Sunday, September 21, 2008

Do Overs

Two members of our State Board of Education, Colleen Grady and Susan Haverkos, write a blog called State of Ohio Education. Ms. Grady wrote an article recently addressing the number of Ohio high school graduates who must take remedial courses in English and/or Math. The Ohio Board of Regents publishes a report on this, so of course I looked to see how the graduates of Hilliard City Schools performed. Here's the statistics for the Class of 2006:

Number of graduates: 977
Number entering college: 488 (50%)
Average ACT score: 23
Percent requiring Remedial Math: 22%
Percent requiring Remedial English: 8%

Here's some other Franklin County Schools for comparison (ACT/% Math/% English)

Bexley: 23 / 7% / 5%
Columbus: 19 / 48% / 26%
Catholic Diocese: 24 / 15% / 8%
Dublin: 24 / 13% / 5%
New Albany: 23 / 8% / 12%
South-Western: 21 / 41% / 18%
Upper Arlington: 25 / 13% / 4%
Worthington: 24 / 19% / 8%

I think we compare pretty well with the other suburban schools in the list, as we should expect, although our math number would seem to require a deeper inspection.

One other cut of the data is to examine what influence the graduates' high school curriculum has on the need for remedial classes once reaching college. There's not a lot of surprise here: For Hilliard kids who don't take a college prep curriculum in high school, 35% will need remedial classes, compared to 26% who take the minimum college prep classes. However, of the kids who completed the Ohio Core curriculum, only 11% required remedial classes when starting college.

One question might be why more graduates who decide to enroll in college didn't take college prep classes in high school, and I ask that question from the perspective of economic efficiency. To some extent, it seems like these kids are wasting part of the money we spend paying for their high school education by taking an easier curriculum, then showing up to college unprepared. Then we bear some of the cost of their 'do-over' when they get to college, at least if it is a state-funded college here in Ohio.

In other countries, such as Germany, Japan and India, kids have to compete to get into college prep high schools (which are separate from their vocational schools), and then compete again to get into college. There's no skating through high school if they want to get into college.

And you can't goof off and expect the rest of us to carry you.


  1. Paul,

    Be careful with those stats.

    The problem is the Columbus State has not been reporting their complete data back to OBR. That explains why most local districts showed strong improvements between 2003 and 2004 (check it out). And it explains the trend anomalies.

    If I imput Olentangy's Columbus State score, Olentangy has shown no real improvement over time. Drop Columbus State and the district gets credit where no credit is due.

    Keep in mind the OSU no longer accepts students who need remedial course work so those requiring it end up being pushed to Columbus State.

    You can find Columbus State's reporting history on the OBR website. Or you can call OBR to confirm.

  2. Perhaps it's the fault of the teachers in Hilliard.

    My extremely bright student struggled with Algebra 2 for two years in a row and couldn't earn better than a "c" average. She studied hard, went to math lab every chance she could and still couldn't get it.

    I ended up having to pay for a private tutor and now she's attending a private college here in Ohio.

    Sometimes we just have to break down and say what needs to be said; Some teachers are ineffective and don't deserve their salary.

  3. Jane:

    I appreciate what you're saying. The fact that your daughter was taking Algebra 2 says she was in a college prep curriculum and trying hard. I know what it's like to struggle with math - my math brain cells were slow getting started too.

    My criticism is not toward kids like yours, but rather those who avoid the hard classes in high school, then show up on the doorstep of a state-funded college and expect to get a 'do-over' subsidized with my tax dollars.

    We don't all come into this world with equal abilities, and I don't think it's the role of the public school system to try to get equal outcomes for all kids. Our kids are individuals, each with their own abilities and interests.

    The role of the public school system is to help each kid and set of parents match up abilities and interests with a curriculum that prepares the kid to be a productive member of society. Some will be heart surgeons and some will be plumbers (and I think plumber might be the less-stressful and more profitable job!)

