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Cheyenne Armstrong

Mrs. Cramer

College Composition I 6A

20 January 2017

Are You Ready?

"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." -Henry Ford

The transition between high school and college is a trying, and often confusing time in

the life of a student, and students must be properly prepared in order to be successful during this

time. With the way the American educational system is currently set up, students do not feel

prepared for college and their college academic careers suffer from this. People have opinions on

whether or not the high school system readies students for life and schooling on their own. Their

arguments mainly center around observations they make and statistics that support them. The

seeming unpreparedness in incoming college students can be attributed to major flaws in the

educational system. The increased emphasis on standardized tests in high schools is narrowing

educational focus and leaving high school students underprepared for college.

Some of the most shocking evidence for the decline of academic success in college

students deals with the evaluation of students' real ability to think critically, a skill necessary for

college level reading and math. There is a widening gap between high and low scoring students

in college level academics. This creates a divided school space and illuminates the

unpreparedness of students. Upon evaluating the scores for students considering what they truly

need to know for college, one study found (in reading) that only 46 percent of white students
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were prepared, 49 percent of Asian students were prepared, 17 percent of black students, and 25

percent of Hispanic students (Camera). These numbers are shocking and in the math department

are even lower. Overall, 25 percent of students are proficient in math and 37 percent in college

level reading (Camera). Considering what higher level academics student must master before

college and how low the number of students who are proficient in them is, the dismal display of

shortcoming is even more prevalent.

What would cause the deficiency in skills? Who is to blame for this weakness? The logic

of this answer comes from real life observations of teachers and students alike. With the

introduction of the No Child Left Behind program, high schools are focusing on standardized

tests more than ever. Many feel that instead of teaching critical material needed for the

development of a successful student, curriculum is heavily based on the guidelines of tests that

students will ultimately take (Strauss). Not only is student evaluation formed from these tests,

but teacher competence as well. It all does not seem fair. Memorization for the test is more

prized than actual learning and this contributes to the lack of preparedness for college where

critical thinking is imperative. Much of the tests students take are comprised of multiple choice,

which are easy to memorize and seldom require higher level thinking. When free responses are

given, students are advised to simply answer the points of the prompt according to the rubric,

without proper format and grammar. Students are, in essence, taught to create responses that are

constructively, not well done only to satisfy the test while sacrificing writing skills needed for

college (Strauss). Even in higher level classes, such as Advanced Placement courses, heavily

focus their curriculum on the cumulative test at the end of the year, leading to a goal that is more

destination than journey based.


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Students who do well on their exit exams and graduate often run into trouble in their first

few years of college. These students are then forced to take lengthy, expensive remedial courses

in order to make up for the skills they fall short of going into college (Ostashevsky).This

frustrating process often causes students to drop out of college. Often, exit exams are also taken

in years other than one's senior, causing students to forget topics they no longer need until

college (Ostashevsky). Schools are giving diplomas to students who do not have the skills to go

on to college based on a couple of memory-intensive tests and this is a huge problem for students

and teachers alike.

Teachers and professors have weighed in on this problem, but few students have voiced

their experiences and feelings about college readiness. As a student, I have experienced this

wasteful curriculum firsthand. I have taken two A.P. courses and am currently taking one. Other

classes I have taken such as Algebra, Biology, and Literature focused heavily on the

Pennsylvania Keystone Exams, the PA equivalent of an exit exam for high school students.

Through my experience and the observation of peer experiences, students feel as though they do

not get enough out of these classes that is worthwhile. They are pressured to do well on an exam

and often do, without truly learning and becoming passionate about the subject they are tested

on. Teachers also have extreme pressure on them for their students to do well on exams and often

lack passion in their teachings because of this, leading to an unsatisfying learning experience all

around. This lack of passion and experience in true learning beforehand can be attributed to the

lack of passion and experience in college, thus the decline of college student scores from those of

their high school years. Seldom do I as a student feel engaged and excited about a lesson and that

is extremely sad, especially knowing how much of a joy learning can be.
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All in all, college preparedness is based heavily on how well a student can truly learn and

think deeply. Over the years, college professors have noticed a deficiency of these skills in

upcoming freshman. This unpreparedness can be attributed to the multitudes of tests that are the

sole focus of high school learning. The increased focus on standardized tests are narrowing the

learning experience of high school students and causing an ignorance of skills such as critical

thinking, creativity, and passion about certain subjects. In order for the educational system to

change into one that values passionate learning instead of cold tests, students and teachers should

work together in order to voice their dissatisfactions without blame between the two parties.
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Works Cited

Camera, Lauren. "Only 37% of students are prepared for college level math and reading,

according to newly released data." Education Reporter (2016) Web.

Ostashevsky, Luba. "Many who pass state high school graduation tests show up to college

unprepared." High School Reform, PBS News (2016) Web.

Strauss, Valerie. "A warning to college profs from a high school teacher" The Washington Post

(2013) Web.