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Many State High School Graduates Attending Public Colleges Unprepared

Majority of high school grads at four state universities and community colleges must take remedial classes before starting college work

Kathleen Megan

October 27, 2010

The majority of Connecticut's high school graduates who attend the state's community colleges and four smaller universities are not prepared for college work, according to a state-led education group.

The majority of Connecticut's high school graduates who attend the state's community colleges and four smaller universities are not prepared for college work, according to a state-led education group.

At least 72 percent of those attending community colleges require remedial or developmental math or English; for the Connecticut state universities Central, Western, Southern and Eastern the figure is 65 percent.

Michael Meotti, the state's commissioner of higher education, said that there has long been an understanding that many students arrive at these colleges in need of remedial work, but until now the numbers were not available.

"Connecticut has a significant college readiness gap that is threatening our ability to replenish our workforce," Meotti said in a statement. "We are fortunate that with 3 out of 4 high school graduates going onto college, we have one of the highest college-going rates in the country. But now we are finding that many of these students are not college ready."

The data on college readiness was compiled for a 44-member group of education, business and philanthropic leaders led by Meotti and state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan. The University of Connecticut was not included in the data because, Meotti said, the university said it does not offer remedial courses. Nor were the state's private colleges included.

"If you are going to a very competitive undergraduate college," Meotti said, "you are more likely to arrive academically ready and far more likely to graduate."

Of the lack of readiness among college students at state and community colleges in Connecticut, Meotti said, "This is pretty much the way it is everywhere in the country. We do know that this is a national challenge."

However, he said there aren't national numbers available on college readiness to compare to Connecticut's. The research has focused on "graduation rates," Meotti said, rather than on "the remediation piece."

But readiness is important, Meotti said, because students who are not prepared for college are less likely to graduate. Only a little more than half 54 percent of Connecticut high school graduates who enter postsecondary education directly out of high school will earn a certificate or degree.

Why aren't high schools preparing students? "This is not the high school's fault," Meotti said. In the past, he said, having a high school diploma did not mean necessarily that a student was ready for college.

"Now what's happening is the world around us has changed," he said. "Connecticut students and families buy into this: You need to continue your education. We want a high school diploma to mean college and career readiness."

McQuillan said that a lack of college readiness among some high school graduates has been a "distrubing trend" for some time, but that secondary school reform is underway to bring higher standards and greater rigor into middle and high school programs.

"We were proposing changes in secondary school reform in 2008, arguing how important it was to change direction," said McQuillan, "that too many students were going on ill-prepared to do college work. The country has kind of caught up with us."

He said that high schools are serving a population of students "unlike any we've seen before." They are a group, he said, that has "grown up using hand-held devices and computers since they were able to walk. They are often bored because the high school programming is not carrying the work in ways that they are experiencing in their daily life and how they communicate."

He said that secondary school reform expected to be introduced in every high school no later than 2014 will be vital to reduce the number of dropouts and improve college readiness.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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