SOURCE: Sam Houston State University

SHSU logo

April 01, 2011 14:42 ET

Studies Question 'College Preparedness'

HUNTSVILLE, TX--(Marketwire - April 1, 2011) -  In the first trend study of "college preparedness," a team of Sam Houston State University researchers is reporting that a stark difference exists between "college readiness" and "academic preparedness," while less than 40 percent of high school students can be deemed "college ready," even by Texas's standards.

Further, broad cuts to education being proposed by state legislatures nationwide could widen this gap even more, they say.

The ideas of "college readiness" and "academic preparedness" are compared in studies by education professor John R. Slate, Reading Center director Wally Barnes, and literacy specialist Ana Rojas-LeBouef.

"How Texas defines readiness -- and it's pretty much how the country defines college readiness -- is not college readiness. We think it's a misrepresentation," Slate said. "How we're currently defining college readiness is really academic preparedness, and only academic preparedness in reading and math as opposed to a comprehensive academic preparedness."

College readiness, they said, should include factors other than just math and verbal scores on the SAT, ACT or Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, such as financial education, study skills and more emphasis on reading and writing.

But even looking solely at math and verbal scores, the state isn't doing so well, according to the multi-year statistical study conducted by Slate and Barnes.

Using data released by the Texas Education Agency, the two documented for the three school years between 2006-2009 the percentages of students deemed by the state of Texas as "college-ready," defined by earning certain scores on the three tests.

Students can be "college ready" in math, verbal or both. The two looked at percentages who met criteria for both subjects. 

For the 2008-2009 school year -- the most recent data available -- the numbers grew in all fields, to 27.3 percent black, 32.8 percent Hispanic and 48.84 percent white students, and an overall average of 39.42 percent.

Though this constitutes a 9 percent increase over numbers released the previous two years, when less than one-third of all students were "college ready" in both subjects, there is an explanation for the increase.

"What happened with the large increase is when states see certain measures and they're looking at their No Child Left Behind and annual yearly progress (figures), they sometimes lower the cutoff score," Barnes said. "In other words, they lower the score for students to be successful, so more students are successful."

"While the score may remain the same, the number of questions to get that score may change," Slate explained. "States have a tendency to play with the data to make the schools look good.

"Ultimately it's an economic issue that is going to affect each and every one of us," he said. "On the individual level, are we really doing these kids justice if we're not preparing them for a career or for college enrollment?"

Contact Information