Monday, March 03, 2008

The Sky is Not Falling

It has been argued by some proponents of Senate Bill 1 that the number of Kentucky students who need remedial services at the beginning college level is a reason to abandon CATS.

The present circumstance is bad and needs fixing - but it's hardly the end of the world.

Kentucky's recognition that education is a fundamental right owed each and every Kentucky child will celebrate only its 20th anniversary next year. Compared to the centuries of social injustice - and inadequate funding for children not of independent means - and given the nature and scale of the task - fairness dictates that the effort be given more time to work. Significant improvements have been made in student achievement - with a long way yet to go.

When it comes to assuring a quality education for all Kentucky children, it is not the teachers who have failed the legislators. It's the other way around. As Judge Wingate suggested in CBE v Williams, Kentucky has a fairly efficient system. It would do even better with more, and more qualified, teachers and expanded services designed to stop the achievement gap before it begins. The teachers ought to be nurtured.

But, to the point - changing the test as Senate Bill 1 proposes, isn't going to fix the problem anyhow.

Kentucky needs to better prepare more students, to higher levels. We need to double the number of college graduates over the next decade. Better coordination between P-12 and higher education is a must. But this is an instructional problem and will only be fixed instructionally.

Then, we need to measure our trends over time. We need a longitudinal system that is fair, stable and easily understood.

We need to keep an eye on all of the children - not just repeating the sins of the past by simply identifying the "college material" above the mean.

A well-structured formative assessment can help, if we are then willing and able to change instruction. But summative assessments won't do much - and alone, they won't do anything.

Wouldn't it be great if Kentucky could improve its overall numbers to the level of the top states in the nation? ...say, like, Massachusetts whose students beat Kentucky (and everybody else) in the most recent round of NAEP tests?

If Kentucky were at that level today - we'd still have 37% of our students in need of remedial courses when entering public colleges.

This from the Boston Globe:

State report shows many students
are not ready for college

BOSTON—Massachusetts may have one of the highest rates of students going to college, but the first statewide "school-to-college" report shows that 37 percent of public high school graduates who go for public higher education may not be ready.

The joint report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Education and Board of Higher Education analyzed the performance of the class of 2005 and showed that students lagging behind needed remedial courses in college.

State education officials say about 80 percent of Massachusetts high school students go to college. The report found that more students from low-income families, some racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not speak English as their first language, and those who receive special education services in high school go to community colleges -- where most of them need remedial academic help. Remedial courses add to the cost and time it takes to graduate, increasing their likelihood of dropping out, the report said.

Higher education officials were not surprised by the finding, saying they hope the report leads to new efforts to help students.

"This reports what we've known anecdotally for some time, and that is there are certain groups of students that, despite our best efforts, are still not graduating from high school ready to pursue college-level work immediately," said Eileen O'Connor, spokeswoman for the Board of Higher Education.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education Jeffrey Nellhaus said: "We hope that the data in this report serves as a catalyst for steps to be taken statewide to improve the academic preparation and performance of the Commonwealth's public school students." ...

H-L strikes a similar position in this morning's editorial.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not appropriate to compare the college remediation rates in Massachusetts and Kentucky without doing some additional work. The issue is that in Massachusetts almost 80 percent of the high school graduates go on to college versus only about 54.5 percent in Kentucky. In addition, Massachusetts has a slightly higher graduation rate than Kentucky.

When you crunch all the numbers needed, it turns out about 40 out of every 100 entering 9th graders in Massachusetts get an adequate preparation for college while here in Kentucky only 22 out of 100 are.

For more, see the March 3 entry, “CATS and College Preparation,” in