Community Colleges Are Filling the Gap. But Shouldn’t Others Be Helping?

Posted on May 16, 2010
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by FeliciaOctocog
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At Salem CyberSpace almost of all our students live in homes where English is not spoken and over half are native speakers of languages other than English.  For the students who came to this country as teenagers, getting up to speed in English in order to succeed in college is indeed a tall task.  However, all students who do accumulate the required number of high school credits and pass MCAS will earn a ticket to the local community college.

Community Colleges provide open enrollment to any student with a high school diploma. For many immigrant teens, who graduate with low SAT scores, and few financial resources, this is their only option for higher education. Without community colleges, these students would fall into an educational black void and have little option but to find low-level, low-paying jobs. It is important to note that many of these youth finish high school with decent to excellent GPA’s but still are excluded even from state 4-year colleges because of low SAT scores.

However, before these students arrive on campus they must take a college placement test called the Accuplacer for English or Math if the student did not score a 500 or higher on the SAT in each of these subject areas. The score of Accuplacer will determine whether the student can enter college level work or be required to do remedial coursework first. Remedial courses cost the same amount of money as college-level courses but do not earn graduation credits. Students who take one remedial courses are more likely to drop out and the drop out rate plummets even further for those who have to take more than 1 remedial course their first year.

It is unfair to point the finger at the public colleges who inherit students unprepared for college work. In fact, the community colleges are spending billions on teaching staff for the remedial courses to try to bridge the gap. But there has to be a better way.

There is an interesting collaboration between Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College which is bringing college level work to the high school. (http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2010/05/16/amesbury_high_students_giving_it_the_early_college_try/) Only students who fall in between the honors students and the failing students can join the program.  This program raises the expectations and delivers college-level work to students starting in the 2nd year of high school So far the results look very positive.

There is also Cabrillo Community College in California that offers a summer and semester long program called the Academy for Academic Excellence that take “academically at-risk” students and bridges the academic gap with college ready skills.

Yes, there has always been an achievement gap, and there have always been unacceptably high drop out rates at public colleges. However, today’s good jobs require a college education and as a society we cannot afford to sit on our hands and continue to watch the achievement gap grow.