No More Math and English Tests for California Students because…

by Mark Angelides

Politicians, state workers and the media talk constantly about how we must be doing more to get children into college, especially those from minority backgrounds or poorer families. But what is ignored is the fact that the number of people enrolling is nothing like the number of people graduating; at Cal State, the four-year graduation rate is just 19%. To solve this, California has declared that freshmen will no longer have to sit math and English placement tests!?!?!
23 colleges will be involved in the project that will kick off in 2018; and the aim of this idiotic experiment is to increase graduation rates to 40%. How they think putting ill-prepared kids into classes where they can’t actually manage the workload will possibly bump the graduation rates is anyone’s guess…But at least they will “look” like they’re trying.
At present, placement tests are given to freshmen to determine if they are capable (in terms of English and math ability) of coping with the workload and content of the college course. If not, they are placed in remedial classes that cost money and do not actually go towards the degree. Under the new system, colleges will have more freedom in determining literacy and numeracy levels by either looking at high school records or other measures. It is pure insanity.
The remedial classes do what the high school system failed to get done. It teaches the students to read, write and do sums at a level that will help them manage the workload. But Administrators feel that many students get “disheartened” with remedial classes, and make the assumption that this is why they have such a low graduation rate.  No, No, NO! It is not the remedial classes that dishearten them, it is the fact that they find the work too challenging, and this is because the state education system has let them down.
It is no surprise that since the educational focus shifted away from actually learning basic literacy and numeracy skills to a more “diverse and rounded” education, kids can no longer read and write quite so well. They have been sacrificed on the altar of political posturing and social engineering and this new ruling is just more of the same.
More people will enroll in college if they don’t have to pass a basic skills test, this is true, and that likely means that more people will graduate. BUT, the percentage of people graduating after four years will drop…not rise. And this is why politicians talk about the “number of people going to college” and not “the number of people graduating college”…It is a distraction to make us think that modern colleges actually work. They do not.
But the real reason behind this policy is so that politicians will be able to state honestly that “More people from minority backgrounds are going to college than ever before!” And it will be true. They just won’t be graduating.
* In an earlier version of this article, it was correctly pointed out that I had used the words “Cal Tech” instead of “Cal State”. Cal Tech is a highly regarded institution with an excellent 4-year graduation rate. Thank you to our readers for pointing out my mistake. I strive to be as accurate as possible and appreciate any feedback on errors that I may have made.