Study shows state students unprepared for college

Wyoming high school students have a problem transitioning from secondary education to post-secondary education so a bill focusing on “Educational Accountability” is proposed for this year’s legislative session.

According to a study presented to the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee in October, more than half of first-time freshman entering the University of Wyoming aren’t prepared for college-level math and English courses.

UW has created a new set of admission standards for assured admission, which will be implemented fall 2013.

Many factors contribute to this such as student performance, home situations and help is available to the students. Likewise, many ways exist to address this issue: The Legislature, the K-12 system, University of Wyoming (UW), Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC) and the Joint Education Commission (JAC) are working to solve the issue within an acceptable timeframe.

“We have to have true collaboration between higher education, secondary education and, ultimately, all of education,” Dr. Jim Rose, executive director of WCCC, said. The focus will be on implementing and sustaining a “common core” in the K-12 system and the community colleges in the state of Wyoming and on holding all departments and instances involved accountable.

Also, legislators and educators from Wyoming and other states are working together to get to the point of a “common instrument” to test and assess high school students. Therefore, common ground will be developed and people will not be talking by one another.

“Wyoming spends $1.4 billion a year on K–12 education. Some people ask, ‘What are we getting for our investment, and where are we in terms of educational position in the country and globally speaking?’” Rose said. Considering the investment made each year, Wyoming students should be leading the scores but are actually more in the middle of the pack.

Senate File 70, (which can be found on the Legislature website: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2011/Engross/SF0070.pdf which was passed last year, was the first step toward this, by addressing accountability and assessment.

The newly drafted “Education Accountability” bill (on the legislative website for the Joint Education Committee, http://legisweb.state.wy.us/interimCommittee/2011/12LSO-0140.C2.pdf is, in short, a refinement of Senate File 70 and puts more focus on everyone involved and how to hold them accountable.

Rose added it is looking at assessment instruments, teacher preparation and other of aspects.

The bill is looking at different and more concentrated ways to test as follows:

From the time the bill goes into effect until June 30, 2014, it will cost a little more than $1 million for the various testing and implementations involved and to sustain the committee that supervises all aspects and runs the reports on the schools.

Another part will be providing a better help system for those students already in college and struggling. Colleges need to provide a better support system for students in need of academic support. The realization here is the longer a student spends in pre-college classes, the less likely the students ever make it to any credit classes and receive a college degree, Rose said.

Gov. Matt Mead also requested to deal with students at risk who may have academic problems, socioeconomic challenges and might be from a family in whom they are the first generation to finish high school and/or go to college. The colleges need to implement a system that provides a better support system and find a way to move students along faster from pre-college classes to actual college classes. Also, colleges need to implement the “common core” standards and work together with the K12 system.