The new system of high school coursework with the accompanying board examinations is modeled largely on systems in high-performing nations including Denmark, Finland, England, France and Singapore.I applaud the idea of merit-based scholarship. As long as the tests that make up the program accurately reflect the type of knowledge a college freshman needs, it would provide a big incentive to study and work hard. I see two major problems though.
The program is being organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, and one of its goals is to reduce the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college. More than a million college freshmen across America must take remedial courses each year, and many drop out before getting a degree.
First, I’m fuzzy on how the program will reduce the frequency of remedial courses needed. Those students that work hard and pass the tests are very likely the same students who would have worked hard and mastered the material in grades 11 and 12, and are less likely to have needed remedial education in the first place. The kids who need remedial classes are the ones who couldn’t master the coursework in high school. This program won’t weed those kids out; it will just promote sophomores who study ahead of them into college. Again, I don’t think this is a bad thing, I just don’t see how this will make those kids who can’t pick up the material any better off.
The other question I have goes to the social development of these kids. College is a different animal and I wonder how many 15- and 16-year olds are ready for it. The concern is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the program applies to enrollment in community colleges (the program would provide further college prep courses during 11th and 12th grade for kids who want to go to a “selective coleege”), but there’s still a jump to made in suddenly doing college-level work in an environment dominated by adults in many cases several years older.
What do you see as the plusses and minuses of such a program?
(Crossposted from Say Anything)