    Really all I'm saying in this post is that that if you need remedial coursework to work at a college level, then you should have to take those classes on your own dime, not at a subsidized state institution. You've already had a shot in high school to take those classes for free (on my tax dollars). You pay next time.


  4. Paul,
    I don't know why, but this (and a few other old posts) showed up in my reader just now and even though it is old, I wanted to comment on it.

    I read an article in that discussed GRE Scores of School Administrators.

    It found that

    "Of 51 intended areas of graduate study, applicants in 45 fields had higher Total GRE scores than applicants in Education Administration. Candidates in 5 fields — Home Economics, Social Work, Student Counseling, Early Childhood and Special Education — had lower total GRE scores. "

    and that

    "Verbal and Quantitative scores follow the same pattern. Applicants in 46 fields had higher Verbal scores than candidates in Education Administration. Applicants in 4 fields had lower Verbal scores."


    "For context, below are mean GRE scores (Verbal, Quantitative, Total) of applicants in broad traditional fields and of all 1,206,000 examinees tested:

    Engineering - 468, 721, 1189

    Physical Sciences - 488, 699, 1187

    Humanities/Arts - 541, 561, 1102

    Life Sciences - 464, 580, 1044

    Social Sciences - 485, 559, 1044

    Business - 448, 591, 1039

    Education - 450, 531, 981

    Mean for All Examinees - 470, 598, 1068


    It also quotes from a study of Education Leadersiop programs nationwide (Exceprt from a New York Times report on the study)

    "All states, and nearly all public school districts within them, award higher salaries to teachers who take additional courses and earn advanced degrees. One result of this has been an 'army of unmotivated' educators looking for extra credits 'in the easiest ways possible' during their off hours, the report said. The universities, in turn, capitalize on this demand by viewing their education schools as 'cash cows,' setting low admissions standards and offering 'quickie degrees' instead of investing in a quality curriculum . . . (March, 2005)"

    I know the article addressed the quality of the people going into school administration, but you can see the scores of the Education students leave much to be desired. The brightest students aren't motivated to become teachers because of the low starting salaries and because in non-union careers, they know that they will be rewarded based on their individual contribution. Imagine how frustrating it is for the first and second year teachers to know that they are being given the most challenging students/classes to teach and make less that half what other teachers are making...

    And if we're not getting the best and brightest teachers, how challenged our best and brightest students?

  5. KK:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Roger Blackwell, the former OSU marketing prof, had a pitch that went something like this:

    1. In the 1960s, the kids with the highest ACT/SAT scores went into engineering, and if they couldn't cut it, they went to Business.

    2. In the 1970s, the kids with the highest ACT/SAT scores went into social sciences (psychology, sociology, etc), and if they couldn't cut it, shifted to education.

    3. In the 1980s, the kids with the highest ACT/SAT scores went into business, and if they couldn't cut, went into education.

    I don't know what he had to say about the 1990s, but my personal observation is that the kids with the highest ACT/SAT scores started showing up in engineering again, as well as the hard sciences (biology, chemistry, etc), and that trend extended into the current decade.

    I'm not going to say that 'dumb' kids go into education. In fact, my eldest is a teacher, albeit music education. While she's not a wiz at math or science, she is very skilled in music theory - able to work at a sophomore level right out of high school (kudos to Mike Martin at Darby).

    She also not a typical teacher in that she works in a private (Catholic) school, and so is not part of a unionized system. That means her pay and benefits is less than unionized public school teachers, but it also means that she was able to negotiate an increase in pay when she was asked to expand her responsibilities.

    And she's currently working on her Masters because the Ohio licensure rules require her to have one within five years of when she starts teaching. Her program is in curriculum development, not music, precisely because it's less work, not because that's her interest. She's going to a 'branch' of one of our state universities, formed specifically to offer Masters programs to local teachers in the small city where she lives.

    Like you, I suspect that the Masters requirement has less to do with helping teachers improve their skills than it does providing a steady cash flow to education programs around the state.