The best way to prepare for college-level classes is to take the hardest classes you possibly can…every student, every teacher and every professor knows that.
But, how to make classes more rigorous for all students has been the challenge, according to an article in the District Administration. Some schools just grade stricter and give students more homework. But, others actually restructure much of their curriculum.
President Obama has vowed to increase the overall quality of education to help American students catch up with foreign students, who have recently outpaced them. In Obama’s education reform initiative, “Race to the Top,” he hopes to better prepare students for not only high school and college but also future careers.
To do so, administrators and Obama have determined they need to increase the overall level of difficulty for K-12 classes and create more effective professional development centers. This is something most schools have actually been doing for the past decade or so.
But now, the biggest challenge is to do this with less money because of significant budget cuts around the nation.
Michael Grego, chancellor of the public schools division for the Florida Department of Education, is implementing a Florida law that would require all high school students to complete three high-level math courses and three year-long science courses, including two labs.
Grego is hoping to give Florida students “the background and knowledge to go to the next level.”
"Colleges and the workforce both had higher entry requirements [10 years ago] than our graduation requirements," said Jerry Weast, retired Superintendent of Montgomery County (Md.) Public School District. Weast added that schools need to update their curriculums, preparing students for 21st century challenges.
Other districts are following similar plans and molding their classes around the current challenges in colleges and the workforce. But others are actually taking education ideas from foreign, high-performing countries.
Some schools have even taken the lower-level courses out of their programs, forcing students to take higher-level, more rigorous courses.
But, rigor does not always translate into achievement.
According to a federal study of 34,000 high school transcripts conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, districts have increased the rigor of their classes, but achievement levels have not improved.
The study found that 13 percent of high school graduates followed a rigorous curriculum in 2009, compared to five percent in 1990. However, the math and reading achievement levels for 17-year-olds had not increased on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
It’s difficult for administrators to pinpoint the exact reason why students are not meeting achievement marks. Some believe it’s a macro, cultural problem, suggesting that we do not place a major emphasis on school – and that is not a problem that can be changed overnight.