Sunday, October 18, 2009

Not Ready For College

I'm sure UNLV has the best of intentions here, and there's a chance that they might learn something of value by conducting this study, but I think most of us probably already know the answer, don't we?

UNLV is about to launch what may be its most important research project ever: Why are so many freshmen not ready for college even though their high school grades suggest they are?
The good news here is that they're not just going to try to figure out why, they're going to see if they can do anything about it while the kids are still in K-12:

Other public universities — notably in California — are addressing the problem of poorly prepared college freshmen, but Smatresk has a unique laboratory at his disposal: the Clark County School District, the pipeline for 80 percent of UNLV’s undergraduate population.

That will allow UNLV to mount what may be the most aggressive initiative in the nation to address the problem, Smatresk said.

The scope and reach of UNLV’s research — including evaluating every incoming freshman to reverse-engineer his academic upbringing — will create a new paradigm in studying student remediation, Smatresk said.
This can, of course, get some toes stepped on:

The possibility that the district will be able to identify clusters of underachieving students, and trace them to not only individual campuses but individual classrooms, has Clark County’s teachers union on edge.

The goal, they say, is to help, not blame. Sounds worthwhile to me.


allen (in Michigan) said...

What's wrong with blaming rather then helping?

When an airplane crashes the NTSB may do some helping, as in improving maintenance procedures but the NTSB has never been reticent about blaming when blaming was warranted. So why doesn't the same dynamic operate in this case?

Some schools suck. Some districts suck. If UNLV can identify the districts/schools that are doing an execrable job of educating kids they certainly ought to make the information public. The fact that they won't is tacit admission of the relatively unimportant nature of education in the public education system and the importance of political considerations.

Darren said...

There's nothing wrong with blame when it's warranted, but find a crappy school and I doubt you'll find tons of crappy teachers. Some, yes, but not a school's worth. There *are* other factors at play.

In atmosphere where we want to point fingers, assign blame, and have heads roll, I'm not convinced, though, that there shouldn't be *some* measures in place to protect good people who merely work in a bad neighborhood.

Curmudgeon said...

Agreed. Show me a school where ALL the teachers are uniformly bad. You can't.

In every school, there are some good teachers and some bad ones. There are good teachers who are assigned the worst students in the hope they'll do something good with them. If they can't succeed despite their best efforts, is that cause for punishing them?

It's damned difficult to find a pattern of poor teaching. Certainly not in this fashion.

Darren said...

On the other hand, don't you know who the bad teachers are at your school?

Huston said...

I've taught for years for both CCSD and UNLV, and I know EXACTLY what the problem is here:

The Millennium Scholarship.

Our last governor took our state's tobacco-lawsuit money from the 90's and put it into this fund which pays for tuition for all Nevada students who go to in-state schools, even after graduating with fairly average grades.

In a SHOCKING turn of events, parents (seduced by the prospect of FREE COLLEGE) started putting their kids in easier classes (the scholarship has no requirement for class difficulty), and the subsequently watered down classes combined with pressures for grade inflation.

UNLV's glut of skill-deficient students started shortly after that, and has held steady since.

(In a related item, Nevada has a strong history of making our proficiency testing requirements easier, too--even when those changes keep resulting in HIGHER failure rates!)