On Page C2 of the 22 April 2012 print edition of The Hartford Courant, the following Editorial had the headline "Catch-Up Work Stunts Progress."
The Courant has jumped on the bandwagon of the "Common Core" standards, just as it promoted the abject failure of the assorted reforms of the past 23 years. In particular, The Courant ballyhood the "math reform" flimflam that was launched when the NCTM "standards" were released in 1989. Steven Leinwand, then a mathematics consultant with the Connecticut State Department of Education, was a "math reform" stalwart who received extensive coverage--especially by Robert Frahm who covered education at that time. Not surprisingly, Leinwand is now promoting "The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics."
Community College Students Held Back By Remedial Classes Catching Up: Bill would limit remediation, to get students earning credits faster
There is no greater indictment of the state's public school system--no greater example of the need for school reform--than the number of high school graduates it produces who need remedial help for college.
Each year, about 70 percent of the students entering the state's 12 community colleges take at least one remedial class in math, reading or writing. These classes do the job for some students, but not many.
According to 2005 data gathered by the Board of Regents for Higher Education, only 13.5 percent of first-time full-time community college students who took lower-level math remedial classes in their first semester graduated with an associate's degree in six years. The numbers are only slightly better for those who took any remedial class ? 17.1 percent graduated. Of those who took no remedial classes, 26.4 percent graduated.
Thousands Leave Without Degrees
The majority of undergraduate students who attend public colleges in the state, and about three-quarters of minority students, go to community colleges--a total of nearly 58,000 students. That so few of them leave with a degree is a serious problem that has bedeviled educators for years.
A bill before the General Assembly would change the system. For openers, it would do away with most remedial classes. The bill would allow all community college and state university students to take college-level credit-bearing courses with "embedded" remedial help for those who need it. The help could be a skills class, a lab or tutoring. Students could take no more than a single semester of non-credit remedial work.
State Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, who introduced the bill, said many students are wasting time and money taking remedial classes for which they receive no credit. She, an experienced educator, would like to let them take a crack at college classes.
This has brought objections from some community college teachers and administrators, who say it will be setting up students to fail.
Point taken--some may fail, but we think enough will succeed to merit passage of the bill. The bill directs colleges to use "multiple measures" of a student's skill level, not just the current placement test, which has been criticized as an inadequate diagnostic tool. (Why not look at their high school transcripts?) This should help get more students who can pass college classes into them.
Serious Weakness In High Schools
Perhaps the bill's greatest strength is that it looks at the broader problem. It's true that some students have learning disabilities, some are learning English, some have difficult home lives. Nonetheless, the fact that so many are getting out of high school unable to do entry-level college work points to serious weaknesses in the system. Although some community college teachers work miracles, they rarely can make up for 12 years of poor education.
The bill would require that public high schools and colleges align their curriculums by 2016, using the "Common Core" standards being adopted in the next two years, so that completion of the math and language arts programs becomes an indicator of college readiness. The bill also asks the colleges and high schools to develop an early assessment program for eighth- and 10th-grade students.
Another bill also calls for coordination between high schools and colleges, so that the educators designing high school curriculums know what colleges want. That makes sense and should have started well before this.
These are positive steps. There are a number of experimental programs out there, in the state universities and community colleges. The Board of Regents has three pilot studies in progress to see whether adult education programs can be used to bolster basic skills for students who wish to attend community colleges, as is done in some states.
But all of these steps won't work optimally unless Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's school reform package is passed in a meaningful form. Taken all together, we've got something.