The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 13, 2013

Unprepared: Higher educator's report a stinging reflection on how we are teaching our kids

— There’s nothing more basic, nor more essential, in ensuring the future success of the generations that follow us than to educate them in the best way we know how.

Prepare them.

Equip them.

Enable them.

So why, instead, are we failing them?

In a published report this week, James Skidmore, the chancellor of West Virginia’s community college system, said “nearly two-thirds of the students in the system aren’t ready for college-level work and must take developmental courses.”

He further stated in a joint interim meeting of the West Virginia House and Senate Education Committees on Monday that those students who are forced to take developmental courses “very seldom graduate.”

The sad state of this, is that we are talking about high school graduates.

How is this happening, that these graduates are entering adult life largely unprepared?

In response, some community colleges are offering some two- to three-week summer courses, to get students up to college level by the time regular classes start in the fall.

Once enrolled in college, the statistics for student success don’t get any better.

Paul L. Hill, chancellor of the state’s higher education policy commission, told the committee that less than 40 percent of West Virginia students entering college will graduate within six years. Nearly 35 percent of students who enroll in West Virginia colleges will drop out before the start of their sophomore year.

Sure, one factor in declining retention rates is the rising cost of higher education.

There can be ways to make education more affordable.

But being unprepared cannot be the reason.

However, there is no excuse for not giving our children the best opportunity to succeed by making sure that they’re prepared to enter college, or the workforce, and becoming a productive member of society.

We’re producing unmotivated, unproductive and uneducated citizens and merely turning them loose in the world.

That’s unacceptable.