High schools will have to try a little harder if this “college-ready” bill passes

The N.C. General Assembly is a step closer to doing something about remedial education. Today, the House education committee on community colleges passed SB 561, which would implement a program called “Career and College Ready Graduates.” It now has only to pass the House floor before reaching the governor’s desk.

As Jenna Robinson pointed out in May, the bill requires the State Board of Education to create a program for remediation in high school, instead of shoving kids out the door and leaving the community colleges to pick up the pieces. According to the text of the bill, 52 percent of high school graduates in 2013 needed remediation; 41 percent of students needed remedial math, and 36 percent needed remedial reading and English. The program would make it mandatory for juniors who aren’t ready to take remedial courses in their senior year.

While high school faculty would teach the classes, there would be oversight and training from the community college system. The State Board of Community Colleges also determines the definition of “readiness.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican senator Chad Barefoot, was there to pitch the bill before the committee today, noting that students who are unprepared are less likely to graduate from community college and often don’t even enroll in any classes. The idea is that better preparation will lead to more success in college.

Democratic representative Ken Goodman raised the question of redundancy between the new bill and an existing requirement that students take college-level (well, “Future-Ready”) English and math courses. A representative of the public schools said that that requirement is not directly aligned with North Carolina Community College System standards, while this bill is. So, will there be redundancy? “We’d have to do a review,” she said.

While students must already take “Future-Ready” courses, there’s no guarantee they will actually pass–and, as the statistics show, about half aren’t ready when they enter college. SB 561 will not magically make students pass courses they aren’t passing, but it will ensure that high schools take responsibility for students’ education. Community college should not be high school part two, which is the role it too often takes in taking so many remedial students.

If the bill passes, the State Board of Education will develop a program by next year.

 

Harry Painter

Harry Painter writes for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.