How Local Colleges Prepare High Schoolers for the Next Step

Article excerpt

Byline: Larissa Chinwah

Too many students are graduating high school without the skills needed to take on college-level course work, local educators and national statistics say.

While community colleges across the suburbs are developing bridge courses

short-term programs designed to quickly bring students up to par in subjects like math, reading and writing some say earlier intervention is critical to success after high school.

"We can't start the college-readiness conversation early enough," said Rich Haney, vice president for educational affairs at the College of Lake County. "Ideally it would be in middle school. We have been really focused on the issue of getting an early start on college. You can't wait for your junior or senior year to prepare."

According to data recently released by the Department of Education, 44 percent of students at public two-year colleges across the country are enrolled in developmental courses. At four-year colleges, 27 percent of students are taking developmental courses.

Data from the ACT program found only 24 percent of 2010 high school graduates were college-ready in all four ACT areas: English, reading, math and science.

In many cases, developmental courses often do not count toward a student's major but are needed before a student can take prerequisite courses.

At the College of DuPage, about 27 percent of the

students younger than 25 are enrolled in a developmental class.

Seventy-five percent of those students are taking a developmental math course. The college offers three levels, starting at the fifth-grade level up to high school-level intermediate algebra.

"It really is a waste for students on both ends," said Joseph Collins, executive vice president of the College of DuPage. "Sometimes they waste their last year of high school because they don't have to take a fourth year of math and then it's a waste at the college-end when they have to take a remedial math course."

Collins said the college is collaborating with the DuPage Regional Office of Education and six high schools on a pilot program to develop a math curriculum for high school seniors.

"I think the problem is a lack of alignment of curriculum what the students are taking at the high school level," Collins said.

"That's not aligned properly with what colleges and universities are saying students need to be successful."

Educators like Deborah Alheit, a math instructor at McHenry County College, say the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards will simplify the alignment of high school and college curriculums when they take effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

"The Common Core is K-12 and should provide a better focus on the basic standards and benchmarks students should be reaching," Alheit said.

The College of DuPage is taking steps earlier to assist students who may be a few points shy of placing into college-level courses.

"Instead of waiting for students to come here in the fall and take a developmental class, the school will teach it in the student's senior year," Collins said. "Students will get it done and then sequence more smoothly to freshman year."

Similarly, McHenry County College is strengthening its relationships with high schools to ensure students know what to expect when they reach campus. …