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Lance Izumi. (Photo: Lance Izumi)

Why High School Graduates Turn Out to Be College Illiterates

‘You can see that the companies don’t want these graduates’

By Katy Grimes, June 14, 2024 8:30 am

“Too many high school graduates are in for a rude awakening when they discover that their K-12 public education has left them woefully unprepared for the rigors of college coursework,” warns Lance Izumi, senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute.

College readiness has reached historic lows, including the lowest scores in 30 years on the ACT and declining scores on the SAT, the two primary standardized tests used for college admissions, Education Week recently reported.

“The ACT measures college readiness in English composition, social sciences, algebra, and biology,” Izumi said.

Janet Godwin, the head of the ACT, told Education Week: “Fewer students leaving high school are meeting all four college readiness benchmarks [on ACT tests].  Just 21 percent of high school seniors are meeting all of these benchmarks; 43 percent of students meet none of them.”

High school teachers know that today’s graduates are poorly prepared for college, Izumi says. “Yet, many of these poorly prepared high school graduates are getting into college because of their inflated grade point averages.”

Longtime former California teacher Christy Lozano told Izumi, “A lot of these kids are coming out of high school with a fifth-grade reading level. They can’t go to [community college] and make up for that.”

Izumi reports that a major study by the ACT found that from 2010 to 2022 the grade point average in high school English, math, science, and social studies courses among students taking the ACT college-entrance test increased year over year, while their ACT scores decreased in every one of those subjects.

Izumi continues:

“According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, professors from Wellesley to Cal State Los Angeles now have students who do not read well and do not work very hard.  Many students have a weak vocabulary, poor reading endurance, are unable to analyze complete or lengthy texts, and lack the context to understand various arguments and points of view.

The situation in math at colleges is even worse, which is not surprising since high school grade inflation increased at the greatest rate in math.

For my soon-to-be-released book The Great Classroom Collapse: Teachers, Students, and Parents Expose the Collapse of Learning in America’s Schools, which will be published by the Pacific Research Institute, I interviewed a math instructor at a California college who teaches calculus.  He said that among his students, lack of foundational algebra knowledge is “the number one deficiency and it’s chronic.”

“So when a student comes to college,” he observed, “without algebra skills and without analytical skills there is really no hope.”

“It causes a lot of problems because that person is not ready to be educated at the level of calculus.”

In my book The Great Classroom Collapse, I conclude that too many K-12 schools “are putting political ideology over what works, whether it be a misguided equity agenda that seeks to dumb down learning to the lowest common denominator” or progressive curricula and instructional methods that are being used “in intellectual defiance of empirical evidence showing that are ineffective and are damaging children.”

What career prospects do these unschooled, unprepared college students have?

“You can see that the companies don’t want these graduates,” he noted.  “So a company in Silicon Valley that’s specializing in artificial intelligence wants heavy hitters and you’re never going to be a part of that.”

According to Education Week, “There’s nothing worse than approaching a challenging situation grossly unprepared—except, perhaps, believing you’re well-equipped for the task only to find that you’ve overestimated your preparedness,” which is a scenario “that’s becoming increasingly common for college-bound seniors.”

Read Lance Izumi’s devastating article here. I’ve long warned about inflated grade point averages – today we are seeing just how inflated they are, and uneducated, undereducated and unprepared high school graduates are.

Is public education bankrupt or can it be overhauled?

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10 thoughts on “Why High School Graduates Turn Out to Be College Illiterates

  1. Government run schools no longer educate, they indoctrinate!
    Teachers are more concerned about their demands on embracing the climate change agenda than Johnny learning his ABC’s!

  2. In the California Community College system, remedial classes in English and math were eliminated by AB 705 and AB 1705, both written by Jacqui Irwin, and have proven devastating to student success. Ironically, Jacqui Irwin has a bachelors degree in systems engineering from UC San Diego. AB 705 and AB 1705 will eliminate many students from ever having the opportunity to pursue engineering.

  3. When schools have to accommodate the illiterates and actually promote them because if fairness and equity, what other outcome can be expected.
    Is there any wonder why home and private schools are popular.

  4. This trend of grade inflation started under Obama, when they emphasized equitable discipline to lower disciplinary expulsions which they pointed out were primarily of Black and Brown students. Then it morphed into lowering standards to avoid academic penalties and boost penalties for Black and Brown students, then Covid hit, and there were no standards at all for a few years. They eliminated the SAT and ACT which, when combined with inflated GPA and lowered academic standards, led to a huge dropoff in the quality of high school graduates.

    Professor Victor David Hanson pointed out that today’s professors can no longer give tests that were used 10 years ago, because most students wouldn’t pass. Why do you think today’s college students couldn’t identify “the river” or “the sea” when they chanted the Hamas mantra?

  5. This is not new. When I graduated HS back in the 70’s most of my classmates were functionally illiterate in most subjects. College was a rude shock to them. Things today must be 100x worse.

  6. Ms. Grimes I do thank you for this but I must bring up that before GW Bush got in there were issues with students needing remedial Math or English when they reached University, that was 24 years ago and his push for Common Core cured nothing. I herd Gloria Romero on the Radio last night and almost lost my dinner. I’ve heard her talk of Education’s failure and was heartened by it initially but have yet to really hear her denounce what got US here, though she does peg the CTA. Last night it was all about the Latinos and why are they doing so poorly in California as opposed to other States and her accent got thinker then thinner, depending how much she was interacting with who ever else was on with her, his accent remained thick. Latino Latino Latino or Black Black Black is how we got here and she should know better. If Students were all held to ONE (1) Standard and School was held to civil discipline we might have gotten somewhere. I’m sure she cares but what I heard on 790 KABC last night just seemed to overlook the obvious. We’re Americans and we’d better clue up to that point, it should be taught in our schools this way. HER Demo-ncratic Party did this at the pushing of those in favor of Marx and there’s no denying that either. Our Republic now has a huge number of students who want Jews dead, Thank a Teacher!

  7. The ‘60s and ’70s saw the start of colleges taking their student’s satisfaction and approval ratings of professors more seriously than the actual academic performance of the students. Since then, college courses have became more consumer driven popularity contests rather than places that put students to task academically. The open spicket of cash through student grants and loans has only made the consumer satisfaction motivation of colleges greater. The politically driven ideological indoctrination emphasis has only added to the miserable results.

    Now the popularity contest, the indoctrination, and the ‘Don’t hurt the little darlings feelings’ mentality has rolled downhill through the K-12 classes. The results speak for themselves.

    Perhaps a change in attitude from educators at every level could change the results. Educators should be less like the hand-holding, indoctrination, failure enablers that are currently in fashion, and more like a drill instructor. Anyone who has ever been through boot camp will tell you: A D.I. won’t care about your feelings, but they’ll sure get results out of you that even you didn’t think you were capable of. Students and parents should demand this, because the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment gained by students from successfully doing something difficult is of far greater and long lasting value than any false sense of self esteem handed out like party favors just to make the student feel good.

    Just saying. 😶

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