Schools lack college prep

The Education Beat

Remediation : Unaligned curricula, tuition costs keep students out of higher education.

November 02, 2003|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

NO LONGER is a high school diploma a ticket to college.

That's because the nation's high schools and colleges don't work well together. What should be a seamless pipeline from kindergarten through college leaks like a sieve, particularly at the high school level.

The problems are many:

Steadily increasing tuition rates are shutting out more students, even from previously inexpensive community colleges, some of which are limiting enrollment in popular programs.

Many states, including Maryland, are requiring students to pass tests to graduate from high school, but those tests, and the curriculum on which they're based, aren't aligned with the expectations of colleges and employers.

The result is a huge increase in college remediation. As many as a third of high school graduates, many of them low-income minorities, need what is euphemistically called "developmental" work in college. College officials and legislators resent having to do the job that should have been done earlier, and recent polls find that most Americans agree. Should these students receive financial aid? Should taxpayers have to pay a second time for education that should have occurred at the K-12 level?

Many of these weak students give up in frustration and disgust at a time when the American economy desperately needs skilled workers.

"It's a disaster in the making," said Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. "We send these kids from high school to community college remediation, where we offer a middle school curriculum. It doesn't make sense."

Not that a lot of smart people and people of goodwill aren't trying to solve the problems. A few hundred of them gathered in Washington recently to compare notes and discuss promising strategies. The conference was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the same folks whose millions are helping Baltimore break its large high schools into smaller, more manageable units. Making high schools more user-friendly is one partial solution, and it's happening simultaneously in most of the nation's urban districts.

"The leaking pipeline metaphor is an accurate metaphor," said Nancy Shapiro, a University System of Maryland official who is leading the state's "K-16" partnership, an attempt to foster cooperation between higher and elementary-secondary education.

There's a long way to go. But as Shapiro put it, "There is no option."

`Cricket' magazine marks 30 years with book

The Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer once listed 10 reasons he liked kids:

1. Children don't want their mothers to be liberated.

2. Unlike their fathers, they can fight without talking about peace.

3. They can hate their parents without the help of psychoanalysis.

4. They can sin without making long and boring confessions.

5. They have no use for equality.

6. They don't give a hoot about progress.

7. They don't want to be profound.

8. They don't flatter the young.

9. They don't worry about the old.

10. They don't feel guilty for being healthy, beautiful and charming.

Singer brought down the house with this list nearly 31 years ago at a launching party in New York for what would become the best children's magazine in the English language. Cricket, a magazine of good literature and great illustrations, was founded by Marianne Carus and a tiny staff in an old mansion surrounded by central Illinois cornfields.

Hard-bitten people in the publishing world thought Carus was a hopelessly naive lunatic, but Cricket succeeded and spawned other magazines for even younger children. This fall Carus is out with the book Celebrate Cricket: 30 Years of Stories and Art.

Cricket proves that children will respond to - and be uplifted by - literature and art in good taste and full of integrity and humor.

Marathon reading results in `Hogwarts headache'

In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, a pediatrician said three otherwise healthy children had complained of headaches for two or three days during the summer. All three had been reading the 896-page Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in marathon sessions of six to eight hours.

The doctor dubbed their ailment "Hogwarts headache," after the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that young Harry and his friends (and enemies) attend.

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