K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
Evidence of California's Education Failure
Self esteem and social promotion bottleneck state colleges…
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 2/13/04
The latest remediation figures bring more evidence
that California's K-12 education system is failing and that current
attempts to fix the problem are not working.
The 23-campus Cal State University system draws students from
the top 33 percent of California's high-school graduates - the
best and the brightest. But for years, according to one report,
the students who require remedial work in math and English have
outnumbered those who do not. Note that the subjects in question
are not physics or science. English and math are basic subjects
that top-drawer students should master, but they don't.
Nearly half of incoming students in the CSE system, 48 percent,
need remedial courses in English. In fall of 2002 it was 49 percent.
At Cal State Sacramento 45 percent of freshmen need remedial
math, a marked increase from last year's 41 percent. And 55 percent
of incoming students need remedial work in English, the same
percentage as last year. By any standard, these figures are not
Allison G. Jones,
CSU assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, blames
students who come from homes where English is
not the primary language. But that is a very weak argument. Jones
conceded to reporters that the sense was that CSU would "never
get enough money from the state to deal with this." Officials,
in turn, admitted that the millions spent preparing K-12 students
have yielded disappointing results.
Once CSU students are enrolled in remedial courses, they usually
reach proficiency in one year. Roughly 40 percent of them, in
other words, lag a full year behind. Their K-12 education has
not prepared them for college. Remember that this is the top
one third of students. English and math proficiency among the
other 66 percent of high-school seniors can hardly be stellar.
The reasons for this failure have nothing to do with the language
spoken in the home.
It was only in 1998 that Californians voted to abolish bilingual
education, but the ill effects of that misguided practice may
still affect many students. A deeper problem is social promotion.
The current system advances students to the next grade regardless
of whether or not they have grasped the material. The reasoning
seems to be that holding them back would not make them feel good
Self-esteem, as it happens, is linked to a student's effort
and achievement. It cannot be simply given away by administrators
or teachers, competent or otherwise, and any self-esteem from
social promotion is strictly temporary. When the students hit
college or the workplace, the game is up and the failure can
no longer be concealed.
It is not the job of higher education to duplicate work that
should have been done in high school, and it is not the job of
taxpayers to subsidize it. The Cal State bosses want freshmen
proficiency rates of 90 percent by 2007. The figure should be
100 percent, and there are ways to achieve it.
Legislators should ban social promotion, increase standards,
boost teacher quality, and lengthen the school year. The high-school
exit exam, recently cancelled, should also be restored, strengthened,
and enforced. This will extend accountability to the students.
Meanwhile, the Cal State system and state Department of Education
should reveal how many of the remedial students were recipients
of Cal Grants.
2004 Pacific Research Institute