Wednesday, May 16, 2007

74% of High School Students Taking "College Prep" Curriculum Unprepared for College

A new study of 1.2 million high school seniors across the U.S. who took the ACT, a college admissions test similar to the SAT, found that only 26% of those who completed a "college prep" curriculum were actually prepared for college-level work in all 4 core areas (mathematics, English, science, and social studies). Nearly 1 in 5 were unprepared in every single area.

The president of the ACT, Cynthia Schmeiser, was stunned by the findings: "What’s shocking about this, is that since ‘A Nation at Risk,’ [the 1983 report of the Federal Commission on Excellence in Education] we have been encouraging students to take this core curriculum with the unspoken promise that when they do, they will be college ready. What we have found now, is that when they do, only one in four is ready for college-level work.”

Students who plan to attend college need rigorous high school courses that will adequately prepare them for the demands they will face at college. Unfortunately, in too many of America's high schools, "college prep" are just words on a transcript. A 2003 study done by the RAND corporation and the Brookings Institution found that 2/3 of 17 year olds spend less than an hour per day on homework. In 2002, the Concord Review surveyed 400 public high school teachers nationwide. 62% of them never assigned a paper of 3,000-5,000 words (around 9-15 pages double-spaced) and 81% never assigned a paper of more than 5,000 words. Term papers have significant weight in the grading of many university courses, often 50% or more of the final grade. Students who have not practiced writing these types of term papers in high school are at a significant disadvantage.

Critics of homeschooling often question whether a parent can adequately prepare their high school aged child for college. It is clear, however, that many traditional schools are not adequately preparing students for college. Numerous studies have shown that homeschooled students score well above the national average on standardized tests. Test scores aren't everything, of course, but they do provide an objective assessment of the child's knowledge in tested areas and they do show moderately strong correlation with college grades (around 0.5 for the SAT). These statistics go to show that people need to worry less about inadequately prepared homeschoolers and more about inadequately prepared traditionally schooled students!

No comments: