Monday, March 02, 2015

Scylla and Charibdis

Should high schools pay for the cost of remedial education of college students?  No.

First, not everyone should even go to college.  It's not for everyone, and we shouldn't pretend that everyone should or could go to college.  Believing that everyone should sends the wrong message to academically lower-performing students that they're failures.  Yes, our schools should turn out students with at least a minimum proficiency level, but that's the opposite end of expecting everyone to go to college.

Second, imagine the untenable position high school teachers would be put in if the above suggestion were implemented.  On the one hand we're already pressured to water down courses, either so graduation rates improve or because students today can't handle the work their peers of 10 years ago could handle, but on the other hand we'd be chastised for sending too many unprepared kids to college.  Lose-lose.

My solution is much more reasonable and puts the responsibility mostly on the student, where it rightly belongs.  No remedial classes should be taught at universities.  Remedial classes should be taught at community colleges which, in California, are still a bargain (although not as much of one as 30 years ago); students had one "free" chance to learn, now they pay for it.  This would have the added beneficial effect of reducing university populations to such a degree that programs would no longer be impacted, and students would be able to get the classes they want/need and would be able to graduate on time.


maxutils said...

Could not agree more.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, but, what about the students who go through high school with incompetent teachers? My eldest child is a junior in high school and has yet to have an English paper graded on content. She has always gotten A's in English, but, who knows if she will need to take Subject A or the equivalent. The teacher just plain doesn't give feedback.

maxutils said...

Anonymous, that is a shame … and this is one of the few areas where increased funding could actually help education. I have taught English, math, and economics … and by FAR English was the most difficult in terms of grading outside of school. When you have 165 3-5 page essays to grade every time you assign one, feedback is going to decline. Especially when basic grammar has no been taught coming up t the high school level. I found myself making so many corrections and comments that it could sometimes take up to two weeks to get the papers back. Add to that the ill-advised need to make the students do 'reading logs,' to make sure they are reading (which you should be able to tell merely through class discussion) and the workload is ponderous. If we cold limit class size to 24 for English classes instead of 36 … immediate improvement, and not relatively that expensive. So it might not be incompetence -- it might just be work overload. In contrast, in a math class, you really need to only verify that it was done with some level of effort, which a student TA can do… because generally you spend part of your class answering questions about the HW. So you only need to do actual grading on tests, which are easier by far than essays.