Saturday, September 29, 2012

Remedial College Classes Signal Need for Change

A recent article in the Trentonian reports that over 50% of students attending community colleges are taking remedial courses as a prerequisite to the actual coursework in their chosen program.

Think about that for a second. Not only are New Jersey’s inner city high schools only graduating half of its students, but half of those graduates attending community college are not truly prepared.

This fact is troubling on many levels, but the important point for me is that many of these students currently struggling to get started at community college should have had other, better options. We need to move beyond the current mantra that high school is seen as little more than the prerequisite for college, and that college is necessary for any student determined to improve his or her economic position.

Whether the field is health care, building trades, or other skills where training, but not necessarily a college degree, is required, our high schools do an extremely poor job partnering with the business community to create programs that prepare students for careers where college is not essential. You may not particularly like the European system, with its clear policies of tracking, but it does a much better job of preparing a greater cross section of its students for careers. It may be the historical connection to guilds that creates this determination to give students the skills to succeed, but our lack of a historical connection does not preclude our schools from doing the same thing.

Not all students should be steered towards college after graduation. For inner city students, given the current state of affairs, this is clearly the case. It is time to disengage our inner city schools from existing state mandates and allow them to independently create programs that address the particular needs of its student body. A visionary leader, one that is knowledgeable and respectful of student perspectives and needs, can establish a school culture that is challenging, focused, and buoyed by tangible opportunities for the student body borne out of meaningful connections between the school and the private and non-profit sectors in the region. Only then will there be true paths to success for our inner city students, rather than channel them into a system destined to result in frustration, debt, and disappointment.


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  2. If college completion is the shared goal, why do students fail to reach that goal? Why is it that fewer than 60 percent of students entering four-year colleges in America are graduating? Why are graduation rates for minority and low-income students and for those who enter community college considerably lower?
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