Youngstown high school grads are not prepared for higher ed

It has long been known that for a large number of incoming students at Youngstown State University, the first year of college could well be considered the 13th year of high school. But the extent of the problem has not been clearly defined.

A story in today’s Vindicator goes a long way toward giving the public an inside look at what has been happening academically in the Youngstown City School District. Even the star of the system, Youngstown Early College, is falling short when it comes to its graduates being prepared for college.

The story is based on the 2009 report from the Ohio Board of Regents that was released late last year. It shows that 72 percent of Chaney High School graduates, 83 percent of East High School grads and 38 percent of Early College graduates took either developmental math or developmental English in college.

At Youngstown State, nearly 62 percent of first-time undergraduates took at least one developmental course last fall.

But the problem isn’t confined to the city school system. Seventy-two percent of Campbell Memorial High grads and 80 percent of Sebring’s McKinley High grads took developmental math or English.

Graduates from Canfield, Poland and South Range fared better, but the Ohio Board of Regents’ report shows that 32 percent, 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively, needed remediation in college.

The report doesn’t include information on remediation for students who attend college either out-of-state or at a private college or university.

“The percentage of students that continue their studies after high school is a positive development, but a large proportion of them are not prepared for college-level work either in mathematics or English,” the OBOR study says. “Forty-one percent of those college freshmen enrolled in at least one developmental course in their first year of college.”

Another 34 percent enrolled in developmental math courses and 19 percent enrolled in developmental English course, the report found.

A total of 53,000 recent Ohio high school graduates enrolled in Ohio’s public colleges and universities in the fall of 2009.

The implications of this situation are enormous. One of the most shocking facts about higher education in Ohio is that the average length of time for earning a bachelor’s degree is six years.


There also is the reality that students who aren’t prepared for the academic rigors of higher education drop out after the first and second year.

Then, there’s the cost.

Attending a four-year institution is more expensive than attending a two-year community college, which is why Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and his chancellor, Jim Petro, have taken the same position as their predecessors, former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and former Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, namely, that high school students who need remediation should attend two-year institutions.

Youngstown schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn and the board of education have implemented major changes to ensure that learning does take place in the classroom.

Even so, Dr. Hathorn, in reaction to the Ohio Board of Regents’ remediation study, says the district needs to work with YSU and other higher education institutions to determine how high schoolers can be better prepared academically for what awaits them.

Ohio’s public universities and colleges also have an incentive to ensure that their students perform at an acceptable level. That’s because the formula for higher education state funding is based on the retention and graduation rates of the students.

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