Officials debate how to bridge the high school, college academic gap

Stephanie Kudrle

Two-thirds of college students nationwide who start out in remedial courses do not graduate, a University professor told state officials Tuesday.

To pave a smoother route through college, a panel of higher-education officials and legislators at the State Capitol debated ways to improve college readiness and bridge the gap between high school and college-level courses.

University educational psychology professor Geoff Maruyama told lawmakers many college students in Minnesota take remedial math courses to supplement what they should have mastered in high school.

“Students are aspiring to do well,” he said. “But there is an alignment issue between high school math and higher-education math standards.”

Citing a 1999 study of two- and four-year institutions, he said most of those who begin college taking remedial courses never see a diploma.

Standards for college placement, ACT and SAT, and high school graduation tests vary, said Beth Aune, academic standards and professional development director for the state Department of Education.

She said there needs to be more common skills required for each test to prepare students for taking college-level math, writing and English courses.

Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said many students might forget math if they do not take courses in their junior and senior years of high school.

Requiring math classes at the end of high school might help prepare them for college entrance tests, Robling said.

Charlie Kyte, Minnesota Association of School Administrators director, said students need to be more productive during their senior year of high school.

“Not all students are taking the greatest advantage of their senior year,” Kyte said. “Some students are ready to move on, but others still need nurturing.”

He said high schools need to encourage students to do internships and postsecondary education programs.

“The connection between students, administrators and higher education is very important,” Kyte said. “They don’t talk to each other as much as they should.”

Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said social barriers often inhibit students from participating in alternate programs.

“We need to break through those barriers,” she said. “Students don’t take advantage of the system.”

The Minnesota P-16 Education Partnership put together the panel. The partnership is an initiative started in 2003 with the help of University President Bob Bruininks, said Cyndy Crist, chairwoman of the P-16 partnership coordinating team.