The Jens

The Jens
jen b & Jen P

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ready for College? Or Career?

Last year Jen and I spent time looking at reports on students’ readiness for college – in part, because we were curious as to how our students stacked up to the rest of our district’s students on the CSU EAP test. More on that in a later post, but here’s what we found about students’ readiness in general:

Only about 30 percent of last year’s California high school graduates who took the ACT college entrance exam tested proficient in all subject areas.
The state’s best subject was English – 72 percent of students were considered ready for college freshman classes. In science, however, only 34 percent were deemed ready for higher education.
“In California, about half of entering freshmen at Cal State University need to take remedial courses in English, and about 40 percent have to do so in math," said Hans Johnson, policy fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California
According to The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011, aproximately 28% of all 2011 ACT-tested high school graduates did not meet any of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, meaning they were not prepared academically for first-year college courses in English Composition, College Algebra, Biology, and social sciences.

 A record number of high school juniors took the California State University readiness test last spring, and a record number were deemed college-ready in math and English. But, despite some improvement over the past six years, the percentage of juniors who tested prepared for a four-year college remained stubbornly low: only 22 percent who took the English exam and 15 percent who took the math exam. For Hispanic and African American students, it’s only 12 percent college-ready in English and 5 percent in math.

So why am I bringing up these stats about college readiness? Because page 4 of the Introduction to the CCSS begins with this explanation: The CCR standards anchor the document and define general, cross-disciplinary literacy expectations that must be met for students to be prepared to enter college and workforce training programs ready to succeed.

I think the way the CCSS has set up these standards is rather nice. The anchor standards are the same, K-12, and they provide a broad description for what students should be able to do. Then, the grade level standards, and for high school, the additional literacy standards for history/social studies and science/technical subjects, spell out the specific skills and understandings.
I also like how the CCSS explicitly states that the standards do not mandate how or what to teach – the goals are clearly stated, but how we get there is up to us.
Just as on page 3, the shared responsibility for students’ literacy is made explicitly clear. This makes perfect sense to me as we see students struggle with the reading for their college classes. We have to teach them to become active readers, to annotate, to take notes on the reading and then review those notes. When some of our students are overwhelmed by the reading in their community college social science and science classes, I worry about how they’ll do if/when they transfer to the university. Even though most of our students are deemed proficient or advanced readers, and they take both high school and college English classes, every year we hear from grads who’ve moved on to the university that the amount of reading and text complexity is far beyond what they’ve been used to. So I welcome the opportunity to work with social studies and science teachers to improve students’ literacy skills. 
I’m curious to see what kinds of tests will be developed to assess these skills and understandings. I haven’t yet had the time to explore the Smarter Balanced or PARRC websites.
~Jen P

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