A recent Newsday report written by John Hilderbrand revealed a disturbing trend in American education. According to the article, the Manhattan-based College Board, publishers of college admissions tests like the SAT, GMAT and GRE, released figures showing that just 43 percent of American high school seniors were “well-prepared” for studies at a four year college.
The College Board also noted a 40- year low in average national reading scores.
So much for that ideal of progress. As Hilderbrand wrote: “The average score on the exam’s ‘critical reading’ section among this year’s college-bound seniors dropped to 496 points, down one point from last year and 34 points from 1972. Each of the SAT’s three sections — critical reading, writing and mathematics — is scored on a range of 200 to 800.”
The one bright spot of the College Board’s dismal revelations was that math scores had stayed the same — a dismal 514.
Troup County Schools’ SAT scores fell compared to last year, according to numbers released last week.
Scores for all three high schools fell in each category compared to last year. The SAT scores on a maximum 2400-point scale of three sections: critical reading, math and writing, each valued at up to 800 points.
In a mean average of critical reading scores compared to 2011 scores, LaGrange High School students’ scores dropped 4 points to 491, Troup High School dropped 23 points to 463 and Callaway High School dropped 31 points to 438.
Math scores fell by 8 points to 504 for LHS, 30 points to 451 for THS and 3 points to 438 for CHS. Writing scores fell 13 points to 473 at LaGrange, 25 points to 436 at Troup and 4 points to 419 at Callaway.
Troup and Callaway high schools also fell below the state average. According to the College Board’s 2012 SAT report, the SAT scores of Georgia’s 2012 senior class overall increased seven points to 1452, compared to 1445 from the 2011 scores.
Troup High averaged 1350 and Callaway High averaged 1285. LaGrange High School was above the state average with 1468. LHS should be commended for scoring above the state average.
The rate of Georgia students taking the exam also increased from 2011 by 1 percent, according to the state, with 81 percent of Georgia students participating this year. This gives Georgia the seventh highest participation rate in the nation, with the national average rate of 31 percent.
“When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing,” Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, told Hildebrand.
Caperton has an obvious talent for understatement. Just imagine if that same nonchalant laxity extended into other realms. Would you want less than half of the nation’s doctors, engineers and pilots to be competent to attempt their chosen vocation? While the comparison isn’t exact, college requires the same commitment and attention as any other job. Sending droves of ill-prepared students into America’s institutions of higher learning ensures a broad culture of remedial study. This in turn, transforms colleges from “higher learning” to “retrograde teaching.” In other words, it hinders what should be the primary purpose of the institution by requiring it to devote precious resources to a fixed game of catch-up.
To be clear, it is not contended here that people should be excluded from college because they lack the basic skills necessary for the enterprise. Rather, it is that these underprepared students should either be funneled into junior colleges, vocational training or some other interstitial institution. By watering down and otherwise softening the curriculum just so everybody gets to attend is the educational equivalent of t-ball — just stand there and swing until you hit something, we’ll wait.
This also penalizes those students who do come prepared. They are offered fewer courses because room must be made for remedial classes. They have lower access to faculty and can expect less individualized attention.
As it now stands, American universities are increasingly graduating people who have only mastered that which they should have mastered before matriculation. Just as we have largely surrendered manufacturing to foreign concerns, we stand poised to surrender academic and intellectual pursuits to the same alien constituency. Unless we are content to become a nation vulnerable to the intellect and industry of others, we must make some hard choices about education.