Friday, November 5, 2004

Standards proposed for entering college

Middle, high schools would be guided to prepare students

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Council on Postsecondary Education is considering a plan intended to reduce the number of college freshmen who need remedial courses when entering school.

The council has scheduled a proposal for consideration on Monday. It would set a statewide standard for the minimum skills students need when entering community colleges and universities. Those who possessed the skills would be guaranteed placement in classes that they immediately could count toward graduation.

"There's a lot of students, I think, that have a misconception about what it means to be college ready," said Jim Applegate, the Council on Postsecondary Education's vice president for academic affairs. "And they're not taking the courses in high school, and they're not taking the right track to get prepared."

Schools across the state would guarantee entering freshmen placement in credit-bearing courses if they possess the basic skills outlined in the plan, he said. The policy applies to math and English, and the needed skills are laid out for students "very specifically," Applegate said.

The policy is intended to inform students as early as middle school what they'll need to know to be successful college students, he said.

Students' ACT results would be one way for them to be automatically placed into credit-bearing college courses. However, students who did not have the ACT scores also could qualify by taking placement tests.

For example, a student with a score of 18 or higher in English would qualify for a credit-bearing course. A student with a 19 or higher in math would qualify for a course in which he could earn credit toward graduation.

If approved, the plan could be in place by next fall, Applegate said.

Some students entering college now must take remedial courses - for which they don't earn college credit toward graduation - just to catch up, Applegate said.

It's also intended to keep students in challenging high school classes, rather than having them focus on earning money through the state's scholarship program, known as the Educational Excellence Scholarship program or as KEES.

"Maybe they've taken easier courses because the incentive is if they get higher grades they'll get more KEES scholarship," said Dianne Bazell, the council's assistant vice president for academic affairs. "So they take easier courses because they're going to get a scholarship from this, and they're not taking courses that will make them academically prepared for the rigors of college."

The plan would likely not have an immediate "radical up or down" effect on students needing remedial education, Applegate said. However, it should reduce those numbers over time, he said.

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