TEA Says Texas High School Graduates Aren’t Ready For College

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Troubling new numbers say the vast majority of Texas high school graduates are not ready for college.

“I was not prepared whatsoever,” said an El Centro Community College student.

And it’s apparently a crowded club.

“Especially my math classes,” said Harrison Lippert, who’s also a student at El Centro, “We started off and I didn’t understand the first few lessons… I had to get tutoring just to get caught up.”

Students across Texas are learning that a high school diploma doesn’t always equate to college readiness.

“Usually over 40 percent of our students come in needing at least some developmental, or remedial education,” said Thom Chesney, PhD, President of Brookhaven Community College. “Either in reading, writing, mathematics or one or more of those.”

According to the Texas Education Agency’s Academic Performance Report, just 35 percent of students statewide are college ready. The college readiness numbers are even lower for the largest north Texas districts: In Arlington, 32 percent are ready for college. That number is 18 percent in Fort Worth, and 13 percent of students are college ready in the Dallas Independent School District. But, DISD officials say the stats don’t tell the whole story.

“We actually have done the same research on our students who have completed college and we found that they passed the SAT or ACT at a lower level; but, complete college,” said Linda Johnson, PhD, DISD’s Executive Director of College & Career Readiness. “So it’s not just an indication of how they’re going to do their freshman year.”

According to Dr. Johnson, the 13 percent college readiness statistic from TEA is derived from looking at the numbers of students who make an arbitrary score on the college entrance exams.

But, the same report includes another category called ‘College and Career Ready Graduates’ which considers factors such as advanced and dual credit courses, and “enrolling in a coherent sequence of career and technical education courses…” Under those guidelines, the TEA report determined that 92 percent of DISD graduates would be considered ready for college and or careers beyond high school.

Still, district officials said they continue to work to get students to realize that getting across the stage at graduation, is just the beginning.

“We know that we have companies that are moving here, deciding to grow here, expand here,” said Dr. Chesney. “They are looking to us to provide that workforce and we’ve got to do that in Texas, with Texas teachers with Texas students.”

Dr. Cheney said the college readiness numbers have been a challenge for years—but, he’s encouraged that local districts are making changes. He’s working with DISD to shape new collegiate academies—18 will open within two years—putting more students on a pathway to college.

“We do that by vastly improving our reading programs, and our math programs that have undergone major transformations in the last several years,” said Dr. Johnson, “to insure that our students have those basic abilities so more of them can go to college.”

Dr. Johnson adds that the college readiness numbers are not where they would like them to be, but she’s convinced that the district is putting an effective plan in place.

She’s encouraging the community to take advantage of the DISD Experience on December 3. It’s a daylong open house at the Ellis Davis Field House to introduce the community to the new collegiate academies and all of the other specialized learning opportunities available within the district.

“If we panic… then we look for quick solutions,” said Dr. Chesney, “we look for emergency solutions, we are in this as a long haul.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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