Ready or Not?
Most brainstorming about education reform centers on urban districts. We hear about failing inner-city schools, discipline problems, and social issues. Suburban districts, with their relatively high test scores and upper-class constituents, seem like bastions of achievement in comparison. But we often overlook the rural districts. When I’ve asked people about this, they usually say, "Well, rural communities are satisfied with their schools. They just don’t have the same problems as the city districts."
That viewpoint may be overly optimistic. This article in the Southeast Missourian reports that some students in rural areas have a lot of trouble when they go on to higher education:
At Springfield-based Ozarks Technical Community College, 2,200 out of 3,000 incoming freshman needed a remedial algebra class and another 1,200 needed help in English last year. Only 35 percent passed a remedial math class.
"It’s an epidemic," said Ellen Newby-Hines, director of the academic achievement center at the community college that tutors students who need help in order to pass basic algebra, English and other classes.
The number of students in remedial courses isn’t necessarily an indication of a problem. Sometimes, students want to review after a summer away from school, or are unsure they’ll do well in college-level courses and take a remedial course during the first semester, just in case. But if large percentages of them can’t even pass the remedial courses at a community college (which employs tutors to give them extra help), that’s scary.
The article notes that a new state program that pays tuition for some community college students has attracted students who wouldn’t have gone to the schools otherwise. Maybe those students aren’t as well prepared. But failing remedial courses doesn’t only mean students aren’t ready for college it means they aren’t ready for high-school-level coursework, either.