Making Education Work at All Levels

Teachers and administrators in West Virginia’s K-12 schools years ago grew tired of hearing college and university officials complain many high school graduates are not ready for more advanced academics.

Clearly, however, there is a problem. Too many high school graduates require remedial classes to get them up to speed for higher education work.

Taking those classes is far from a quick fix, however. State legislators were told earlier this month many students in remedial classes do not do well even after they have left them.

Only 22 percent of students who take remedial mathematics classes go on to obtain four-year college degrees, higher education Chancellor Paul Hill told lawmakers.

Mountain State residents recognize that getting more young people into higher education – and out again with degrees – needs to be a priority here. Of West Virginians 25 and older, 24.5 percent have bachelor’s degrees or better, according to the Census Bureau. The national average is 28.2 percent. Residents of many states have an advantage over West Virginians in getting and keeping good jobs.

It seems obvious high schools need to do a better job in preparing college-bound students for the more rigorous work they will face. But Hill’s report suggests colleges and universities may need to do better in helping some freshmen catch up.

No doubt the information on remedial classes will spark a fresh round of accusations between K-12 and higher education. But if we have learned one thing about solving problems in West Virginia, it ought to be that trading insults and putting energy into circling the wagons is the wrong approach.

What we know is there is a problem in getting college degrees into the hands of some young people. Educators at all levels need to examine the challenge realistically and objectively to find out how to overcome it. If that cannot be accomplished “in-house,” perhaps legislators should seek professional help from outside the education establishment to get some answers.