Study: Most College Students Lack Skills
A "study" showed that [m]ore than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.
That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.
The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.
I took a fairly challenging class in microbiology at the local state U last year. There appeared on the message board a note to the teacher that I had to save a copy of.
my name is [blank] and I have been attending your classes. I had the second day that you had took role and financial aid said I only have nine hours and for them to fix it you have to send them a letter about me, that have been attending your class and putting me there for 2/2/05, since I have been going to your class. By you not taking role each day i come to class ,you don't of the days I have been coming to class.
The fact that this person graduated from high school, let alone gained admission to the university, indicates something very wrong with the system. I realize that some people think that correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation are only called for on papers that are being graded by an English teacher. But I think the problems evidenced in this note go beyond mere carelessness, and they are by no means unique among college students.
Her financial aid is most likely my tax dollars. Don't get me wrong - I am very willing to be taxed for the privilege of living in a city of educated people. But the fact that it is my taxes paying for her education gives me the right to critique what's happening here. Somebody dropped the ball with Miss X, probably a long time ago, and her attendence at college isn't doing her or anybody else any good. She could possibly benefit from some remedial classes but that micro class was not one. What happens is that the school accepts her, gets the financial aid, and lets her flunk out. What do they care? They get the money, so for her to fail at something she should never have attempted means nothing to them. This was also the case with other students in my class who didn't have literacy problems, but also didn't have the chemistry and biology background to understand the lectures. I know this because some of us formed a study group. There used to be prerequisites for the class, but for some reason they were dropped. Our median grades were in the 50's for all the tests. And the tests weren't unreasonable; all of my grades were in the 90's.
I think a big problem is the lottery-financed Hope scholarships. I doubt that Miss X qualified for one. But I do think that there is way too much emphasis put on getting kids into the colleges and universities, and not nearly enough put on making sure they have what it takes to be successful there. It's like money is the only obstacle between those kids and that degree. If that ever really becomes the case, then the B.S. or B.A. will be the new high school diploma.
I keep reading and hearing that Memphis has trouble attracting and keeping high- or even medium-tech industries because of the poor quality of the local labor pool. While I am skeptical of local stories bashing Memphis, because I suspect that you could hear similar stories at other cities, I have to say that job interviews I've been in on, and hirees I've worked with, tend to bear this out. Our new school superintendent is trying very hard to fix the schools, and I sure hope she has a lot of success, very soon.