Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

April 17, 2012

Report: Many Indiana students not ready for college

INDIANAPOLIS —  Indiana high schools are sending thousands of students off to college without them being college-ready, according to a new report released by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education.

The report, released Monday, shows almost one-third of all Indiana high school graduates who attended the state’s public colleges and universities had to take remedial courses in math and/or English before they could take college-level courses.

The report offers a snapshot of almost every public and private high school in Indiana, showing which schools graduated more students ready for college than others.

Available online at www.che.in.gov (under College Readiness Reports), it shows information for 2010 high school graduates who were enrolled in public colleges and universities in Indiana for the 2010-2011 school year.  

It also shows that even students who earned the college-prep “Core 40” degree –  which requires three years of high school math and four years of high school English – needed help: 39 percent had to take remedial courses in college to catch up on what they should have learned in high school.

The report also shows that 7 percent of Indiana high school students who graduated with an academic honors diploma ­ the highest level earned – had to enroll in remedial courses once they arrived at college. Those numbers equate to money: College students who have to take remedial courses get no college credit for the coursework but have to pay the same tuition rate they’d pay for credit-earning courses that gets them closer to a degree.

That means delay and more debt for students — two critical factors that keep college students from completing their degree on time,  said Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers.

“What we know is that too many people in Indiana who are entering college are not succeeding and not graduating,” Lubbers said. “Too many of them are coming in not prepared for college-level work.”

Lubbers said College Readiness Reports are broken down by school and posted online for a reason.  “Parents need to be asking, ‘Is my student college-ready?’ ”

The answer to that question is too often “no,” said

Jeff Watt, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Watt, named the 2010 Indiana Professor of the Year, said the reasons are multi-fold.  

Math, in particular, is a tough subject to retain if not practiced regularly, he said. That’s why many adult students returning to college after being away for years need remedial math coursework, he said.

But recent high school graduates also struggle to retain what they’ve learned, he said. He and his colleagues have found that students who fail to take a math class in their senior year of high school come to college almost a full year behind those students who do take math as high school seniors.

That time and learning lapse may be an unintended consequence of how high school math is taught in Indiana, he said. Students in 7th and 8th grade can take high school math while in middle school and earn their high school math credits while doing so. So many high school students who are bound for college, he said, end up taking their final math credit as high school school freshmen or sophomores. And what they do learn may be quickly lost.

“Math is like a foreign language,” Watt said. “You lose proficiency with time.”

Math is the area where incoming college students seem to be struggling the most. Eighteen percent of the incoming college freshmen tracked in the college-readiness report issued by the Higher Education Commission needed a remedial math course. Only 3 percent needed a remedial English course; 11 percent needed both.

College-readiness is increasingly the metric that schools are being measured by. As part of his education reform agenda, President Barack Obama is pushing high schools to have all their students college- or career-ready by 2020.

The Indiana Department of Education is pushing the same goal. In a statement released by the DOE, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said the DOE’s mission “is to ensure all students are college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school.”

But he acknowledges the state has a way to go to get there. “This report provides useful information that underscores the need for increased collaboration and alignment between our K-12 and higher education systems.”

Maureen Hayden can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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