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High school students taught to test, not to learn

Walking in front of hundreds of people, shaking hands with the principal and finally moving the dangling tassel from one side of the cap to the other is a significant event in the common American’s life. But after dozens of pictures are snapped, the next step in the high school graduate’s life comes into question.

Recently, getting a college degree has become more common in America; however, current studies around the country show that many high school graduates are not equipped with the adequate skills to pass college classes.

Many recent high school graduates enter regular college classes but quickly have to change into remedial classes. Those who graduate at the top of their class to continue on to college end up failing classes in college.

A study done by the Denver Post noted that of Abraham Lincoln (Denver) High School’s graduating class of 2011, 30 percent of graduates continued on to college. Although, the study mentioned that 78 percent were “unprepared” and required remedial classes during their first year of college. While Drake University does not offer remedial classes, professors still believe first-year students are not fully prepared for the class work.

Sarah Hogan, a visiting assistant professor of English at Drake, has taught many first-year students. She is also a grader for the Language Advanced Placement tests and has graded thousands of these tests.

“There is a serious problem around standardized testing where the emphasis is for students to just regurgitate information instead of critical thinking,” said Hogan. “It is a strange experience to read the same thesis over and over instead of individualized essays.”

According to The New York Times, similar problems are being noticed in New York. Only 37 percent of students who entered high school in 2006 in New York left four years later properly prepared for college. The study indicates that serious changes need to be made for these high school graduates to succeed in college classes.

While this general trend is evident across the country, Drake may be a special case. Drake is a private liberal arts school, and while services are offered to those who need help in academics, no remedial classes are offered at Drake.

Perhaps Drake is a special case. The average first-year student grade point average has slightly increased since 2007 from 3.02 to 3.12 in 2010. And the percent of first-years below a 3.0 GPA has decreased from 10.39 percent to 6.83 percent. Yet many first-year professors find themselves having to deal with the lack of preparation for Drake students as well.

“When I teach my first-year seminar class, I start by unlearning my students what they’ve been taught in high school,” said Hogan. “Specifically, I have to break my students from the five paragraph essay formats.”

High schools seem to be aiming for the pure goal of getting students to pass the class and do well on standardized tests. This causes an evident lack of skills, said Hogan.

“Most students come able to read for content, but they are not thinking. They are just following a format,” said Hogan. “Critical thinking is clearly a skill that needs to be emphasized more.”


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1 Comment

  1. student March 5, 2012

    I think this is present in a lot of places- there is a huge emphasis on passing a test in high school especially with AP classes. Students sometimes forget the big picture of learning so that they can focus on passing a test in order to obtain college credits before arriving on campus. It’s not a bad thing to learn at a higher level, but then I think it should be altered so it is taught at a higher level or the tests should be more analytical than recalling a formula to find out an answer.

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