Creating College Success

My buddy down the street at Typical Urban High teaches an “Algebra 2 class.” Nobody in his class had passed Algebra 1.  

Can you really teach kids to simplify this 8x3y2z+ 5x2yz3 – 3xyz + 4x2yz3

….when your kids cannot do this y = 3x + 2?

It’s ludicrous.  

Teachers currently have no incentive to push the C, B, and A average kids to dial it by 50% to 200%, which is what they’d need to become legitimately college ready.   

How do we fight coastability?  

1. Yesterday someone had the really cool suggestion that states publish each high school’s COLLEGE success rates as well as high school completion rates (particularly for urban schools).  

That would balance the state’s interest in two quite different high school goals. One is completion for the half inclined drop out.  The other—usually given short shrift—is legit college readiness for the half who don’t. Great idea. Let’s build this bad boy out.

2. AP Jay’s on target.  

3. College leaders and profs need to speak up.  Don’t be so a-scared.  

Go to XYZ High. Meet with the kids, parents, teachers.  Say “At our U, we’ve had 35 XYZ kids in recent years.  All had B averages at XYZ.  Only 8 are on track to graduate from the U.  Fourteen have already dropped out with low grades. Kids, you need to study about 2 or 3 times harder at XYZ; teachers, you need to make things 2 or 3 times more challenging; parents, you need to demand that from both.”  

Force some honest conversations.  

—Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

5 Replies to “Creating College Success”

  1. “Teachers currently have no incentive to push the C, B, and A average kids to dial it by 50% to 200%, which is what they’d need to become legitimately college ready.”

    That’s sad. And not in the way that you think it’s sad.

    It’s sad that any teacher would need an extrinsic “incentive” (read: bribe, mandate, or threat) to challenge his/her students to be the best they can be.

    If a person has no internal passion or drive to push his/her students to be their absolute best, that person needs to get out of teaching ASAP.

  2. “3. College leaders and profs need to speak up. Don’t be so a-scared.”

    I agree with you 100%, however, I would also argue that higher education has to get serious about quality instruction in college level classes. Having attended a “competitive”, research university, I can honestly say that very few of my professors were interested in teaching to lowly undergrads and it was extremely apparent.

    Higher education cannot keep passing blame to k-12 education, it needs to examine how it can better serve these kids too.

  3. As someone who’s heard these criticisms for a long time (I taught HS for ten years before escaping early this year), I have two things:

    1. Is it a little ridiculous for post-secondary institutions to complain about the levels their students are at when they hold the cards when it comes to admitting them? If I’m not mistaken, higher education has the right to admit/not admit students based on five (sometimes more) criteria: ACT/SAT score, HS GPA, in-school involvement (extra-curriculars), out-of-school involvement (service/volunteer experiences), and recommendation letters. With so many possible filters, it strikes me as odd that they’d complain about a student’s level of proficiency when they could have just DENIED THESE STRUGGLING STUDENTS ADMISSION IN THE FIRST PLACE. Oh, yes, I forgot: the only measure post-secondary ed seems to pay attention to is the FAFSA. In the current education system, public schools have to take everyone, with no filters–and we can’t just increase tuition when the needs increase or the bars get pushed higher. Push back, public schools! Their argument is ridiculous.

    2. Matter #2 is simply that high schools define success differently than post-secondary education does. This is neither a good thing or a bad thing. Actually, it’s BOTH a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it’s good because a student’s grade in high school has come to signify more than “do they know the material or not, and to what degree?” Much of high school assessment also includes measures of institutional competency that post-secondary does not. Questions of was this student reliable? punctual? honest? often should be read into a high school grade, whether people agree with that or not (I’m not even sure I do, by the way). That is at least part of the reason grades look “inflated” to the post-secs. As high schools must serve all, however, these institutional lessons–reflected implicitly in a student’s grade profile–are actually quite valuable to a large slice of their charge: those who will not need the academic firepower to succeed in the post-secondary environment because they’ll never get there but who WILL need to be reliable, punctual, and honest in order to make a living. Yes, this is bad for those who see high schools as having lost their academic teeth, but it’s a move that’s been forced on secondary education by at least two generations of parents who scream out of both sides of their mouths. Somehow, they want schools to raise standards but not give their kids grades of F in the spring of their senior year so as not to upset grandma’s trip home for Johnny’s graduation. Oh, and when the school can do neither, they take their ill will and use it to mount huge efforts to vote against levy referenda in their districts.

    Sorry for the rant that, well, pretty much covered everything. I gotta get me one of these blog things.

  4. In a response to Eric,

    Eric, you have hit the nail on the head on many points. As a long time high school special ed teacher, I found myself nodding my head in agreement continually thoughout your “rant”.

    One point I would like to add, which has been a pet peeve of mine for many years, is that not all students are meant to go to college.

    It seems that the guidance department of our schools push every student to attend college, regardless of their grades and abilities. I have spoken to students who tell me of their high hopes of attending XYZ college or university and the when I know they will be lucky to graduate from high school. I hear this comment almost everyday, “Hey Mr. So and so in the Guidance office told me he would try and get me into XYZ college, please don’t give me an “F” this grading period”. Often times these same kids fail to put in the effort to pass general math let alone the classes they will need to get into college.

    Now I wish for the best for all of my students, but you know, we need carpenters, plumbers, taxi drivers, and pizza delivery people. Not everyone shoudl go to college. It wastes time, money and displaces other students who may have a better shot at success in college.

    Now, I am also not saying that if someone who was not really successful in high school and who really wants to attend college should not put in the extra effort needed to be able to attend. Proper motivation can overcome past poor performances.

    I am a case in point, I did poorly in high school and had no ambition to attend college after graduation. My motivation was to get a job and work. After several years of that I came to realization that a higher education might not be a bad idea after all. Working for contruction wages was OK, but it was not where I wanted to be the rest of my life. Some guys I knew loved the contruction life and thrived on it. I felt I could do better. I put my mind to it and worked very hard going to school part-time for 8 years and graduated with a BA in Physical Education. I later got my certification in Special education – behavioral disorders, and have enjoyed a rewarding career eversince. I have been teaching for over 20 years and can’t think of anything I would rather do instead.

    To summarize my original thoughts, schools should focus on what the students are able to do NOW, and guide them in that direction. If a student is not cut our for college now, it does not mean they won’t be better suited for it later in life.

    Remember, we need pizza delivery people.

    thanks takce care

    Rob Zingg

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