Monday, November 23, 2015

"College-Ready Seventh Graders"

So, a funny thing happened in Ohio higher education. I don't blog about things that happen at my university, but this decision didn't happen at my university. It happened in the State Legislature, with a new law that affects every public college in the state. And of course, decisions about this law weren't made by people who actually teach college. Obviously, we are too biased, and probably too corrupt, to help make wise decisions about educating young people. That needs to be left to politicians.

We have had, for longer than I have lived in Ohio, a program that allows some high-school juniors and seniors to take some classes at local colleges, counting those courses toward their high school diploma and but also banking them for college later. The idea is that they'll start college with several credits already. I have never heard complaints about this program, and I've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence for its success. So far, so good.

Since this program is successful, the lawmakers in Columbus reasoned, why not expand it? Why not have more high school students take more college classes, and get more credits? Our Governor, John Kasich, has bragged in one of the Republican Presidential debates (the one on October 28), that Ohio students would soon be graduating high school with a full year of college credits, because of this brilliant new law. What is the brilliant part? First, the law opens up the high-school/college program to younger students: to all high school students, in fact. And even better, the law requires colleges to accept "college-ready seventh and eighth graders."

Now, I have not personally met many college-ready seventh or eighth graders, but that is probably because teaching at an actual college biases me somehow.

Now, you may have noticed that I said the law requires colleges to accept college-ready seventh (and eighth) graders. It does not simply allow public colleges and universities to accept those students. Public colleges in Ohio are not allowed to refuse college-ready seventh-graders, however many of them there may be. And, because colleges can be tricky, the law wisely forbids colleges and universities from deciding what "college-ready" means themselves. Public colleges are not allowed to set admissions standards for high-school or middle-school students. Instead, the law tells them what the standard should be, so that lazy professors don't throw up pointless obstacles.

That standard, under the law, is that a seventh grader's GPA count's the same as a high school senior's GPA. No, I am not making that up. All public colleges and universities in Ohio are required to let in seventh graders if they meet the GPA requirement for regular students. If you're trying to keep standards very high, and turn away applicants with anything below a B+ average, then a twelve-year-old with a B+ average in middle school also qualifies. If you're trying to give students who've struggled a chance to succeed, so that you let in students who got Cs in their senior year of high school, then a seventh-grader's Cs are also good enough. Columbus says so.

Of course, pointy-headed academics will try to throw up all kinds of road blocks if you let them, and claim that somehow a B in 7th grade and a B in 12th grade are different things. But who's going to believe that? A B is a B, right? Otherwise, we would use a different letter. And letting educators put up these artificial obstacles about things like "preparation" and "class content" just mean more obstacles to people getting degrees.The point is to give people college degrees, and the professors are an obstacle to that.

Obviously, someone doing seventh grade math, what with the long division and all, is just as ready for college as someone doing calculus or trigonometry in twelfth grade. It's all math, right? And someone pulling an A in seventh-grade English, where the writing assignments are literally dozens of words long, should be all ready for first-year college English, where the papers are hundreds or thousands of words long. Good writing is good writing, yes? If your child is a good writer, and has been told so in middle school, then her essay about what she did on summer vacation should certainly be worth college credit. Most of the punctuation is exactly where it should be.

But then, you shouldn't ask me. I'm just a college professor. What do I know?

cross-posted from, and all comments welcome at, Dagblog

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