Something is awry in the education world

October 3, 2019 7:00 am
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Something is awry in the education world – I call it a disconnect.

Your child has followed the grade school and high school curricula, taken state exams designed to prepare kids for college, and earned a diploma.

Then comes the disconnect: Your child is not prepared for college work. The data prove it when you see results from college admissions exams.

It’s troubling that kids can move all the way through the K-12 system but find themselves struggling, trying to move into higher education but unable to handle higher education classes.

Those students might end up in remedial “catch up” courses if they’re not ready for regular college classes.

Families may not even know this is happening, but it is happening – to tens of thousands of students in Florida who graduate from high school but aren’t ready for college.

Educators and data experts know this is happening.

Both the College Board – home of the SAT – and the ACT, the other major college admissions test, analyze whether kids are ready for key college freshman courses. Those include college-level algebra and reading-related classes such as history and literature.

The New-York City-based College Board, which recently published results of the SAT college admissions exam for the Class of 2019, also provided information on college readiness in math and reading/writing.

Florida’s number didn’t look good.

Only 34 percent of the 190,853 SAT test takers in the Class of 2019 were considered ready for a college-level freshman math course.

A score of at least 530 on the math SAT is needed to be to be considered ready for a freshman college math class. (Scores in both math and reading/writing range from 200 to 800 on the SAT.)

Students did better in college readiness on SAT’s reading/writing section, with 61 percent of SAT test takers considered ready for freshman reading-related classes. The college-readiness target required a score of at least 480 on the reading/writing section. Still, almost 40 percent of kids weren’t considered ready.

On average, Florida students scored a 999 on the combined math and reading/writing sections of the SAT, lower than the previous year and lower than the national average.

Nationwide, more than 2.2 million students scored an average 1059 in the combined math and reading/writing sections of the SAT. The national average for math was 528; the average in reading/writing was 531.

Overall, 68 percent of test takers nationwide were considered college ready in reading/writing, and 48 percent were considered ready in math.

Those national numbers are higher than Florida’s numbers.

More Florida students in the Class of 2019 took the SAT compared to last year, and that can produce lower scores, depending on the mix of test takers.

But that doesn’t fully make up for the disconnect.

If your child has followed the grade school and high school curricula and taken state exams designed to prepare kids for college and earned a diploma, your child should be able to do college work.

Florida education officials and the governor often praise the performance of the K-12 system, but the picture isn’t exactly rosy.

For one thing, the state allows kids to pass crucial state exams with a score that means a student is not proficient in a subject. That’s a problem, because it gives the public the impression that students are doing great when they’re not. That’s deceptive.

That may be one of the reasons for the disconnect. When students aren’t proficient in various subjects as they make their way through grade school and high school, they may never catch up. So when they take a college admissions exam, they don’t do well and reality sets in: They aren’t college ready.

Educators and teacher unions also bemoan that Florida’s education system is not adequately funded. That’s a problem.

The average starting salary for Florida teachers was $37,636 during the 2017-18 school year, according to the National Education Association. In that analysis, Florida ranks 27th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and is below the national average of $39,249.

However, Florida’s average for all teachers — not just beginning teachers — is $48,168, which is ranked 46th in the analysis. That compares to the national average of $60,477 in 2017-18.

If Florida can’t recruit top teachers with top salaries, that’s a problem.

In the Chicago suburban area, where I lived until recently, many teachers at the high school up my street earned $100,000 or more.

The governor and Florida’s education commissioner are working on boosting teacher salaries in 2020.

We’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, something is awry in the education world.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.