Wed, Apr

Cal State’s Answer to Segregated, Inferior K-12 Education: Ignore it!


EDUCATION WATCH-The Cal State system's recent decision to get rid of the requirement that as many as 25,000 incoming freshman take non-credited remedial courses in Entry Level Math (ELM) and the English Placement Test (EPT) before taking college level coursework is irrational. It defies common sense to think that students who have not mastered prerequisite grade-level standards in Math and English are able to understand college level coursework – coursework that relies on basic foundational knowledge to understand the college level classes they are now allowed to take. 


Eliminating these requirements does not resolve the poor academic performance of predominantly minority students who come from still segregated, purposefully inferior public education systems like LAUSD. Doing this will just put off the predictable failure of students now in college whose deficits have not been addressed in a timely manner during their K-12 education. 

Remediation of students at the college level doesn't and hasn't worked for a long time, since most of those receiving the help ultimately drop out, believing that something is wrong with them. The glaring reality is that inferior, segregated K-12 public education in inner city school districts like LAUSD does irreparable damage to its natively intelligent students. Yet those with the power to change this awful system steadfastly ignore this. 

Continuously pushing unprepared students through an inferior public education K-12 system, which has no expectation that they are capable of excellence, obviates the necessity of subsequent college level remediation programs. But the reason those don’t work is because the window of educational opportunity is age-related. This has long been ignored as essential to these students’ education. 

What is scary is that Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White now "hopes that these students will be able to get their college diplomas earlier." What is this guy smoking? In what universe would egregious academic deficits left unaddressed allow more students to graduate with a diploma that has any objective value? 

Cal State seems "committed to increasing its graduation rate from 19%-40% by 2025," while seeming to have little concern as to whether the diplomas they offer to 40% of its students in 2025 will have much use to them. Reporters in the commercial and public media do not seem to have the integrity to point out this fact. 

Instead of taking a pragmatic look at K-12 education, addressing student deficits in a timely manner, there seems to be a racist and self-serving assumption on the part of those running the public education system that minority children cannot learn. This is nonsense! 

How can you argue in good faith that the 40% of students who presently enter the Cal State system needing remediation should now get nothing? Ignoring this reality by eliminating remedial classes, claiming it is too expensive for the students, negates the underlying reality that these students are not capable of doing college level work. The solution is not to ignore this, but to posit a timely K-12 solution to ensure that 40% of students do not arrive at the college level without prerequisite skills. 

Just because a recent report by The Public Policy Institute finds that "remedial programs largely fail to help students reach their academic and vocational goals" doesn't mean that nothing should be done. But an Early Start program at college level still does not addresses the egregious academic deficits that should be addressed at the K-12 level, if there is any hope of succeeding. 

If standardized placement exams "handicap" hundreds of thousands of our students (as Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley points out) the answer is not to ignore student deficits, but rather meet them head on so the students are not left holding the bag.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com.  Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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