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Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

Regents want freshmen better prepared

Board says there’s a ‘disconnect’ between high school, college

August 23, 2007

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— The Kansas Board of Regents wants to do a better job of communicating what it expects of college freshmen who have graduated from Kansas high schools.

At their annual retreat here, the regents discussed a number of issues affecting higher education in Kansas. And at the top of their list was how well Kansas high school graduates are prepared for the rigors of college.

"What makes a high school graduate - from a high school administrator's standpoint versus a university's - is a difference of opinion," said board Chief Executive Officer Reggie Robinson. "There's a disconnect there. We have to get that lined up."

Students who aren't properly prepared generally take one of two paths:

  • They fail their course work and don't pursue a university degree. They may attend a community college.
  • Students take a number of remedial classes, such as Kansas University's Math 002.

Math 002, which had 962 students enrolled at KU as of Wednesday, is the only remedial course offered at KU, and is required of students who do not score 22 or higher on the math portion of the ACT.

"Students in the course have a wide range of needs," said KU spokeswoman Jill Jess. "In many ways, it's more of a refresher for some students."

While students without proper preparation are a concern to the regents, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the university has an obligation to educate students.

He said KU has a number of support programs to help students who may not be up to the rigors of college academics.

"If I see students struggling in writing, I tell them they need to get to the Writer's Roost to get some help," said Hemenway, a former English professor who still teaches from time to time. "I don't see the product coming from the K through 12 system as deficient, but we have to be sensitive to the fact that some students are going to struggle."

The Writer's Roost is a program that allows students to bring essays and papers in for peer critiques and reviews.

"We have to take students where they are and you have to take them where you want them to be," Hemenway said. "We owe the students to lead them to the point where they can live up to the standards at the University of Kansas."

Ultimately, many regents agreed that there was not enough communication from the regents to the Kansas State Department of Education about what students needed in order to be successful in college.

"Are our students arriving prepared?" said newly appointed Regent Gary Sherrer. "Yes. No. Some are and some aren't."

But Regent Donna Shank said the question of high school preparedness also is about admissions requirements at state universities.

Ed Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, said it may be time to look at standards once again.

"But this stems from the alignment of expectations," Hammond said. "We may want to raise the standards."

While the university leaders, including Hemenway, weren't interested in changing the admission guidelines now, there was a groundswell in favor of examining the decade-old qualified admissions standards.

Students must meet one of three criteria to be admitted to a state university:

  • Rank in the top third of their high school graduating class.
  • Maintain a 2.0 grade-point average using a college-track curriculum.
  • Score at least a score of 21 on the ACT.

"We have a 20th century law when we're sitting around talking about being 21st century institutions," Sherrer said. "We're not doing our job if we're not taking a look at how it works and what we do well."

Robinson said that it was time to look at college admission in a different way.

"In light of all that's going on (in assessing what the state's needs are), it seems to be worth having some discussion about how we approach admissions," he said.

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