You Think You’re Ready for College—Think Again

In their continuing drive to ratchet up learning standards, New York State’s education leaders are now sounding the alarm about high school diplomas. According to a new study, done for NY’s State Ed department, fewer than half the kids in the state holding a diploma are ready for college.  In New York City, 23 percent of graduates (remember 40 percent don’t even get that far) are college ready; in Rochester, it’s just 5 percent.  Startling numbers.

“Some ethnic and racial groups fared worse than others,” says Barbara Martinez in the Wall Street Journal,  “While statewide the published graduation rate among black students is 62%, only 15% are considered college- and career-ready. In Syracuse, only 1% of Hispanic students graduated from high school at college- and career-ready level.”

This is what we get nearly three decades after being told our nation was “at risk” because of its mediocre public education system?

Reports Sharon Otterman in the New York Times,

State and city education officials have known for years that graduating from a public high school does not indicate that a student is ready for college, and have been slowly moving to raise standards. But the political will to acknowledge openly the chasm between graduation requirements and college or job needs is new….

Sound familiar?

Last October, Otterman, writing about the state’s new efforts to toughen up its grade 3—8 tests, reported that

[E]vidence had been mounting for some time that the state’s tests, which have formed the basis of almost every school reform effort of the past decade, had serious flaws.

What did they know? And when did they know it?

Though the new team hasn’t figured out what exactly to do with the new — and depressing – data on the value of a diploma, they seem determined to press forward. “With three through eight, we ripped the Band-Aid off,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told Otterman.

The thing we said then, in looking at the business world, is that if you sit on this, you become the Enron of test scores, the Enron of graduation rates. We need to indicate exactly what it all means, especially since we’ve already said that college-ready should be the indicator of high school completion.

An Enron moment!  I know it’s not polite to speak these thoughts, but since the Chancellor brought it up, can we wonder whether educators will ever go to jail for this stuff?

–Peter Meyer

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