Could pre-K through 21 educational planning solve the readiness issue?
A common buzzword in the modern era is college readiness. Hyslop and Tucker (2012) , for example, studied why students in California are not passing college placement exams and are being tracked into remedial courses. Students in their study have passed the high school completion exams and yet are being declared to be unready for college.
The readiness saga has been part of the American culture for decades. Just as colleges have been asking why the calibre of student enrolling is declining and lack of preparation seems rampant, so too have high schools been asking why students are not prepared for high school, junior highs are asking why student s are not ready for the demands of junior high, elementary teachers question whether to promote or retain students who are not prepared for the next grade, and so on right down to the moment students enter the American educational system at kindergarten. Even then, questions are raised and every effort made to assure that the student is prepared to enter kindergarten. American situation comedies have even parodied the nonsense of parents being excessively concerned that their children be prepared for preschool! The result is a great deal of finger-pointing by often genuinely concerned educators who are easily entrapped in the culture of blame that more easily points to the flaws of the previous grade's teachers, curriculum, or school system than proposes solutions to the core issue of readiness.
So, if everyone is concerned about students being ready for the next level, how can we assure that the preparation is adequate for the expectations of each tier of learning in an ever-changing environment? One solution may well be to re-examine education from the perspective of a single complete system rather than a multitude of isolated components. Were educators to combine their efforts into creating a pre-K through 16 (or better yet pre-K through doctorate) system, the gorge of unpreparedness could easily be crossed. In this environment, the requirements for success at each level would be clearly discussed beginning with the requirements for college graduation/workplace preparation and continuing through high school to junior high, elementary, and eventually pre-K. The result would be a smoothly scaffolded curriculum that allows for individual differences among learners, teachers, and cultures.
Whether or not this is attainable is another story. To do so would require open and honest collaboration and an end to the finger-pointing regarding readiness that has been perpetuated for far too long. Perhaps, some forward-thinking school district and a college commonly enrolled in by that district's graduates should pilot this type of plan. Successful or not, the research value is unparalleled. If it works, everyone wins by creating a new model of collaboration that serves the needs of diverse learners. If it fails, no one loses since the current system is already broken with regard to readiness.
Hyslop, A., & Tucker, B. (2012). Ready by design: A college and career agenda for California. Retrieved from http://www.educationsector.org/publications/ready-design-college-and-career-agenda-california.