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herald editorial - 12/11/01

December 27, 2001

College-bound need remedial help



A new study unveiled this week says that although things are improving, too many West Virginia high school graduates aren't ready for the courses they'll face in college. Unlike many studies, however, this one says that students are partly to blame.

The study, done by the Higher Education Policy Commission, was presented Sunday to two education committees of the legislature. It found that more than one-third of May 2000 graduates had to take at least one remedial course during their first semester in college.

That's down from the previous high of more than 43 percent, but still a sign that more work needs to be done, according to education officials. Changes initiated by the state Board of Education, which upped graduation requirements, have had a positive effect, but students haven't done all they could do.

Less than 43 percent of all 200 graduates graduating in 2000 completed a suggested set of college-prep courses, which include four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies.

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No doubt, some of this is because many students are unsure what they want to do until they finish high school. It's difficult to prepare for college if you're not sure that's where you want to go.

Students' reluctance to buckle down may also result from the perception that high school is as much a social experience as an academic one, where negative peer pressure is sometimes exerted on high achievers.

Whatever the reason, the study demonstrates the importance of talking to children early about what they want to do, and what they need to do to achieve their goals.

And it's not just the extra time remedial courses take, it's the money as well. Only a third of the 2000 graduates qualified for PROMISE scholarships, which pay tuition and book costs for those who qualify. Student who don't take tough courses for themselves should be encouraged to do it for the parents who'll pay higher bills if they don't.

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