly more students who meet and/or exceed than occurs statewide on the assessment tests. That is doing us no good for the college entrance test.

We need to do something about our math and Emglish scores for the college entrance test. We don't have a clue what our students missed. We don't know what colleges think is important. We have no way of improving until we get more data on individual students from the colleges. How long will it take to measure any change?

If the information about what is important to know for these entrance tests please contact me so I can shorten the information gathering process this year.

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This page was last updated on Monday, August 21, 2006 .