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Not ready for college
  Report after report has warned that high school seniors aren't ready for
college.

 Some blame poorly trained teachers; others criticize students for taking
easy courses. Usually, the complaints involve math and science.

 By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
 Baltimore City College High School seniors Sam Ball-Brau and Shamika
Thompson visit the school's college advisory office. The magnet high school
concentrates more on helping graduates go on to college than most schools.



 On Wednesday, the spotlight turned to reading: Only 51% of seniors are
ready for college reading demands, according to an analysis of students who
took the 2005 ACT college admissions test.
 That's a disturbing figure, especially considering the rising verbal
challenges of coursework in college. Only by toughening reading standards
will students learn the deeper reading skills needed in college, the report
says.
 Even so, high schools shouldn't have to shoulder all the blame. Colleges
and universities like to complain but rarely do anything to ensure that
high school students understand college academic standards.
 That's the message of a separate study, released last month, that tracked
students from the high school class of 1992 into their 20s and asked: Who
was most likely to graduate from college?
 It found that an important key to success is taking a full high school
load, including math beyond Algebra 2. But not any high school course will
do. Often, there's a disconnect between what a high school course offers
and what colleges demand, says Clifford Adelman, an Education Department
researcher.
 Colleges could reduce that disconnect by posting examples of their
freshman year coursework on their websites, Adelman says. That way,
teachers and students would know if they're on the right track.
 Some states, including Michigan, Illinois, Colorado and Maine  are
substituting college entrance exams for state tests. Because the ACT and
SAT measure college readiness skills, juniors taking those tests will know
whether they're falling short.
 California State University offers the most innovative solution. By using
the state's 11th-grade standards test to determine whether a student can
take a college course for credit, students get a heads-up as to whether
they're learning what the university expects.
 High schools have plenty of work to do raising standards. But universities
need to step off the sidelines and lend a hand.

Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education
GA 147
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX:   (815) 753-8563
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