ARLENE VIOLET - The tyranny of low expectations in education

ARLENE VIOLET - The tyranny of low expectations in education

Why is it that every time the educational system fails, it lowers the bar rather than the professionals rising up to the occasion?

Here is the latest example. The Community College of Rhode Island has an internal memo that warns that the overwhelming majority of its students – that is 87 percent of them, many of whom have received free tuition at taxpayer expense through Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Promise Scholarship Program – will not graduate in the two years allotted to them. The proposed solution? Lower the standards from a 2.5 GPA, in this case, halfway between B and C grades, to 2.0 (a C average).

That solution is a Band-Aid where a tourniquet is required. Because of the union strength with the Democratic leadership in Rhode Island, it appears that nobody has the intestinal fortitude to critique and change the K-12 educational system. Far too many students are passed from grade to grade without the math, science and language skills necessary to succeed in higher education. If the teachers’ unions spent as much time trying to change the curriculum and delivery of its standards as it does to mask the failures by fighting the administration of objective tests, all students would be far better off. Attention to the “output” of informed students into a college must be the number 1 reform.

Instead, students who go to CCRI after high school often need remedial help because they are allowed to “skate” in high school. It’s almost like a conspiracy of interests where they perform low and far too many teachers aren’t challenged to investigate their teaching skills. The result is that CCRI has about the same failure rate to complete a degree as it did a decade ago.

The remainder of the student body are adults who work full time and often have families. It is ludicrous to insist on 30 credits a year as a standard because nobody knows how to come up with a 25-hour day for those holding down one or two jobs. Rather than lower the GPA requirement, the credit requirement maximum should be altered. As long as a student maintains at least a 2.5 GPA , then the money should follow the course(s) rather than an artificial deadline of two years. In four-year colleges, for example, the accreditation measure of a successful university requires graduation in six, not four years. Perhaps three years to finish for working students should be considered.

Without a serious revamp of the curriculum and its delivery across the board, the Promise Scholarship should not be renewed. Rather than “dumbing down” the GPA requirements, a reasonable time for completion of course work, especially for full-time working students, needs to be adjusted. Educators need to “step up” and examine how they teach students by focusing in on the students’ educational style, needs, and passion to learn. Right now, money is being dumped into the junior college with pitiful results.

Since 1978, whatever iteration it was called then – like the Economic Development Corporation to today’s Commerce Corporation – each has documented the failure of students for successful preparation for the workplace.

With this new data from CCRI, efforts should be doubled to revamp the whole approach to education. Right now it’s like shoving every student’s educational “foot” into a Cinderella shoe where the fairy tale continues but the outcome is anything but happily ever after.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.