Thursday, October 21, 2010

Almost two-thirds of students entering Rhode Island Community College not ready for college work

Many only at grade school level. When are they going to realize that Leftist educational theories are all wrong?

Nearly two-thirds of the graduates of Rhode Island’s high schools who enroll at the Community College of Rhode Island need to take remedial classes when they get there — a troubling reflection of the state’s public school system and a burden for its only community college.

“What it all comes down to is: Are students ready for the rigors of college or whatever they want to do after high school?” said CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale, who is also acting higher education commissioner. “Are they prepared? And we know from our numbers, they are not.”

The problem is widespread, affecting both urban and suburban districts, and even some private schools, according to a recent report commissioned by the state Board of Governors for Higher Education. The report shows that about 60 percent of students who graduated from public and private schools in 2005 and 2006 who enrolled at CCRI needed remediation in one or more areas: reading, writing or math. The percentage was slightly higher in 2007, with nearly 63 percent requiring remedial classes, also called “developmental” classes.

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who oversees K-12 education, said people often remind her that not all students want to go to college, a fact she acknowledges as true.

“But there are two important points to make. One, we need more college-educated adults here in Rhode Island, so that number needs to go up,” Gist said. “And two, even if they don’t go to college, they need a level of skills to be successful in life.… And the skills that students need to be successful at the community college level are the same skills they need to be successful in the work world.”

Gist and Di Pasquale say the K-12 and higher education systems must work together to reduce the need for remediation.

For at least seven years, the number of students at CCRI who need remedial classes has not decreased, despite a series of changes initiated in 2003 by the state Department of Education designed to make academic standards more rigorous and provide more support for students.

CCRI is the only public college in Rhode Island that requires all incoming students to take standardized placement exams in reading, writing and math before they begin classes. In 2007, 2,082 high school graduates from the Class of 2007 enrolled at CCRI, and 1,304 of them needed one or more remedial classes.

Di Pasquale said similar numbers of recent high school graduates have needed remediation in 2008, 2009 and 2010, even though those students had to reach higher expectations to graduate than previous classes, including completing a portfolio or senior project and taking more credits.

“I am surprised because we clearly thought we would see some steady improvement,” Di Pasquale said. “But the numbers have been holding steady.”

The report is another piece of evidence that far too many students are still graduating from high school unable to read, write and compute well enough to perform college-level work, Gist says.

Rhode Island reflects the national average. About 60 percent of students who enter community college around the country need to take remedial courses, according to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University.

The consequences are severe for CCRI, which is straining to address the growing need for remedial classes amid deep budget cuts. More than 4,000 CCRI students are taking remedial classes this fall, and the college had to turn away hundreds more because the college could not offer enough sections, Di Pasquale said.

Research shows that students who require remedial classes are most at risk for dropping out. “It’s discouraging, because if you come in reading at a sixth- or seventh-grade level, you have a long way to go before you can take a college-level course,” Di Pasquale said.


Cincinnati school pushing teens to vote Democrat

Three van loads of Hughes High students were taken last week – during school hours – to vote and given sample ballots only for Democratic candidates and then taken for ice cream, a Monday lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was made by Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Republican candidate for Hamilton County auditor, and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes against Cincinnati Public Schools. “They plan to bring four more high schools (to vote) this week,” Christopher Finney, COAST attorney, said Monday after filing the suit.

It seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent school officials from participating or helping students participate in partisan politics during school hours or with school property or employees involved.

But the school district’s lawyer denies any school connection. “No CPS personnel engaged in the promotion of candidates or any political party,” CPS attorney Mark Stepaniak noted in a written release. CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh said taking students on school time to vote has been done before. “It has to be scrupulously nonpartisan,” Walsh said. Stepaniak said church vans were volunteered to drive students to vote.

The suit alleges three van loads of Hughes High students arrived at the Downtown Board of Elections offices at 1 p.m. Wednesday, supervised by a school employee. School lets out at 3:15 p.m.

When they got out of the vans, the students, the suit alleges, also were accompanied by adults who appeared to be campaign workers or supporters for U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, the congressman being challenged this fall by Steve Chabot. When the students got out of the vans, the suit alleges they were given sample ballots containing only Democratic candidates.

“We want these kids to vote,” Finney said. “I’m not sure them being bussed during the school day is a good thing, but that’s not the thrust of the suit. “If they had fair sample ballots or no sample ballots it would be different.”

The suit alleges those actions violated a 2002 agreement between CPS and COAST where the school agreed it wouldn’t allow school property or employees to be used for “advocating the election or defeat of candidates for public office.”


Let’s end the bog standard in British education

Towards the end of the 19th century and increasingly into the 20th and 21st, politicians and intellectuals became convinced by the idea that they could run the country through central planning than the individual decisions of each and every person acting in their own interest. In this climate of control they usurped and marginalised private schooling, planning centrally what had previously occurred spontaneously. In time the “bog standard comprehensive” came to be the model for all but the richest.

Tony Blair used the term “bog standard comprehensive” in a conference speech, which was coined by the now repentant Peter Hyman. Perhaps it is discourteous to the many talented professionals working in the toughest schools, but its popular usage attests to the fact that it captures the essence of the state we’re in. The “bog” evokes images of stagnation – and this is exactly what has happened under a system directed centrally by the government. While freer industries have thrived in conditions of competition and innovation, centrally planned schooling has languished behind.

Schooling is long overdue for a shakeup to release the talents of the students currently stuck in the quagmire. As an industry, teaching methods are firmly entrenched in the past. For example, most children don’t learn to speak a language despite spending their lives sitting for hundreds of hours in a classroom attempting to do so. Even those with top grades can’t hold a basic conversation. As the language expert Paul Noble points out: “Students realise that even if they do get a GCSE in French, they still won't be able to speak the language”. In contrast, private companies guarantee that business people will learn more than this in a couple days.

This is not a call for another revision of the national curriculum and a new national strategy to push all children into intensive language lessons. This would entirely miss the point. Instead we need to free schools, and the first way this could be done is to allow them to run for a profit. As with any service industry, experimentation would become the norm and best practice would be copied where appropriate. Education companies abroad are ready to invest, while there are many companies in the UK currently teaching adults various skills that would be able to add immense value to teaching children. Without this change, most will be left mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog standard education.


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