A new report by Strong American Schools shows that a great many high school graduates are not really prepared for college. Released on Monday, the Diploma to Nowhere report tells us that more than one million incoming college students must take remedial courses to acquire basic academic skills in math and reading in order to take and comprehend entry-level college courses.
You might think that a high school diploma means that your high school graduate is ready for college, but not so. In fact, the study shows that 4 out of 5 of incoming college students who need remediation had a high school grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
This is a problem of low standards in high school.
You don't want this to happen to your kid. It will cost you or your child extra cash and increase the chances that he or she will drop out of college. And it wastes your child's time. After all, this is the stuff they were supposed to learn in high school.
Here are six ways to protect yourself and your child against this risk:
- Steer your children toward harder courses. Make sure they take four years of math and four years of English. Find the teachers who uphold high standards (ask other parents and the principal) and ask for your child to be assigned to those classes.
- Pay particular attention to your children's scores on end-of-course exams. In California and some other states, students take an exam at the end of algebra and other critical "college gatekeeper" courses. Make sure your child and your child's teacher know that you expect the result to be good!
- Have your child take tests beginning in middle school that help benchmark his or her progress toward being college ready. ACT has the Explore and Plan programs for kids in middle and early high school. The College Board has the PSAT test. Talk to your high school counselor, college placement office or principal. Make sure your child takes the tests earlier rather than later. You can't solve problems unless you know they're there.
- Encourage your child to take AP courses. These courses are benchmarked to college-level standards. If your child can get a 4 or 5 (5 is best) on these courses, he's on track.
- If your school offers the IB curriculum (International Baccalaureate), encourage your child to enroll. This is a rigorous college prep program leading to an international diploma.
- Tell your principal and school board members that you think a high school diploma should mean that the graduate has the skills required to succeed in college -- without remedial courses. Follow up with them and see what they're doing about this issue.
Above all, don't assume that a high school diploma means that your child is ready for college. You've got to get informed and involved to make sure your child really is ready.