Pam Hollander (Education) has published a book, “Readiness Realities: Struggles and Successes During the Transition to College” (Sense Publishers), about her 20 years of experience teaching first-year college students.
Non-academic factors can strain or support this movement toward college readiness. Research in the field of college readiness has been showing for years that a successful transition to college involves a myriad of factors, including academic preparation, academically-valued cultural background knowledge, vocabulary, metacognitive skills, a positive disposition toward learning new things, mental health, physical health, family stability, social connections, financial security, time management and executive functioning.
When students fail out of college during their first semester, it is usually because of a combination of some of these factors. Many students cannot afford to buy their class textbooks, waiting for their financial aid to come through, have family members they need to take care of, work forty hours a week, or don’t have the background knowledge they need to do college-level reading.
College readiness includes having the financial wherewithal to take on post-secondary education. Monetary concerns are a huge factor in whether college students succeed. Nationally, one-third of all college students work at least 30 hours per week.
Hollander argues in her book that educators need to better job of recognizing and communicating what the real prerequisites for college are. So much emphasis is placed on trying to get children to learn isolated academic skills, that what is often missed is the underlying curiosity, engagement, connection, and background knowledge that needs to be the foundation for academic work.
Some of these issues came to light when results came in from the PARCC testing last year. Students in more affluent areas did better on the PARCC testing than lower income areas. The results were so low in many schools that the test administrator, Pearsons, recommended the score of 4 for passing had to be lowered to 3. Some of the example questions for PARCC like one about Daedalus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses requires much archaic background knowledge that is unequally distributed among upper, middle, and lower socioeconomic groups.
“Readiness Realities” shows that the conversation about college readiness is crucial in relation to K-12 public education and higher education. At the national and state level, educators need to address the realities of college readiness through revamping graduation requirements, but also by investing in the kinds of financial, cultural, health, and social pillars that students need to be ready for college. At the college level, Hollander recommends that colleges continue with the retention work that has been happening, in areas such as student risk-assessment, expanded advising, coaching and mentoring, financial support, and expanded academic tutoring.
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