Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reasonable Expectations

At what point in a student's education should we begin to promote the college experience? And then, how often should we reteach the importance of a college education?
For the past three years I have taught Pre-College English at a large school in Washington state. Every year I found myself amazed at how little my students had prepared for college. They didn't know to take rigorous coursework all four years. They didn't know that they should have taken the SAT's before senior year. They didn't know about applications procedures.
I had hoped to teach at a school with a strong college prep focus. But my fate is to teach at a school with even less college preparation than my previous school.
Today one of my students, who I have during in my lower level senior English, told me that she wanted to attended college--that made me smile. I asked what community colleges she was looking at. Now, perhaps that was presumptuous, but she is in a level two class (we have four levels, and level four is the highest). "I'd like to go to Fordham," she replied.
Fordham? Clearly no one has had a meaningful conversation with this young lady about college preparation.
My question now will digress. Are we losing those middle of the road students to standardized testing? Meaning, are we so focused on making sure that those students have heavy doses of test preparation, that we forget to also focus on what comes after the test?
This Thursday, when I take her class into the career center, I am going to feel bad when she learns that Fordham won't be happening--at least not next year.


At 6:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. McNamar,

The average high school's efforts to prepare students for college are abysmal. It might sound like a stance that's too critical, but if it weren't true, my work wouldn't be in private teaching and admissions consulting. I'd love to be out of work and forced into a different sector - it would mean that schools were doing an adequate job.

The mismatch between one's ideas and reality is especially common regarding high schoolers and college. And really, it isn't their fault - guidance counselors are largely divorced [before their education, during it and after] from the two paths they're charged with guiding: academics and careers.

Personally, I don't think that standardized testing is the problem. The issue is that too many teachers, administrators and especially guidance counselors are nearly clueless about higher education and careers. There are exceptions - I would never suggest that all in education are ill-prepared to advise, it's simply not true - but the average individual who has the responsibility of advising these kids isn't equipped to do so properly.

That's why you get students who are best served starting at a community college thinking without reservation that the Fordhams are ready to welcome them. In my opinion, that does a great disservice to those students. It just isn't fair to them.

At 9:13 PM , Blogger Ms. V. said...

Alrighty. I have the answer to your problem. I teach AVID to 8th graders, and it's a college prep program. Go to AVIDONLINE and see if you can start an elective.

It's fabulous!

BTW, I agree with you. It's not like when I went to school. You just had to show up with a check and a 2.0 in the 70s.

At 6:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that AVID is a great program, but it costs money. Lots of money. Our district dropped it a few years ago due to that very reason.

I do agree we aren't doing enough for our students in terms of college. It seems only those students whose parents can afford private tutors and such are getting in. Add to that the kids that have to work? They have so much already against them.

We need to catch these kids before their senior year. Junior high is where it starts.



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