Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"They could have worked me harder" 

Courtesy of Number 2 Pencil, the Seattle Times reports that students are increasingly feeling high schools are not preparing them for college.
Leah Belisle just assumed she was prepared. She had, after all, graduated second in her class.

She took the most difficult classes at Meridian High School, a rural school near Bellingham, from which few of her peers went on to four-year colleges. She served as student-body president, played two varsity sports and developed close ties to her teachers.

But in her first semester at the University of Washington, Belisle was stunned. The pace, the intensity, the fact she was expected to read 200 pages of a psychology textbook in one week � all of it felt overwhelming.

"I worked hard in high school, but they could have worked me harder," said Belisle, now a sophomore. "Not only was I adjusting to new people, a new place to live and a new city, but I was adjusting to a new way of learning."
The article goes on to discuss the attrition rate of college freshman (now in excess of 25% of the entering class nationwide and around 30% here at SCSU) and how high school educators are not creating standards that prepare students for college, such as requiring only two years of math when colleges require three for admission. There is definitely a difference in expectations:
A national survey in 2000 showed that although 71 percent of students planned to attend a four-year college, only 52 percent of parents thought their children would make it. And high-school teachers expected only one-third of their students to go to four-year colleges.
Why do high-school teachers have such low expectations? Are they right?
Not every student is "college material," the argument goes, and forcing all students to take a rigorous curriculum will only set up some for failure and humiliation.
And when they come to university and fail here? Oh right, NIMHS -- Not In My High School.
That was the argument last year in Bellevue, when Riley introduced a proposal to require all students to take a college-level course in each of the four "core" disciplines before graduation. More than 300 people packed a forum on the topic, saying the district was moving too far, too fast.

"I've got a heck of a lot of people pushing back and saying, 'Oh, that's unrealistic,' " said Riley, who shelved the proposal. "It reminds me of how the country was a hundred years ago, when people started saying, 'Everybody ought to get a high-school education.' "
When everybody worked harder.