Paul Riede, education reporter for Syracuse’s Post-Standard, posted something this morning that caught my eye: “High school teachers and college professors have a different view of what ‘ready for college’ means,” and linked his comment to a SHOCKING article by the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, entitled “The college ‘preparation gap’ in a single graphic.”
Here is that graphic. Get ready to feel quite ill.
How could that be? How could high school teachers and college teachers have such a radically different take on their students’ level of preparation?
Well, having been a high school teacher for 19 years and a college teacher for 9 (often having done both at the same time – I’m not that old!), I have a couple of thoughts.
Here is a simple reason for this observation. High school teachers are under pressure to get kids "out" by hook or by crook - for HS administrations, the prize at the end is the graduation rate, so that is the target they shoot for, by hook or by crook. It's easy to "graduate" a kid (transitive verb), but that's not the same as a kid "graduating" (intransitive verb), as I have previously blogged here.
This also encourages administrators to force teachers to lower their standards, sometimes drastically, because the gold standard is not mastery or content understanding, but success on a State-mandated assessment battery, as I humorously observed, with a cool Lord of the Rings extended metaphor, here.
As I have written before, and will continue to write again and again, I believe that "Popular myth and the standardized-test culture of American public education would have one think that education is about the massive and rapid accumulation of content, the purpose of which is to succeed on a state test; the error of this thinking is that it relegates the education process itself to a secondary status, making the test score the “prize” of education. Nothing could be more removed from the truth. We have become a nation of pure data, of test scores and dropout rates, ciphers which are at best simplified abstractions of critically important ideas – but raw numbers do not tell the whole story. Any educational process or notion that has at its heart the notion that it is the data that needs to be treated, and not the students, is fundamentally flawed."
And Obama has a history of being a bit hypocritical regarding his devotion to the (Race to the) top-down model of test-driven evaluation of students, and teachers! What this all amounts to is that teachers are pressured, bribed, coerced and incentivized (and make no mistake, teachers are at least PARTIALLY to blame for their own victimhood – where’s the activist spirit that surely led them to the profession in the first place?) and threatened by administrators at the site, district, state and federal levels to move kids through the system.
Sort of like a pedagogical laxative. Ewww…. No wonder education is in the sh*ts these days.
[insert cymbal crash]
The second half of my answer is as follows:
While high school teachers are under pressure to get kids "out," however possible, for colleges, the moment at which high schools turn out their students and wipe their hands of them is the students' starting point. In order for college-level coursework to have any meaning, there must be a set of expectations, a set of minimum prerequisites for entry and participation. If 9th graders are functioning at the 6th grade level, and 12th graders are functioning at the 9th grade level, then that forces colleges to become high schools, which eliminates the value of college altogether. And while remedial (I mean "developmental") coursework can fill some of the gaps, the fact is that most state colleges and universities and community colleges spend an inordinate amount of capital and human resources doing high schools' jobs for them, and it has a serious cascading effect on program offerings, personnel and staffing, and the robustness of the college experience as a whole.
Intermediate and secondary schools' absolute failure to impose and enforce rational, objective, consistent standards, coupled with the obscene progressivist fetish which is "social promotion" are going to destroy the notion of college as we know it. They've already destroyed high school... why stop there?
Is all hope lost? I’m just A.S.K.ing…