When I first came to my little town in “Middle America” I went to the “local” campus, (only about an hour and half from here, so we consider it “just around the corner”) to take the College Placement Test.
After completing the test I waited patiently for the woman behind the desk to administer a score. I realized I had missed a lot of questions, but forgave myself, since it had been a long time for me, since I’d been to school. I was not your “typical” College Freshman, instead a 29 year old mother of 3, who had decided to try to turn her life around.
As the woman called me over to her desk I felt a nervous knot form in the pit of my stomach. I knew I didn’t do that well on the test. Many of the questions I think I could have answered years before, dissecting sentences, performing algebraic equations, who uses that stuff after they leave High School? Most of it lurked somewhere in the back of my memory, but trying to get it to come to the front, during a timed test, was just not happening the way I had hoped.
She gave me my score, and with a huge smile said “We don’t see scores like this anymore.”
That made me feel good about myself, but not too much about our Educational System. She told me that I wouldn’t need any refresher courses. Then she said “All of these kids just coming out of High School need to take Remedial Courses, before they can even begin classes.”
Now I would have thought just coming out of High School a lot of this stuff would be fresh in your mind. Parts of speech, and sentence structure, and the kind of Math that no-one uses to balance their checkbook or calculate their grocery purchases. Apparently these things aren’t being learned in High School, or else the Senior classes are developing Alzheimer’s at a much higher rate than expected.
I could feel the woman’s frustration, although she didn’t say a lot, she seemed to be thinking it. She explained that colleges are taking over, doing the job that High Schools used to.
Where once it was expected that in order to get into college you had a certain amount of knowledge, and test scores were at least average, today it common place for students to go through remedial or preparatory classes, before they can begin to take a single college course.
If you have ever helped a High School Senior write a paper, or put together a resume, you have probably witnessed the same things I have. I am amazed at the lack of knowledge and the lack of basic skills, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and even Capitolization skills these young people have. I used to wonder how in the world they were passing in High School, when they had difficulty with things I would consider “Grade School” subjects. But since then I have learned the sad truth.
Public school teachers are often given a quota. They must pass so many students, or else face a reprimand and possible loss of their jobs. They face terrible odds, one of them for every 30 or 40 children. They don’t have time to help individual students, and they don’t have assurance that if they hold students back that they know aren’t living up to their potential, they will still have a job.
It’s a mass market. Kids in, kids out. The teacher teaches, but do the kids learn?
Colleges say NO.
They say we’re doing the High School’s job.
And the truth is they are.