Several posters asked that we tackle the great AJC Sunday story on the costs of remediation for technical college students, a piece that has not run online. If it does, I will add a link. This is a very well done story, and I encourage you all to read it. (You can find it in the Sunday AJC.)
In short, AJC higher ed reporter Laura Diamond reported that nearly half the students who enter the Technical College System of Georgia need remedial classes in reading, writing or math. The system spent about $36 million of its $718.6 million budget last year — an amount expected to rise even higher — teaching students what they should have learned in high school.
One of the points that the story makes is that there is a lot of finger pointing in this mess, colleges at high schools, high schools at k-12 and k-12 at teacher education programs.
At some point, we have to get past the blame to why Georgia is turning out so many kids who lag in basic skills. The story gives examples of what these kids don’t know, and it’s alarming. In one class, the teacher was showing students possessive nouns: “Jack’s crazy cat chased my dog.”
According to the news story:
“I, along with many members of the Legislature, have deep concerns about the quality of k-12 education that makes remedial classes necessary in our post-secondary institutions, ” said Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, chairman of the House higher education committee.
Gov. Nathan Deal has assembled a commission that will spend the next year studying a number of funding issues at Georgia’s universities and technical colleges, including the cost and effectiveness of remedial education. Walker is its co-chair.
Joe Dan Banker, executive director for academic affairs for the technical system, noted that technical colleges serve many older adults who enroll years after high school and need refresher classes. But over the past few years the colleges have admitted more adults under 25 who lack basic skills, he said.
“We’re seeing more students who need this help and we know more will come our way, ” Banker said. “We’re looking for a better way to help them because they’re just not prepared.”
Banker is expecting more remedial students in part because of a change in state policy. Starting next fall students who need remedial lessons in all three areas — reading, writing and math — will be turned away from the University System of Georgia and referred to technical colleges. The change will affect an estimated 2,000 students a year.
In fall 2005, 1,051 students were enrolled in remedial reading, English and math at Georgia Piedmont in Clarkston. This fall, 1,230 are. (If a student is enrolled in all three support classes, the student is counted three times.) Statistics show relatively few students taking remedial classes will graduate from the technical system within three years, another statistic that disturbs state lawmakers.
Only 7 percent of remedial students in the technical college system will earn a two-year associate’s degree within three years, according to a recent report. Overall, 20 percent of the system’s students will earn an associate’s degree within three years. Graduation rates count first-time students going full time, while many technical students attend part time.
Many lawmakers point to the state k-12 education system. Educators have wrestled with the issue for decades. Colleges blame high schools for graduating ill-prepared students. High schools criticize colleges for not being clear about what students should know. K-12 leaders contend colleges fail to graduate well-equipped teachers.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog