Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grade 13

Kris sent me an article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed (only available to subscribers, so I won't link to it) about the advent of Grade 13 at colleges.
The promise of No Child Left Behind is manifesting in the shaky proficiencies demonstrated by today's college freshmen. According to the 2009 ACT College Readiness Report, only 23 percent of high-school graduates have the requisite skills to earn at least a C in entry-level college courses in the four general areas of English, mathematics, science, and reading. That means 77 percent of all graduating seniors have serious deficiencies in one or more areas.
The authors blame NCLB, which I think is a post hoc fallacy. There are many, many reasons for this decline, a big one being that we send a lot more kids to college than we ever did before. (Another reason, and I don't have time to expand upon it today, is that the American Dream, which once meant "Through hard work and determination, anyone can succeed," is now defined as "The aspiration of young Americans to live better than their parents did." There's a big difference there.)

Care to hazard a guess as to how many community college kids need remediation? How about Ivy Leaguers? What do you do? The Chronicle writers complain that failing too many kids leads to job insecurity.
Pressure to retain students does no one any good if they pass college humanities courses without being able to write even a five-paragraph essay.
Are we actually graduating kids from college who are semi-illiterate? How does THAT help us compete in a global economy?


Kris said...

I guess part of what is so striking is the steep increase in entering students with lower skill levels in just the past three years or so. Something has changed recently - whether it is NCLB or just more kids from the lower end of the high school class going on to college I can't say, but if it's a cultural shift it happened very quickly.

mlutwak said...

I think the shift might have occurred awhile ago, as evidenced by the number of students in education programs -- studying to be teachers -- who are semi-literate.

I suspect that the cultural/economic trend away from teaching as a sane career has fully kicked in; only the passionately motivated, insane, or not very educated now see it as a reasonable career.

Add to that the wide-spread lack of talent and support from the main other stakeholders in the institution, particularly principals, and it's a wonder any student learns anything.

KAZ said...

I'm not quite as defeated as M, although I absolutely believe that all teaching programs should be eradicated. Teachers should be trained in a discipline, just like the rest of us. Elementary teachers should have degrees in math, or comparative literature, or science.

The notion that teaching is not adequately compensated is somewhat exaggerated. Teachers start well above where I started in publishing, and they work ten months a year. Tenure, a master's degree, and regular contractual raises over time can earn them a very reasonable salary in the high five figures (for, I repeat, ten months). Not doctor or lawyer money, but not poverty wages, either. And their benefits tend to be better than anyone's in the private sector.

Yes, the job should be better respected, but respect does not equal dollars, much as the unions would like us to believe it does. Let's go back to the days when the teacher was a wise and esteemed (though not rich) pillar of the community. That can only happen if teachers are better-educated than the people whose children they teach.