18 August 2005

Ready or Not, Here They Come

Mr. McNamar over at The Daily Grind was thinking of June's graduates and how they are starting on their various paths. I admit to thinking of similar things at this time of year. I see former students and many of them are talking about when they're headed out to college. They have a look of uncertainty. Maybe there's a good reason for that.

In a recent USA Today article, it's claimed that many of this year's college freshmen will turn out to be woefully unprepared for their academic futures. This is not news in many ways. Similar claims have been part of what has driven the move to standards-based education. If anything, it just confirms that there is still a lot of work to do---and that high schools may very well be a weak link.

The following observations were made based on current (but yet to be released) ACT results:
  • About half of test-takers lack at least some reading-comprehension skills, suggesting they would struggle in courses such as history, sociology or literature.
  • Just over half (51%) had scores high enough to suggest they could succeed in college-level social science courses.
  • 41% had scores indicating a high probability of succeeding in college algebra.
  • 26% scored high enough on the science test to indicate they are likely to succeed in college biology.
  • On a more promising note, scores of 68% of test-takers indicate they are well prepared for freshman English composition courses.

Ouch. Only 26% are likely to succeed in college biology? I wish I know the reasons behind that. I'm thinking they may be similar to the abysmal success rate of students in high school biology. It's possible that it's related to a lack of experience with the subject. Kids read, write, and do math nearly every day of their K - 12 lives. Not so with science. Is it just poor teaching? Are we not doing a good job of teaching kids to think scientifically? It's definitely something else for me to ponder. I hope some others will ponder with me.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the students aren't planning on taking college biology.

The Science Goddess said...

That could be very true. I wonder how many college students take a biology course during their academic careers in the Ivory Tower.

Even so, sending kids off to college who only have a 26% chance of being successful in such a course seems low. If a kid has met high school requirements and has their diploma, shouldn't they be ready (academically) for the next step? If they're not, maybe we (high schools) need to take a better look at what we're (not) doing.