Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Texas high school grads less prepared for college than others in U.S., panel says

I recommend checking out the website for the Commission for a College Ready Texas. I hope that this conversation gets opened up more broadly to include various sectors of the community. The Texas Center for Education Policy at UT had just such a conversation that was statewide and inclusive. Check out our report, too. -Angela

Texas high school grads less prepared for college than others in U.S., panel says
Remediation often needed; panel to urge higher standards
08:25 AM CST on Tuesday, November 6, 2007

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Texas high school graduates are far less prepared for college-level courses than their counterparts across the nation – with nearly half of college freshmen in Texas needing remediation – according to a state panel appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.

The Commission for a College Ready Texas, which was charged with finding ways to better prepare students for college, also said in a draft report released Monday that the state's curriculum standards are too flimsy, and that a passing score on the state's high school graduation test gives no assurance that a student is ready for college.

Further, the panel said that Texas schools need to quit allowing students to blow off their senior year of high school, arguing that valuable time is wasted when students should be acquiring more of the skills and knowledge they need for college and workplace success.

"We have a big hill to climb in Texas," said Austin lawyer Sandy Kress, chairman of the commission and former education adviser to President Bush. "We want our kids to come out of high school ready for college and a good job, but we have a long way to go to reach that goal."

Mr. Kress, former president of the Dallas school board, said the current curriculum in the public schools doesn't provide for many of the skills considered necessary in college.

"The curriculum has to be stronger, and the standards have to be more rigorous," he said. "While we've made some academic gains in our elementary schools over the last decade, we have not seen gains in our secondary schools."

The commission was appointed by Mr. Perry earlier this year to make recommendations to the State Board of Education and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Among the recommendations will be new, college-oriented curriculum standards for English, math, science and social studies courses taught in the public schools.

Commission members – including business, civic and education leaders from across the state – are scheduled to finalize their recommendations at a meeting in Austin on Wednesday.

The panel's report spells out problems that Texas faces in trying to improve the college readiness of its high school graduates.

"A variety of data confirm that high school graduates across the United States are ill-prepared for the rigors of college coursework, and Texas students fare even worse than their counterparts nationally," the report said.

"The vast majority of Texas public school graduates who intend to acquire post-secondary certification or a degree are less prepared to succeed than most of their peers throughout the nation."

College readiness was defined as having "the core knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the first year of education after high school without the need for remedial or developmental education."

By that definition, Texas is not making the grade, according to the report.

Data cited by the commission indicated that 50 percent of college freshmen in Texas are enrolled in remedial or developmental classes, compared with 28 percent across the U.S.

In addition, the study noted that only 18 percent of Texas students who took the ACT – one of the leading college entrance exams – met college readiness benchmarks in English, math, science and social studies. The percentages were even smaller for black and Hispanic students.

The report also said the passing standard on the high school graduation exam, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, is so low that it masks the academic weaknesses of many students who actually lack the skills to do well in freshman courses in college.

Regarding the tendency of many high school students to breeze through their senior year, the report said: "Students, faculty, counselors and administrators can no longer view the senior year in high school as a let-down or 'marking-time' interval.

"Academic intensity must continue through 12th grade if students are to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for college and workplace success."

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