The readers’ forum

Screening tests unfair to some students

 

Re Eduardo Padron’s May 19 Other Views article, Pell grants for poor students can change lives so let’s fix the system, not dynamite it: Padron, the president of Miami Dade College, takes issue with a report that the National Center on Education and the Economy recently issued.

The evidence we gathered in our study showed that community-college instructors expect very little from incoming freshmen. This is because most high school graduates going on to community colleges have weak writing skills, cannot read with comprehension above the 8th- or 9th-grade level and have only a shaky understanding of middle-school mathematics.

But what are community colleges doing to make sure that their graduates are writing a lot and writing well, that they are reading at at least the 12th-grade level with comprehension and have a firm command of middle-school math and of the more advanced math that they need to be successful in the occupations for which they are training?

Nowhere does the report say that students don’t need remedial courses. What we said was that most colleges use placement tests to decide who must take remedial courses. The mathematics portion of the most widely used tests are based on the algebra I, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus sequence.

But only a tiny proportion of community-college graduates will need calculus in their work. So, many students are not able to take credit-bearing courses in their community colleges because they cannot show a command of mathematics that they will never need. We think this is unfair and a waste of time and money. This is not a comment about Miami-Dade College in particular, but about all community colleges that use these placement tests to screen their applicants.

Marc Tucker, president, National Center on Education and the Economy, Washington, D.C.

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