Guest blogger Will Fitzhugh, Concord Review :
A survey of college professors done a couple of years ago by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 90% of them thought the students they were seeing were not very well prepared in reading, doing research, and writing.
The Diploma to Nowhere report from 2008 found that more than one million of our high school graduates, with diploma and college acceptances in hand, are put into remedial courses when they arrive at college. The California State College people reported at a conference in Philadelphia last fall that 47% of their Freshman were in remedial writing courses. I asked the Director of Composition at Stanford if they had any remedial writing courses, and she told me that, no, all Freshman had to take a composition course.
So, what is the matter with all those public high school English and History teachers, that they are not preparing our graduates for college writing tasks? Many public high school teachers have five classes of thirty students each. With 150 students, if the teacher assigns a 20-page paper, she/he will have 3,000 pages of student research and writing to read, consider, and correct when they come in. If she/he takes an hour on each paper, that would require 150 hours work, or 30 days at five hours a day.
Even teachers who do a lot of their preparation and correcting after regular school hours, at night and on the weekends, do not have 150 hours to go over research papers.
As a result, they do not assign them, students do not learn how to do the reading and writing required, and colleges (and students) complain when students arrive unprepared.
A sensible solution, it seems to me, would be to provide a Reading Period of perhaps eight school days for History and English teachers to do the necessary work to prepare their students for serious academic papers. This will seem excessive and unmanageable to administrators, but not, perhaps, if they consider the extra time already allotted in our public high schools for other things, like band practice, layup drills for basketball, yearbook, concerts, football and baseball practice, and on and on and on, when it comes to non-academic purposes.
If we do give the necessary time for teachers of English and History to work with their students on research papers, and to evaluate their work, I believe our students will learn how to read complete nonfiction books and to write serious term papers, but if we continue to expect the impossible of our teachers, they will continue to ask less academically of their students than they can do, and students will continue to suffer the consequences.
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