Student Success & the K-16 Problem

Tonight, I am teaching my first class of the semester, and most of my students are future teachers with majors or minors in English.  That is the nature of the course I am teaching this term and also part of my institution’s identity.  As I wonder about them, I am also wondering how our current difficulties effectively moving students from secondary to higher education will impact the young people these current college students will eventually teach.

I’ve spent nearly my entire career in higher education working with programs oriented toward first-year students and/or general education, and in well over a decade, I have only seen the disconnect get worse—more students shocked by grades that aren’t A’s, more students seeking the right answer instead of learning, and fewer students able to cope with those challenges.  And I’m not alone.  Check out this article and this article.  Is it because students are less intelligent or lazier?  No.  These articles both address student stress and concern about their ability to succeed.  Are students today just under more pressure?  No.  I see this phenomenon as directly connected to the increasing disconnect between what is rewarded as success in secondary classrooms and what is expected in college and university classrooms.

Did you know that this year’s first-year students are the first class to have had No Child Left Behind govern their entire education?  I certainly am as I prepare to walk into a classroom filled with first-year college students who want to be teachers.  They will enter their first classrooms as teachers in 2019 at the earliest, but from my perspective that is just around the corner.

Yes, NCLB is no longer governing our schools in the way it once was, but the transition problems we face between high school and college will not instantly disappear with a change in policy.  What we really need are stronger working relationships between leaders in secondary AND higher education to better prepare students for the challenges ahead.  Otherwise, colleges and universities across the country will increasingly be forced to provide support for smart, hard-working, capable students who were not set up for success and—therefore—struggle to succeed.

Some good work in this area is happening already.  Read about it here and here.  It is not enough.  It is not coordinated enough.  We can and should do better.

One thought on “Student Success & the K-16 Problem

  1. I witnessed this from the admin side when I was working for the college. My biggest “AH HA” moment there was the board meeting I sat on. The topic was the growing number of first year students taking remedial math compared to the same group taking higher level math classes or even the ones that first year students typically take. One of the oldest members of the college’s board (The man undoubtedly witnessed many steps in human evolution.) asked the group

    “What are we going to do to improve the level of math the students have before they get here?”

    He legitimately was unaware that the college simply doesn’t have control over that, minus setting minimal standards allowed to be enrolled as a student. He wasn’t the only one, either, and this is the group in charge of setting the standards for how the entire college is run.

    It was a pretty horrifying moment. One that obviously stuck out a lot to me. This was at least five years ago.

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