When systems don’t serve students

As we start a new year, it’s time to ask some tough questions. Over the past year, I have seen more and more examples of education systems that don’t seem to be serving at least some students. Some systems seem to be putting a priority on protecting the way things used to be, above the students and families they’re supposed to serve.

For example, at a time when college and university costs are challenging for many families:

· Why does state law prohibit Minnesota colleges and universities from telling students and families that they can save money by enrolling in postsecondary enrollment options courses? The state’s PSEO law (124.D.09, subdivision 9) states, “A postsecondary institution may provide information about its programs to a secondary school or to a pupil or parent and it may advertise or otherwise recruit or solicit a secondary pupil to enroll in its programs on educational and programmatic grounds only.”

· Why are a number of Minnesota’s two-year colleges not telling students about the law passed in spring 2012 that allows 10th-graders to take a career or technical course as part of Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options program?

· Why aren’t a number of Minnesota high schools including information about this 10th-grade option in registration materials available on their websites?

· Why won’t a Minnesota public university award an undergraduate degree to a high school student this spring if he’s in “good academic standing,” doesn’t owe money and will have completed the required courses?

· When state colleges have agreed that a number of high school teachers are qualified to teach a college-level class to high school students, why is a regional accrediting association insisting that students must take a certain number of credits from a college professor to earn a two-year, A.A. degree?

· Why are some school districts giving more credit on their grade point averages to students who take courses in the high school, compared to those who take a course on a college or university campus?

· Why hasn’t a legislative mandate been followed in 2012 or 2013 that requires a yearly report from the Minnesota Department of Education to the Legislature on the number of students at each public high school who take remedial courses on entering a Minnesota public college or university?

Over the coming year, we’ll explore these questions. It’s an election year. Some of the issues discussed above involve state law. Some involve actions by local school boards. Some involve high schools, college and universities.

In each case, students, families and taxpayers deserve more than answers. If the institutions are serving students, answers aren’t enough. Changes are needed.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

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