High school star, college struggle

The Chicago Tribune posted an story about the correlation between Chicago-area public high school students GPAs in high school and what they are then able to achieve their first year in college.

While there is – as always – more to the stories than strict numbers, only 29 of  the more than 600 public high schools in Illinois produced graduates whose average GPA at the state’s public universities and community colleges was at least 3.0. Explanations range from students dealing with new found freedom and the opportunity to party to the statement that they are just not prepared for college. Basic math and English skills are lacking according to college officials interviewed for the story.

The GPA drop off – for many schools – is a full grade, often seeing a trend of students who were A or B students dropping to B or C level grades.

Ouch … One of the students quoted had taken AP classes, achieve a good GPA and was crushed by the expectations at college, a challenged she attributes to “culture shock”. While there are all sorts of things that could mean, there is no additional information from her in the article.

College is certainly different from high school. The freedom to drive their own schedule can be a bit too much for freshman, given they are also driving their own check books, meal times and sleep schedule. Figuring out the balance between fun and study, play money and text book funds, homework time and Playstation time can be difficult and that difficulty is often reflected in first quarter or semester grades.

But if the fact is that these kids – coming through our public schools with GPAs that identify them are more the college ready – truly are not prepared for the workload of college … we have serious problems.

If we just keep deferring academic issues for ‘the next class’, ‘next grade’, ‘next school’ these kids won’t start to learn until they hit college. And what are their chances of success when their first task at college is basic reading fluency or remedial math? Where can they get to in four years IF they manage to hang on?

Identifying the problem is part of the solution. I hope that this article stirs the pot a bit and that there are some results from the data posted.  That only 29 of 600 high schools appear to provide sufficient college preparation is just depressing.

 

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