Myths About PreCollege Students

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Facts About PreCollege Students

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GROUP A
1. Myth: Students that test into precollege levels have a history of being lazy: They don’t really try.
Fact: In most cases, youth that appear “lazy” in high school are simply bored and need a reason to be more engaged – a purpose – or are so lost they no longer care. Schools that have multi-leveled programs that allow a student to be placed based on skill rather than grade level have seen greater success in student retention. Additionally, schools that implement peer tutoring/mentoring programs allowing the “bored” students to assist the struggling students give each what they appear to be missing.
As these young men and women become college students, be it immediately following high school graduation or after a long period of absence, the same scenarios they struggled with in high school often re-emerge. According to research, this is a critical failing of our developmental education curriculum and pedagogy: these students are still being taught by the same “drill and skill” method that led to their need for remedial education in the first place. This is less the case for adult returning students as their need for remedial education often stems from simply forgetting the techniques and information over their long absence from school.

2. Myth: Students of color are more likely to take precollege courses due to their lack of academic skills and preparation.
Fact: Studies show that while it is true students of color are more likely to take precollege courses, statistics show that they do so regardless of academic ability, family income, or performance in high school.
We must ask ourselves, are these students being advised into these courses due to a preconceived stereotype or are they choosing to take these courses due to a lack of confidence in their own abilities?

3. Myth: Students in remedial education come from poor functioning schools in low-income areas.
Fact: While it is true that many (approx. half) precollege students come from families and schools with a lower socio-economic status, nearly a quarter of the students taking remedial courses are from the top 25% of the economic bracket.

4. Myth: Students testing at the precollege level are not where they should be because they never challenged themselves in high school and took only easy classes instead.
Fact: It is true that taking a rigorous and challenging course load has a positive effect on the “readiness” of a high school student to enter college; however, it still does not guarantee that he or she will be fully prepared for the increased demand of college courses work. Depending on the school’s curriculum, even the most advanced options may not be adequate to prepare a student for college level course work.
According to recent statistics, 10% of the students registered for one precollege course or more, graduated high school in the top quarter of their class with regards to GPA and 14% took the most advanced curriculum available at their high school: 25% graduated 2nd quarter of the class and 32% are still listed as having taken fairly demanding courses at their high school.

5. Myth: Placement tests are the most efficient and accurate measure of a student’s academic ability and skill level.
Fact: Student test scores may reflect better or worse than their true ability for a variety of reasons: test anxiety, technological difficulties, guessing and sheer luck, cramming, just to name a few. Being placed in a course too difficult for a student’s particular skill level can be very discouraging and often leads to the student’s dropping out.

The distinction between a pre-college and college level student is arbitrary (Bailey, 2008). It is contingent upon placements scores, which in our state, vary depending on the institution. Research suggests decentralized placement assessments and cut-off scores confuse and discourage students (Bailey 2008; National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education &SREB 2010). For example, students who score near, but below, the cut-off point are referred or mandated to enroll in developmental education courses, yet a student just above the cut-off point, is not. Who is to say which student really needs developmental education? Students who test two or three steps below college level are less likely to complete the sequence and less likely to complete their degrees (Bailey 2008). Bailey suggest community colleges focus less on student placement and more on the knowledge, skills and abilities students need to be successful in college
Developmental education comes with high psychological and financial costs to students- increase debt; drain financial aid eligibility; and cost of lost earnings (Bailey 2008). The majority of students feel that they’re “college ready” and are surprised and discouraged to learn they need one, two, or three or more pre-college courses before they can “start college.”

Corollary Effects: When we allow ourselves, as higher education professionals, to perceive precollege students through the veils of these myths we contribute to a major barrier to student success – Lack of motivation and self confidence.


Developmental Education Myths and Facts, By Jim Melko, 11/11/01 10:40:58 PM

Legislators, the media, the public, and too many university and college administrators share many prevailing beliefs about developmental education, most of which are myths.

MYTH: Developmental education primarily addresses the needs of traditional freshmen who are inadequately prepared for college as a result of poor teaching, poor curriculums, or social/economic disadvantages.

FACT: The needs of entering students at any institution are relative to the general abilities of its entire population. Developmental education programs generally address the needs of those whose skills are below the institutional average. If the average skill levels of an institution's students are higher, the average skill levels of its developmental students will also be higher. Thus a student who would need developmental work at a selective institution might not need it to succeed at an open-admissions institution.

FACT: Developmental education programs do not address the needs of only the traditional freshman. Their populations include the older returning student struggling to succeed with atrophied skills, the unemployed or displaced worker who must be retrained or learn new skills, the single mother hoping for a better job, and many other nontraditional students.

MYTH: Developmental education is just another term for remediation.

FACT: K. Patricia Cross in her book Accent on Learning makes an important distinction between the terms "remediation" and "developmental." Remediation is concerned with correcting academic weaknesses, whereas the purpose of developmental education is "to give attention to the fullest possible development of talent and to develop strengths as well as to correct weaknesses."

Developmental educators recognize that, even though a student may be fully exposed to basic skills instruction throughout his or her elementary and secondary education, intellectual development will vary from student to student, resulting in developmental gaps and weaknesses that are compounded when advanced instruction assumes basic skills to be in place. Developmental education thus seeks to advance the student's basic skills to a level commensurate with his or her current intellectual and personal development.

MYTH: If we could somehow improve our educational system, we could eliminate the need for developmental education. Money budgeted to developmental programs is money spent twice and therefore wasteful.

FACT: Developmental education is the "Great Equalizer." It does not represent a "lowering of standards"; rather, it allows institutions to raise and maintain their standards without denying access to certain populations. It is not just another instructional "fad"; in fact, it is usually not teaching-oriented but learning-oriented: developmental educators view education from the learner's perspective rather than the instructor's, and address the unique and individual needs of each learner.

FACT: When a first-grade student is not developmentally ready to learn to read or to manipulate abstract numbers, and in subsequent grades is not only unable to catch up to his or her peers but also experiences failure after failure, the student has not lost the capacity to learn - just, perhaps, the desire. Such a student is not at fault, nor is the school system which will never be capable of regulating the maturational process. If that student wants, however, to go to college, we developmental educators know how to help him or her mature as a learner.

FACT: Developmental educators have important and valuable expertise shared by few others in the field of education. When we are successful, it is because we have understood why the displaced worker is suspicious of or discouraged by education, why the illiterate adult did not learn to read, why the college freshman suffers from math anxiety. We advocate for the learner rather than the instructor, and we look beyond grade distribution curves and seek out the reasons why even a single student is unable to succeed.

Because the above myths prevail, our programs have often been under-budgeted, targeted for elimination, and misunderstood by faculty and administrators alike. Likewise, the valuable expertise and perspective we could provide to the improvement of our educational system have been largely ignored.

But if the United States wants to be competitive in the global market, its citizens must be at least as skilled as their international colleagues. Nevertheless, our nation's population is uniquely diverse, and our nation remains the grandest experiment in cooperation and collaboration in the history of mankind. Developmental education is the key to ensuring that all of our college graduates, regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, disability, educational or economic background, are able to reach their full academic and personal potential and contribute to the future of our country.