Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Law seeks answers on high school grads who need remedial classes

Alan J. Borsuk with some commentary on recently passed 2015 Wisconsin Act 28, at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

What is the scope of the problem?

"In December 2013, UW officials released a report that showed that almost a quarter of students systemwide were required to take remedial courses. About 20% were assigned to math remediation and a bit under 10% to English remediation (the numbers overlap because some need both).

"The math figure was at 20% in 1990, but it trended down to about 10% by 2000 before heading back up to the one-in-five mark by 2007. It stayed there in following years.

"At some campuses, and for graduates of some high schools, the remedial percentage is surely lower. And for some it is much higher. The 2013 report showed the remedial rate at UW-Madison was less than 1%. For UW-Milwaukee, it was almost 37% and for UW-Parkside, it was over 65%."

A parent had asked State Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown) how a kid can graduate in good standing from a Wisconsin high school yet need remedial classes upon entering the state university.
"Jagler has an additional question: How come so little is known about this? UW officials have compiled reports on remediation, and they have detailed their work dealing with it. But the issue gets little attention, the data is not widely known and results haven't improved much."
One might think this would get the attention of administration and faculty in UW Schools of Education. If they're teaching people to teach, why do so many kids need remediation? And if they're not teaching people to teach, do they have a plan to improve?
"Jagler became the lead sponsor of a little-noted bill that was approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed a few days ago by Gov. Scott Walker that calls for UW administrators to determine which public high schools (including charter schools, but not private schools) send into the UW system more than six graduates in any given year who need remedial math and/or English."
(I would have looked at putting this in terms of percentages of a high school's graduating class and its accepted students.)
"The new law calls for UW to send a report on what schools make that list to appropriate legislative committees and to the state superintendent of public instruction. (Department of Public Instruction officials asked during the legislative process to be included in the law since they, too, wanted to see the list.)"
Better late than never.
"Over the last several years, many schools altered their goals to say they wanted to get students ready not only to get into college but to succeed in college."
That the former did not mean the latter comes as a surprise.

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