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Educators: lack of Common Core hampers college students

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King Jr. answers a question from a member of the New York State Senate Education Committee during a two-hour meeting at the Capitol in Albany on Jan. 23, 2014. Credit: Philip Kamrass

ALBANY -- The furor over New York's move to the higher standards of a Common Core curriculum in public schools found a new venue Thursday as state officials argued that student preparedness is a growing problem in colleges and universities.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said only "about 1 out of 3 students statewide graduate with the skills to succeed in credit-bearing college courses. More than a quarter of students enrolled in our state's colleges are required to take remedial courses."

King, speaking at the State Legislature's budget hearing on higher education, said a majority of community college students and 80 percent of students from public schools in poor neighborhoods need remedial courses.

The reteaching of high school lessons in college costs the State University of New York $80 million a year at a time when SUNY faces cuts, is increasing tuition, and is trying to hire 250 full-time instructors.

"My frustration is that we are doing a lot of this remediation, but it's not adequately moving the dial," SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher testified.

She said remediation also forces students and families to pay college rates for high school lessons, often extending the time for a four-year degree and hurting graduation chances.

Zimpher urged legislators to create a comprehensive system to alert high school students and their families when students are underperforming. That would include making sure students took appropriate courses, understood the material and didn't avoid math classes, which can leave a student "rusty" on the topic.

King said the lack of preparation for college is why the state must move to a national Common Core and its higher academic standards.

Legislative leaders this week called for a delay in implementing the Common Core after months of uproar from parents, teachers and students who say the standards are being raised too high, too fast.

But Zimpher supported the move to the Common Core. "This is precisely what this country needed to do," she said.


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