Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Remediating remediation, Part II

So we know that remediation for high school graduates is an issue. The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) is meeting August 19-21 and, apparently, one of the topics of that conference is remedial education. The NCSL has some recommendations for what legislators can do.

The first recommendation is to Implement preventative (or preventive) strategies. By that I think they mean they should implement more or other standardized tests. Buried in the text is this: "[t]he WestEd study recommends that policymakers and higher education leaders work together to promote awareness among students about what it means to be college ready and how the assessment and placement process works."

Wrong. I believe K-12 classroom teachers and administrators in conjunction with higher education leaders need to understand how the placement process works. Then high school counselors and university admissions counselors could be using the same language. It would be amazing (and improbable) if placement processes were somewhat universal so that parents and students didn't have to navigate multiple placement processes if the student applies to more than one school. If processes were somewhat universal, high school counselors could provide useful insight. Okay, so the universal process isn't going to happen, so K-12 classroom teacher and administrators have to help parents and students learn what questions to ask when they start their campus visits. And that means that K-12 teachers and administrators have to have stronger, better, or existing partnerships with the universities to which most of their students apply to get that information.

And let's get real about those standardized tests. Students need to know which colleges require a placement test regardless of ACT or SAT scores. Students need to which colleges offer a placement test regardless of ACT or SAT scores. If the placement test is optional, I suggest students take it anyway. If nothing else, it will give the student one more piece of information about his or her actual readiness to succeed at that school. Students need to know that the ACT and the SAT English scores don't mean they can write well and for college.

My recommendation is that 10th grade teachers build relationships with university professors, particularly writing professors. Invite those professors to do a presentation on writing, maybe even an activity or two with their students so high school students get a hint of what it means to write in college. Better yet, invite a panel of writing, math, social science, and science professors to talk to students about their expectations for student writing. I had a colleague who taught a freshman-level biology class. She would mark the first five errors on a student's paper and then hand it back. She expected students to do what was necessary to improve the writing of their work before resubmitting it and they had a specific window of opportunity.

High school guidance counselors need to have more information about placement processes for the universities to which most of their graduates apply. They need to have some of those admissions counselors on speed dial, too. High school teachers, staff, and administrators have to reinforce the means by which students can gauge their readiness, which is not by standardized tests or high school grades alone.

Students need to learn to talk to their admissions counselors and ask questions about standardized tests, placement exams, resources for academic support (tutoring, Writing Center, etc.). Better to have the information about those resources and not need it than scramble for it when it's almost too late.

Students need to learn to talk to their professors or other students who have had those professors, or both. Kids cannot be afraid to or ashamed of asking for help. Asking for help tells professors that those students take their education seriously and they are willing to do what it takes to do well.

My next blog post will focus on innovation of remediation.

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