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BlogCollege Education - The Crisis of Mediocre Teaching

College Education - The Crisis of Mediocre Teaching

Two major dilemmas highlight the current crisis in education: the students’ performance and the teachers'. Diploma of Nowhere3, a program prepared by Strong American Schools and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed data of U.S. college students in 2004. They demonstrated that:

• 43% of all students at a public 2-year institution have enrolled in a remedial course
• 29% of all students at a public 4-year institution have enrolled in a remedial course
In a few states such as:
• Oklahoma Community College, 80% of students are enrolled in remedial courses
• At California State University >60% of the 40,000 freshman admitted each year needed help in English and/or Math
• At Indiana Community College, 70% of students needed remediation in 2005

This data suggests that most students arrive at college from high school without proper preparation. According to the Diploma to Nowhere article3, “…When high school graduates enroll in college, as many as one million students fail placement exams every year. Well over one third of all college students need remedial courses in order to acquire basic academic skills." It goes on to state, "A high school degree no longer demonstrates that a graduate is ready for college. Students’ inadequate preparation for higher education has become a deep and widespread problem.”3

# of students in remediationCost of remediation
Public two-year995,077$1.88-$2.35 billion
Public four-year310,403$435-$543 million
Total1,305,480$2.31-$2.89 billion
Note: Data obtained from Diploma to Nowhere by Strong American Schools3

The article goes on to state that students in remediation classes are more likely to drop out of college than those who do not. In several minority institutions of higher education, approximately 80-95% of students admitted during the first year are required to take remedial courses in math, reading, and English. However, even in these courses, dropout rates are still pretty high, estimated to be about 70-80%. So States could do a lot more to help improve student preparation for college.

The second problem is the quality of instructors and the Department of Education, who are those responsible for preparing students for college. Arne Duncan, a U.S. secretary of Education, believes that schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing "a mediocre job in preparing instructors for the realities of the 21st century classrooms." A report by Arthur Levine, a former president of Columbia University's Teachers College, reports that 60% of school alumina interviewed from a 4-year university said that their programs did not prepare them to teach. Duncan urged every teacher-education program to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels their efforts.1

Concurring with Duncan, David Steiner, one of New York’s education commissioner also defines another perspective, “it is impossible in many states to tell which teachers produce the best student outcomes …or identify skills that make a difference in terms of student learning [which makes] teaching an indefinable art.”2 Steiner, who also served at the Hunter College’s School of Education, voiced the opinion that teachers-in-training studied theories and philosophies of education at the expense of practical, in-the-classroom experience. He believes that institutions need to focus on the practical rather than the hypothetical. This questions the value of teachers’ credentials, which mean nothing if we can’t tell how much the students are learning.

I tried to identify some of the specific strategies to the “art of teaching.”
• Class management – allow no cell phones, organize and check students skills of note-taking
• Classroom teaching – anchor new concepts to students' experiences and differential knowledge bases
• Daily assessment of students knowledge and teaching effectiveness – use exams and priming homework
• Streamlining of content of subjects – teach similar topics in a “parallel” way or even repetitively
• Feedback for student learning – capitalize on “good errors”, providing adequate review and practice

What are your thoughts on this topic? What are the strategies you would implement to improve your students' knowledge?

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/education/23teachers.html" target="_blank">http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/education/23teachers.html
2. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1931810,00.html"" target="_blank">http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1931810,00.html" target="_blank"> http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1931810,00.html
3. http://www.broadeducation.org/asset/1128-diploma%20to%20nowhere.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.broadeducation.org/asset/1128-diploma%20to%20nowhere.pdf
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