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Students need better prep for college, ed. leaders say

published 1/17/2013
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Three of the state’s top education officials told House members that they’re teaming up to change the way that Minnesota students make the transition from high school to college.

“Fundamentally, we need to redesign the relationship between high schools and higher education, to ensure that more students meet the finish line; that we’re preparing more students for the jobs that need to be done in Minnesota; (and) that we’re doing it more cost effectively,” said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system.

Rosenstone, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, and Director Larry Pogemiller of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education outlined their vision for the House Education Policy Committee.

Kristin Hanson

Their conversation began about a year ago, Rosenstone said, when Cassellius brought up an old but pressing problem: Many students who earn a high school diploma enroll in college only to find out that they need remedial coursework.

“Nothing pains me more than the inefficiency of a student having to spend an extra semester or year preparing to begin college if that preparation could have begun earlier,” Rosenstone said.

The proposal that they are crafting – pieces of which will show up in education budget proposals, Pogemiller said – has four main themes:

• Aligning high school and college assessments to ensure that students finish high school with the skills they will need in college or trade school;

• Identifying students who aren’t on track to develop those skills, and helping them catch up while they’re still in high school;

• Creating more and earlier opportunities for high school students to earn college credit; and

• Better aligning students’ educational and career plans with the needs of the workforce.

A new program in the Mounds View School District, described by school administrators who also testified before the committee, illustrates the kinds of innovations that education leaders would like to see statewide.

Irondale High School’s Early College program, which is geared toward students in the academic middle of their class, lets students earn a two-year associate degree, for free, while they’re still in high school. Students take the courses at Irondale from high school teachers who are paired with faculty mentors at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

The school still offers other opportunities to earn college credit, such as Advanced Placement courses, and students who take those – who are typically at the top of their class – now also have the option of taking additional Early College classes toward an associate degree.

The new Early College program includes basic college-readiness skills such as organization, and it aims to help kids with an array of post-graduation plans, including technical school.

“This isn’t just about getting kids prepared for two- and four-year colleges,” said Mounds View Superintendent Dan Hoverman.

- Sarah Lemagie

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