Students who think they can’t do well in college because of poor reading, math or science skills may be able to succeed thanks in part to new programs aimed at keeping them in school.
According to the Washington, D.C.,-based Alliance for Excellent Education, about 129,300 Texas students did not graduate from high school in 2011. Lost lifetime earnings for those students alone total about $18 billion.
The alliance estimates that if all Texas students were to graduate on time, roughly $462 million in remedial courses and lost earnings could be saved.
High schools and colleges across the state are stepping up efforts to make sure that those who did not graduate on time or barely passed high school do not fall through the cracks in post-secondary education.
Many students end up having to enroll in some sort of remedial course at the start of their college career, whether it be in math — the most common — writing or science.
“If we could bottle motivation and feed it to people we wouldn’t have a problem,” said Dr. Roger C. Schustereit, Hill College vice president.
Schustereit said Texas is not the only state where students fail to meet standards.
“It’s a national problem,” he said.
According to the alliance, literacy scores for students in eighth grade are poor, especially in the low-income and African-American subpopulations. Educators say they want to see that change; there should be no excuse for failing to meet standards.
Nationally, 25 percent of eighth-graders do not meet reading standards, compared with Texas, where 26 percent of eighth-graders do not. Twenty-nine percent of students nationally are considered proficient, or at grade level reading. The same can be said for a quarter of Texas students.
Cleburne ISD Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Gay Roden said CISD administrators and teachers keep up with the Texas Education Agency and research-based reading academies which provide training to teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“They train teachers how to work with students in small groups and also how to monitor their progress effectively,” Roden said. “The need for reading interventions and strategies don’t end at the end of elementary. It’s a good thing, that in the long run, students who reach middle school and high school should have fewer difficulties and troubles with their ability to read.”
Roden said additional teachers beyond core content classrooms at Smith and Wheat middle schools provide assistance to struggling students who need additional support and intervention. At Cleburne High School, freshmen and sophomores who did not pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in the eighth- or ninth-grade are double-blocked, meaning those students are in necessary support classes for two class periods. There are also retired teachers who work as reading specialists for high school students who are still reading at the elementary level, she said.
The district recently purchased Rosetta Stone software for English-learning students. Most widely used as a tool to learn Spanish, the software has already started to improve the understanding of Spanish-speaking students who are learning to read and write in English.
Schustereit, who first started as an English professor more than 30 years ago said he has seen too many struggling students disappear from campus and never come back.
“There’s no shame in having to seek remedial help,” he said. “It used to be ‘sink or swim,’ but now at least those who are motivated have the tools to help them.”
Schustereit is scheduled to speak at a forum on April 20 to discuss the Hill College Task Force on Developmental Education. Last fall, the task force compiled reports from Texas and the nation to discuss the possibility of summer success camps — which would allow students who are on the verge of needing remedial help to boost their scores without having to take extra courses — as well as embedded advisors to help developmental students improve their grades and retention rate.
Schustereit said he hopes that even with state funding cuts, there will be room in the budget for such interventions next year.