College and Career Readiness, the marching orders from the Obama administration. Thank goodness someone finally figured out what schools are for. For 200 years teachers have just been babysitters throwing out knowledge willy nilly and a swift kick in the pants after 12 years in an effort to make room for the new heard. Apparently teachers have never realized exactly what the point of their career was. It took the impressive intervention of the federal government to define the job of teaching. Whew, what a relief!
All kidding aside, the phrase itself needs to be studied and defined. The purpose of this article will confront the issue of college preparedness; career readiness will be examined in the next article. What exactly does college “readiness” mean? One can assume that academic rigor plays an important part. Everyone knows that American students fall short of the achievement of students in many other civilized nations. And American teachers know this and have used this as a battle cry to get more funding from the government, get regular and substantial support from parents, and try desperately to get the students out of the room who only find joy in disrupting the class day after day after day. But, wait, removing unruly students robs them of the right to be College and Career ready. Yes, it is dizzying.
So we’ve ramped up rigor, put in place a plan to ax ineffective teachers, and pushed every kid possible into AP classes whether they will succeed or not just to be able to show high enrollment rates, which, of course, the government likes to see. Yes, every teacher’s favorite past time is jumping through hoops. It is the burden of the teacher alone to make sure that the students who pass through their class are more college ready than the day they first arrived. For the government, and others who do not know, the educators definition of “teacher” is one who prepares others for college. It has always been that way whether others realize it or not.
So, here is the point. It takes more than just the ability to handle academic rigor to be successful in college. The smartest and brightest are dropping out of college at a rate of 1 for every 3 after their first year. Why, because the workload was too intense, they were not college ready? In a sense, yes. Success in college is more than just being capable of getting good grades. It is also reliant on one’s ability to adapt. To have a positive college experience, a student must not only do well in classes, but be able to adapt to a huge life transition in the process. Often using their own judgment to resolve issues, as calling home worries parents, and asking peers shows weakness. Essentially survival in the first year of college boils down to gut instinct, and genetic survival skills.
Who is charged with the responsibility of preparing college students for everything other than rigor? Who is in place to prepare students for the demands of online coursework? Who helps them to develop coping mechanisms? Whose job is it to prepare our students for the pressures they will be exposed to when mom and dad are a thousand miles away? The answer is teachers. Teachers have been through it all. They have horror stories to tell as well as stories of great achievement. And yet this is an untapped resource. We can make a student college ready but it seems less important to know what happens to them when they get there. And we know what happens, thirty three percent drop out after their first year.
If we are going to make our students college ready, we must be prepared to go the entire length of the field. It is a failure on our part if the student is not at least aware of common misconceptions about college life. Are we really being successful if ninety percent of our graduates are accepted into college and a third of those drop out after the first year? We owe our students more than that. Not just because the Obama administration is yelling its war cry, but because all teachers need to understand that it is not just their responsibility to get students to college, but successfully keeping them there as well.