Where do we go from here? To college.
Most graduates of the WCASD matriculate directly to college. In fact, of the graduating class of 2022, 86 percent of graduates headed to college last fall.
But what happened when they got there? According to the New York Times, things are not going well for the Pandemic Generation. The American Psychological Association notes that a whopping 60 percent of college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem. Psychological distress is increasing as the Pandemic Generation arrives on campus. Students are arriving on campus and discovering that they are ill prepared for the rigors of college level courses. At NYU, students circulated a petition to have a professor removed because they found that the class was "too hard". One college professor reports that up to 20 percent of her students are failing a course where previously only two to four percent of students failed. As a result, men are walking away from college at alarming rates, widening the gender gap.
Then there's the question of "what are kids paying for" when they go to college? (You can read more about this in the book *Fail U: The False Promise of Higher Education.) This author has parented children through college every year since 2017 and I can tell you that things look very different in 2023 than they did back in 2017. My high school senior has applied to five colleges: state schools, private colleges, and engineering schools. At all five colleges, grades are optional, and so are test scores. You read that correctly: students can get into college WITHOUT GRADES and WITHOUT taking the SAT. If colleges are not basing college acceptance on merit, what ARE they basing it on?
Colleges and universities are making adjustments to their programs, trying to address the needs of the Pandemic Generation who are arriving on campus unprepared. Take West Chester University . . . WCU has introduced Q Level Courses in math. These courses are designed to strengthen basic math and Algebra skills. This means that students are arriving on campus as college freshman, unable to do basic math and/or Algebra. Basic courses such as these are a Cash Cow for colleges--students must pay for these classes, but the course credits are NOT counted towards the student's graduating credits. College freshman who are not proficient in math will pay several thousand dollars to their college to learn what they should have learned in high school. If K12 institutions are sending kids to college unprepared, colleges are only too happy to take tuition money in exchange for closing the gap left by K12 schools.
College enrollment is declining, and universities are cutting programs to match the downward trend in enrollment due to Covid. Our very own governor is doing his part to ensure that higher education becomes unnecessary, by eliminating a college degree as a requirement for 92 percent of state jobs, calling it an ‘arbitrary requirement’. At first glance this looks like a good thing, making it seem that employment is open to everyone, not just college graduates.
Part of the reason for the downward trend in college attendance may be due to the fact that inflation is causing some families to rethink the cost/benefit of college attendance. Or perhaps families are realizing that life experience matters as much, or more than college. Or perhaps people are realizing that possessing a college degree does not guarantee that a candidate will be a better employee than one without a degree.
But what if the intent behind the elimination of a college degree as the norm is in an attempt to disguise the decline of public education? If students are graduating from high school unprepared, and are entering college unprepared, then it's possible that colleges will be churning out graduates who are unprepared. What better way to disguise this issue than to eliminate college as job requirement? The decline of public education gradually leads to a decline in higher education, which gradually leads to a decline in the quality of workers entering the workforce post college.
Back to Basics believes that our school board's most important job is to restore academic integrity to our district. Our students must be academically prepared for their future--whether they choose to enter an apprenticeship, learn a trade, join the military, or go to college. But when 75 percent of our high school freshman are not proficient in math, it is clear that these students will be entering the world unprepared--unless significant and drastic changes are made to remedy the academic decline that is already in progress.
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