Colleges should be ready for diverse learners

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Wag the dog education policies focus on the “needs” of the test rather than the students. Children in wag the dog schools spend a majority of class time training to take tests rather than learning by creating and testing things.

When it comes to America’s college readiness “problem”, it does not appear Common Core enthusiasts have followed their own Standards that demand students “demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection”. 

Ed reformers should rethink their misguided “tail wagging the dog” approach to college readiness, and consider the possibility that the problem is not with students who aren’t ready for college but colleges that aren’t ready for diverse learners.

Ed reformers have made the critical, perhaps deliberate, mistake of taking data points like the inflated and distorted college remediation rates and equating them with evidence of a K-12 education “crisis” that can only be solved through the Common Core standardized education and testing program.

Many reformers have concluded that disrupting K-12 education programs and prescribing a regimen of higher standards and harder tests will cure our student “readiness” problem, which very often is a symptom of America’s poverty problem.

Won’t be long before taxpayers start challenging local wag the dog school policies and decisions to eliminate teachers, librarians, field trips, art and athletic programs, while reducing funding for essential wrap around services in order to pay for software solutions, test prep materials, and new computers to prepare students for the new and improved college and career readiness tests.

The effects of poverty on student learning and achievement are real and significant. More and more students are beginning their formal schooling developmentally and cognitively delayed by as much as 2 or more grade levels.

Highly effective administrators, educators, and support staff collaborate in K-12 education programs across the country to help struggling students “close the gap” but these efforts may not be enough to fully compensate for the lack of learning that takes place after hours and outside the classroom.

For decades successful schools have come up with individualized and student-centered approaches to meet our students academic, social, and emotional needs rather than standardized approaches that are focused primarily on meeting the “needs” of the standards and tests.

Saturday school, tutors, mentors, stretching a class over 3 semesters, resource room, academic interventions, RTI, counselors, school breakfast, morning programs, after school programs, CROP, Title I etc. are all examples of effective programs and interventions designed to support developmentally delayed and learning disabled students.

With these critical supports and wrap around services, many of our students make great academic strides and are able to narrow their cognitive and skills gap considerably by graduation.

Ed reformers obsession and fixation on “college readiness” suggests that they believe ( or want parents to believe) that the acquisition and development of math, reading, writing, and critical thinking skills is limited to the years or “window” of K-12 education. 

In fact, many of us continued learning long after we graduated high school. Our math, reading, and writing skills continued to strengthen and in many cases we “caught up” with, and even surpassed, the skills of some of our classmates who may have out performed and outpaced us in school.

For most of us today our success on the job has had very little to do with data points such as our reading level in 4th grade or math proficiency in 6th grade. We are successful employees today because we continue to adapt to changing job requirements and are always willing to learn new skills.

The qualities and skills that make us valuable employees include; creative problem solvers, attentive listeners, good decision makers, we can teach others, learn from others, follow directions, take initiative, good public speakers,  honest, passionate, flexible, self-reliant, persistent, resilient, etc…

Ironically, many of our students will actually be less prepared for the real “tests” in life and the diverse challenges of college and careers precisely because the Common Core focuses on testing a very narrow and shallow academic skill set rather than cultivating an expansive and robust set of academic, social, and emotional skills that will enable and empower our students to be life-long learners and leaders, just like ourselves.

College programs should follow the lead of K-12 programs and continue providing essential learning supports and services. They should welcome diverse learners and adjust their course billing policies, or modify their entry level course offerings to meet the individual needs of students.

To claim there is an education crisis in America because students who may have started schooling as much as 2 or 3 grade levels behind and are now several college remedial courses away from being “ready” is….MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Drawing by Linda Silvestri http://lindasilvestri.com/

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6 thoughts on “Colleges should be ready for diverse learners

  1. Pingback: Common Core Bait and Switch | WagTheDog

  2. Pingback: A Clever Way To Share Student Data | WagTheDog

  3. John,

    Exactly right. Thank you for asking this critical question. I think colleges know this, but often relegate their programs for diverse students to third class status and therefore many are ineffective. And it is also true that many college professors are ill prepared to provide the learning supports some students might need. I addressed the issue in this post about a year ago.

    http://russonreading.blogspot.com/2013/10/an-unasked-question-of-common-core-are.html

  4. Pingback: EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING | WagTheDog

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