Just What We Need: More “Coordination” between Virginia Educrats

Zombies work in concert better than administrators in Virginia’s school system. Despite being brain dead, zombies manage to collaborate in their human-hunting rampages.

Last year, the state Senate directed the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) to suggest how the Secretary Education could “improve the coordination” between state public schools, community colleges and four-year colleges. The result of such a vague directive has resulted in a new JLARC report that is, for the most part, utterly useless. I pity the four staff members who were assigned to investigate the topic. I would have rather spent the duration strapped to a chair with wild gerbils gnawing on my ankles.

Many aspects of the educational system are coordinated already, concluded the authors of the draft report, “Review of Coordination Needs within Virginia’s Education System,” but some are not. The authors detect insufficient coordination in the areas of college readiness, student transfers between community colleges and four-year colleges, teacher preparation, career readiness and the state’s longitudinal data system.

I will let others assess whether or not there is a coordination gap in the realm of the latter four items. I did not reach the detailed discussion of them during my perusal of the report. I got stuck on the narrative of the first problem area, college readiness, and could go no further.

There is a “college readiness gap” in Virginia, asserts the JLARC report. Upon that much, we can agree. In the commonwealth, 56% of entering community college students who completed high school the previous year wind up in a remedial English or math course, and about 24% of first-time college students do. This gap, which exists in most other states, is rightfully regarded as a national disgrace.

To any normal person not marinated in the logic of bureaucratic excuse-making, the reason for the gap is blindingly obvious: Schools are letting students graduate without acquiring basic skills in reading and math. There is no need to “coordinate” between Virginia school systems and state colleges about anything. High schools simply need to stop graduating students who can’t do the work their diplomas say they can.

But JLARC, drawing upon a 2006 Spellings Commission report, espies a more nuanced problem:

The continued growth of high school graduates who need remediation at the postsecondary level illustrates a need for better communication and coordination between high schools and colleges to address the issues of college readiness for recent Virginia public high school graduates.

High school grads aren’t ready for college? Perhaps better “coordination” can “clarify the expectations” about what colleges need from the K-12 system. What form might that coordination take — over and above appointing a Secretary Education to oversee the entire system, and supplementing his efforts with such initiatives as (I’m not making this up) the Joint Agreement on Virginia’s College and Career Ready Mathematics and English Performance Expectations?

Here’s a for instance of what JLARC has in mind: Get K-12 bureaucrats together with college bureaucrats to develop college readiness standards. States the report: “The higher education system needs to share its expectations of what students should know with the K-12 system, and the K-12 system should incorporate, as much as feasible, these expectations into the learning standards.”

What balderdash! The scandal of 56% of entering community college students being unable to compose a coherent sentence does not stem from unclear expectations about college. It comes from (1) the inability of schools to teach, and/or (2) the unwillingness of students to learn. Until we solve those two problems, getting bureaucrats to agree on readiness standards is like trying to win Biggest Losers by eating a Lean Cuisine for lunch.

Do we really need more educrats acting as “liaisons” between each others’ boards and agencies? How about all those high school guidance counselors — what do they do? Isn’t it their job to bone up on college standards and communicate them to students? Or, how about the people who design high school curricula and standardized tests? In an era when 60% of all high school grads go on to college and community college, are they so out of touch with college standards that nearly half of all high school grads fall short?

Will bolstering “coordination” between agencies do anything to address the fact that tens of thousands of children are failing to learn basic skills in school, that our education system is pushing them through to graduation anyway, and that everyone from our Republican governor to our Democratic president is urging them to attend college? I don’t think so. Virginia’s state senators are asking JLARC to answer the wrong questions. The findings are barely worth reading.

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2 responses to “Just What We Need: More “Coordination” between Virginia Educrats”

  1. Interesting. Even more so when you consider that most K-12 schools tell you they passed the SOL’s….in some form or another anyway. Obviously there is a disconnect worth looking at.

    As far as 4-year colleges….don’t they see the SAT scores of the students they are admitting? In other words, they KNOWINGLY admit people who are not prepared for the courses required? One must ask how these people get in, get financial aid, etc., in the first place.

    Community Colleges are a little different since all you need to apply is a GED. However, that alone doesn’t make the 56% figure any less alarming. Still, it’s a different type of student.

    The local Community College isn’t trying to graduate Engineers just like W&M isn’t trying to graduate Welders. Two different entities with two different purposes in most instances.

  2. […] bacon is upset. Not a bit put-out. Not mildly irritated, but genuinely pinched. His post on the new JLARC study on the need for greater coordination between primary and higher education […]

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