College Remediation: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know, until you have to pay for it’

Sam Radford’s daughter got straight As in school. That should be the gold standard for being in good shape to go to college, right?  Wrong. We travelled to Buffalo, New York to talk to Sam and get his story. Watch Sam’s clip below (the full video is here).

Sam’s story shows how hard it is for families to pony up money to pay for remedial college classes that teach kids the math, reading, and language skills they should have learned in high school. The skills they thought they had because they got good grades. The skills that they now have to pay to learn, with money that should be going toward their degree.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you pay for it.

What happens when kids graduate high school thinking they’re prepared for college… but aren’t?

One of the things that I’ve been wanting to write about is this:

There’s an inescapable irony to the fact that the very communities (students of color) who can most benefit from using data from standardized tests to hold schools accountable for providing good instruction are instead being urged to opt out of those tests…

Often, kids in low-performing schools are given good grades.

If you follow our How is My Kid Doing blog, you’ll recall this post from Holly, a teacher in California whose kids got As for showing up to class and behaving.

This practice (sometimes called social promotion) happens for a lot of reasons, some with good intentions, such as building kids self-esteem. I totally get that. But then there this question: Why would a low-performing school want to call attention to its own deficiencies? What happens to kids who think they’re okay, but aren’t, and then they graduate?

So what do standardized tests have to do with this? Simple. Because they aren’t developed by the school, they can shine a light on the fact that your kid isn’t learning.

That’s huge. Because if your kid is given good grades but hasn’t mastered the material, they’ll graduate high school thinking they’re doing okay. But when they get to college, they learn otherwise. And they have to pay dearly for it. Like Sam did.

Opponents of standardized testing talk about so-called “high-stakes testing,” arguing that standardized tests prevent disadvantaged kids from graduating. Okay, I say. So let’s let those kids graduate. Then what do we do? Send them off to college unprepared and ready incur debt they can already ill afford? Demoralize them further? What do you think Sam would say?

“You don’t know what you don’t know, until you have to pay for it.”

This post first appeared on the How Is My Kid Doing? blog.

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Carla Uriona

Carla Uriona

Carla’s greatest inspiration in life is her classical pianist mother who taught her that no dream was too big. Carla is an expert at climbing treehouses, biking, and building contraptions with her 6-year-old, Tomas. She writes about what it’s like to be a parent raising a curious, resilient kid in the series The Bathtub Moment. The idea for creating "How Is My Kid Doing" came to Carla as she was exploring education issues as a parent for the first time. She wanted to create a space for all parents to talk in an open, respectful environment that was conducive to thoughtful conversations, even when we disagree. For more details on How is My Kid Doing, please check out their videos and stories at Follow Carla on Twitter @uriona.

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