Thursday, December 22, 2011

I've Been Recommending This For Years

If you want a university degree, you should have knowledge of more than just your chosen field of study. I'm not saying that a modern dance major needs to know particle physics in order to get a degree, but said major should know at least Algebra 2 (the requirement for admission to California state universities) and how to write a term paper. Darren's rule, which I know rubs some people the wrong way: those who need remedial math or English should get such help before stepping foot onto a university campus, most likely at a junior college:
Wracked with frustration over the state's legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus...

"I'm not at all optimistic that it's going to help," said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay, where 73 percent of this year's freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.
Yes, it's that bad. And while we can point the fingers at the local East Bay K-12 system and say they're not doing their job, that's not reason enough to compel taxpayers like me to foot the bill for these unprepared students to attend a university.

Sadly, though, CSU isn't even considering requiring students to go learn what they failed in 13 years of K-12 education to learn. No, they're only requiring a 15-hr online intervention that conceivably will give students enough knowledge, for just enough time, to pass a test which, miraculously, says they're now OK for the university. I would send them to JC and tell them to learn the material.

We're talking about getting a university degree here. Shouldn't that mean something? I got a math degree, but I can also talk intelligently about history, about (some of) the classics, about philosophy, about geography, about the military. I can write coherently. A well-rounded education should be the standard, not the pipe-dream, but we'll never get there as long as we continue to accept underqualified students into our universities and then allow them to earn degrees in narrow fields without the benefits of a liberal arts education.

I often hear about universities or courses that are "impacted", meaning there are too many students for the seats available. Getting rid of un(der)qualified students should solve that problem nicely.


Anonymous said...

A possible solution for the CSU system in California: Get rid of the freshman year. Make it mandatory that students have at least one year at a junior college before admission to a CSU campus. While at the JC, the student must learn college required material rather than waiting to learn it his freshman year at CSU. This will make the CSU system less impacted. It will weed out students who go to college only because it's September and have nothing else to do. It will eliminate remedial studies on a CSU campus. It will impact the JC system..for awhile, but we'll survive.

Beth said...

I totally agree with you on this. I am 44 and have gone back to school to study nursing. Since I haven't set foot in a class room since graduating in 1985, I took a remedial math class, on purpose, as I knew that there was no way I could pass college algebra. I was shocked to see that most of the students in my class of 30 were just out of high school. Some by no more than 2 years, most were recent graduates.

I think that this is a prime example of why teaching to the test, rather than teaching to give knowledge is a HUGE disservice to our children.

Cal said...

Two words: disparate impact

They could also solve the problem by setting an SAT/ACT minimum of 550/20. Same problem.

In other words, they'd get sued because the vast majority of affected students would be black or Hispanic.

mrelliott said...

Isn't it interesting that the system is so de-valuing years of study by allowing students to make up the difference with 15 hours of online study. This is why too many students aren't learning it the first time. Their are too many loopholes and outs to the system.

Anonymous said...

The whole system needs to be fixed. Band-aids aren't going to do it.

Many of the students enrolling in JCs/CCs receive financial aid from the state. It's increasingly common to find people gaming the system. They apply at Community College X, Community College Y, and Community College Z for both financial aid and classes. They have no plans to attend all three colleges, but they know it will be difficult to get classes, so they are taking a shotgun approach, and they thereby clog the system. It's analogous to someone who is planning to fly from point A to point B, and they book seats on three or four different flights. Typically, students don't have to pay to register for classes, so for the sake of the analogy, assume they don't have to pay for a seat on any of those flights until the flight is actually in progress. That's basically what is happening at many JCs/CCs around the state. Clearly the airlines would be greatly vexed by such a practice, which is why they require you to pay upfront for a seat. But JCs/CCs around the state typically do not require payment at the time of registration, because of the prevalence of students who receive BOG waivers, grants, etc., to attend. Financial aid is disbursed *after* the semester gets rolling. These schools are all paid on the basis of apportionment, which basically translates to folks enrolled in classes when they do the official headcount. Every college works to maximize the official headcount, which then maximizes their revenue.

I teach math at a JC/CC, and have for the past 15 years. Our semester starts more than a month from now. But already the registration is more or less over and I'm getting emails from folks who are looking for a seat in my classes. Every section, especially of lower-level classes, is full, on paper.

The classes I teach often have a success rate around 50%. Some of these are remedial classes, which review high school algebra I and algebra II. State law currently allows students up to three attempts at a single class. Each attempt is substantially taxpayer-subsidized, and right now the cost is split between student and taxpayer about 25%-75%. In other words, the student pays 25%, and the taxpayers cover the other 75%. So a student could take, for example, the review of high school algebra I, which we call elementary algebra. They can get any combination of D,F, or W grade in three attempts at the course before we tell them "game over, thanks for playing." But they can do this at every JC campus, and students are highly mobile these days. And they don't have to pay until the semester gets rolling.

The way the system is configured currently, it produces a significant waste of taxpayer dollars, and tremendous inefficiency.