More Students Unprepared For College

By Staff
May 6, 2009

High school graduates are woefully unprepared for higher education, and students and taxpayers are absorbing the cost of their remedial classes.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 25 percent of students in the state take remedial courses in college, at a cost of $25 million annually. Additionally, most graduates who qualified for Georgia's HOPE scholarship by maintaining a B average in high school eventually lost the grant in college.

In the district of Atlanta, the statistics painted a particularly dire picture. There, 86 percent of the more than 200 students who enrolled in two-year colleges in fall 2007 needed remedial classes. Within that group, 29 of 37 students receiving the HOPE scholarship needed remedial help.

"For too long, we've kowtowed to low expectations," said Kathy Cox, the state school superintendant. She noted that although Georgia is implementing policy changes aimed at demanding more from high school students, it could be several years before the remedial rate goes down.

Some teachers blamed the trend on too-lenient school policies, including barring teachers from giving failing grades, permitting students to retake classes without penalties and punishing teachers who fail too many students.

"They don't like passing the kids who aren't doing the work," explained Ann Robinson, a former high school instructor who was referring to her friends who teach. "But the administrators will say, 'if you don't do this, you'll be out of a job. We'll find someone who will.'"

Ohio is facing the same problem. "It's clear that not enough students are ready for college," said Larry Johnson, dean of the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, who was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

According to a report, only a third or less of urban high school students from the region were prepared last year in all four subject areas of the ACT College Readiness tests. As a result, thousands of students who entered local universities and community colleges in Ohio required remedial classes.

In Pennsylvania, PRNewswire reports that the State Board of Education is trying to address the same problem by instituting statewide high school graduation requirements showing that students possess the necessary skills to graduate.

California is just beginning to reap the rewards of such testing. The Sacramento Bee reports that a 5-year-old program which assesses high school juniors is reducing the number of freshmen who need to take college remedial courses.

This year, freshman enrollment in remedial math dropped 4 percent, while the number taking remedial English dropped 6 percent-a total of about 5,000 less than before. Typically, about 60 percent of freshman at California State University have needed to take remedial classes in English or math, or both.

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