college readiness

A month or so back I was invited to participate in a college readiness program by a colleague down the road at Washington State University, otherwise known as WSU or Wazzu. The project is sponsored by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, otherwise known as the HEC Board. Because 42 percent of Washington state's high school graduates test into developmental levels of either Math or English, with many doing both, there has been a recognized need to better prepare those marginal students for college and success when they get there, without heaping blame on the high schools and teachers they have before they get to us, whether "us" is a two or four year college.

I've been paired, as one of two pilot teams, to work with a local high school teacher and a member of a four-year institution, Gonzaga. We are to work on helping the high school teacher revamp her instructional approaches, with a minimum of invasiveness and heavy-handed top-downness, to help her students succeed when they get to college, or to even let those students know they are ready to handle college work. There are similar initiatives taking place for science and math. Both of the pilot teams are in Eastern Washington, one in Spokane, the other in Yakima. The science folks are on the west side of the Cascades. This was done for purely logistical reasons, making it so we can more readily meet when we are not officially meeting in the Seattle area, where I spent the weekend.

We are going to spend a week in mid-June back in the Seattle area working on more particular and specific plans to help the high school teacher. The first thing I need to get her are some copies of our portfolio preview handbook along with some assignment samples from both literature and regular composition classes. One of the big gaps is because junior and senior English classes are wholly literature based and once a student reaches college, a lot of the English they take will not have anything to do with literature. This is why I often get a comment from students that they didn't do "any English" in the composition class. This disconnect is something we still need to overcome.

This is an interesting, maybe even exciting project, and I'm glad I've been invited to participate. The somewhat utopian notion is that if students come to us better prepared, then we can do more with them when they get here. But there are a lot of questions that remain, such as can we actually achieve what we would like to achieve, will we get funding for the third phase of the project, and can we get the necessary buy in from those who will be having to revamp what they do at present. As usual, more will be revealed, here and elsewhere.