Forum editorial: Remedial statistics troubling
If North Dakota and Minnesota public schools consistently rank as among the best in the nation, why do so many freshman students on state university campuses need remedial studies? It seems counterintuitive that K-12 schools, which are said to be...
If North Dakota and Minnesota public schools consistently rank as among the best in the nation, why do so many freshman students on state university campuses need remedial studies? It seems counterintuitive that K-12 schools, which are said to be good, send unprepared graduates to colleges.
But that is the trend, according to statistics from Minnesota and a growing body of anecdotal evidence in North Dakota. One-third to one-half of students on public campuses in the two states need some sort of remedial work when they enter as freshmen. They require remedial classes in the basics: reading, writing and mostly math. They take courses they should have mastered in high school.
And there's the rub. High school grade-point averages and course transcripts don't give an accurate reading of a student's academic achievements. College instructors charged with remedial programs report many students who need special courses got through high school with A's and B's. Some kids were honor roll students. Yet they find they can't read, write or calculate at levels expected of students entering college. They spend precious time learning material they are supposed to know before they get to college. Universities divert limited resources to remedial programs. It's a waste all around.
Such disturbing statistics are sure to generate finger-pointing. Rigid testing regimes are to blame, say some teachers. It's the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, say some educators. It's parental pressure on teachers and kids, say others. Still other finger-pointers accuse grade creep or social promotion for advancing students who can't read or write or calculate well. And still others blame societal expectations for every kid to go to a four-year college when other educational paths would better serve some students.
It's all of the above, and likely more that has yet to be identified. But remedial rates among freshman college students of 30 to 50 percent suggest a quiet crisis in public schools. Arguing over the "whys" will only be useful if the goal is to better prepare high school students for the first year of college. After all, students are the pawns in the blame game.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.