To the Editor:
In “Diploma to Nowhere,” a recent report released by the Washington-based organization Strong American Schools, we were reminded of the grim realities high school students face as they enter college (“Cost of Catching Up in College Decried,” Report Roundup, Sept. 24, 2008).
Many graduate from high school only to realize that they are not academically ready for college and must take remedial classes prior to beginning their true coursework. The report estimates that 43 percent of students entering community colleges need remediation, while 29 percent entering public four-year institutions require similar attention. These statistics are alarming, and go largely unnoticed as colleges fill their coffers with tuition and fees from students who clearly haven’t been prepared to succeed at the next level.
Instead of wasting valuable time and money making up for the experience students did not receive in high school, we must ensure that high school teachers are getting the best training possible. We need to provide them with professional development to help them better prepare for classes, understand how to design effective and engaging lesson plans, and increase their students’ involvement and interest in learning.
History teachers, for example, can take advantage of the federal Teaching American History grant program, which funds ongoing training of history and social studies teachers. My organization works with more than 60 grant-recipient districts around the country, with the goal being to provide history and social studies teachers the kind of substantive, structured professional development that makes a difference in student achievement.
Advanced teacher training can be a valuable tool in preparing students for the demands of college. It is an approach that can affect the greatest number of students without haphazardly increasing costs or sucking up tuition money that could be better spent on the core curriculum and the selected field of study. This is the path we should travel.
Kevin T. Brady
President and Founder
American Institute for History Education
A version of this article appeared in the November 05, 2008 edition of Education Week as Advanced Teacher Training: A College-Readiness Tool