I remember the year that I taught Grade 9 Mathematics. Other than the fact that there were 35 people in the class, a challenge was three students who were noticeably doing poorly in the class. So poorly, in fact, that I went to the Guidance Department to seek some guidance. I didn’t get any answers except that the three of them came to us from Grade 8 at one of the local elementary schools. The Guidance person told me to talk to the head of Mathematics.
So, off I went, to see if I could get some insights. When I shared the problem and the associated elementary school, I was told that it’s an annual problem from that school. I was shown where there were resources to support the Grade 8 curriculum and set about having a plan to help them catch up.
Now, a teenager learning Mathematics is a story in itself but having to learn what others already did know upped their game. To their credit, the three of them stuck it out and were ultimately successful. The experience was an eye opener for me. While you would think that the curriculum offers a level playing field, the application of it can’t help but vary from teacher to teacher.
So, when this story crossed my screen,
I wasn’t terribly surprised.
There was considerable conversation about this in my Twitter community. It seemed to be a surprise in some corners. Inevitably, the question “How do we fix this?” came up. Unfortunately, the solutions that came to my mind aren’t easy to take.
- having a standard test across the province for all Grade 12 students
- universities having an entrance exam
- make promotion meetings illegal
- have a standard textbook and standard expectations from those teaching Grade 12 courses
None of these options sit well with me, nevermind the logistics of making it transparent.
If you think back, going to university is a big deal. First there’s the anxiety for many who have to move away from home. There’s the cost of going to a post-secondary school. Thirdly, there’s just the knowledge that’s needed to understand university course and program descriptions – things are so much easier at secondary school.
I think we all remember that there is a huge dropout rate of first year university students who elect to make a different choice for varieties of reasons.
Given all the factors, it should come as no surprise that this happens by universities. They have a reputation and standards to maintain. Remedial programs? Even more, it could be helpful for students in helping them avoid a program that they might not be successful at. Ever the optimist though, a student might be inspired by the university setting and standards and meet the challenge.
I do remember being in Grade 8 myself and our English teacher warning us that we needed to get better lest we get eaten up at “Collegiate”. Of course, we ignored the advice because that’s what kids do. How could you give that advice for post-secondary bound students meaningful?
The best that I could think of is to have a course, offered by the post-secondary institution, to give a sense of what will be expected should the student proceed. This could be done online or at the university in the summer preceding the start of school.
It also begs a couple more questions…
- there was some identification of the university caught with this list. How many other post-secondary institutions do the same thing?
- this list identifies Ontario secondary schools. Is there a similar list for out-of-province students?
- should marks be the only factor for acceptance?
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re an educator. You had your own secondary school to post-secondary transition. Was it fair? How would you handle it?