There's been a lot of talk lately of college- and career-
readiness for high-school graduates, but according to a study
released Tuesday, what community colleges actually require is less
rigorous than we think - and many high school graduates aren't
meeting even those low standards.
What is being taught and emphasized in high school math and
English, moreover, is out of alignment with what is needed to
succeed in community college, the report concludes.
The study, from the National Center on Education and the Economy
(NCEE), set out to look at what is actually required of first-year
community college students - the textbooks they use, the work
they're assigned, the tests they're given, and the grades they
receive. By contrast, previous studies of student ability have
relied on faculty surveys, which tend to emphasize what teachers
wish their students knew.
Community colleges enroll nearly half of all college students in
America, and are often a gateway both to four-year colleges and to
vocational education. Thus, zeroing in on what's needed for success
at community colleges made sense, says Marc Tucker, president of
NCEE and an author of the report.
"We're talking about the preparation of people who are absolutely
crucial to the future," says Mr. Tucker.
Among the report's findings, which looked at both math and
- First-year community college students need to know fairly
little math - and what they do need to know is mostly taught in
middle-school math courses: arithmetic, ratio, proportion,
expressions, and simple equations. Most high school graduates,
however, don't know it well. The typical college algebra course
could be characterized as about the level of Algebra 1.25 - Algebra
I and a few topics from geometry and statistics.
- Many community college courses require students to take
complex measurements and to read schematic drawings and charts -
concepts that aren't taught at all in most high schools.
- In English literacy, most community-college texts were at an
11th- or 12th-grade level - but most students had not been reading
texts at that level in high school, and were unable to analyze or
comprehend them with any depth.
- Little writing is required in first-year community college
courses, even though it's an essential skill in many workplaces. A
primary reason that faculty ask college students to write so little
is that their writing skills are poor, and they did little writing
in high school. …