In 2010, 2,700 freshmen were enrolled at Stony Brook University. Of those 2,700, how many of them were ready to take on the challenge of a college education?
New statistics released this February by the New York State Department of Education show that only 40 percent of high school graduates were prepared for college or the work force, leaving the gap between graduation rate and college-ready rate at 30 percent.
Scott Sutherland, an associate math professor, said he “absolutely agrees” that there is a big gap between what is taught in high school and what is taught in college.
Sutherland stressed that there is a difference between conceptual and mechanical understanding. Anyone can pass a class by going through the motions, but it is the understanding of concepts that is important. Facts will only get you so far.
“Our goal is that students understand, rather than turn the crank,” Sutherland said. “High school focuses on turning the crank and not instilling understanding.”
According to Sutherland, it seems as though the first semester of college for many freshmen is a way of filling the gap between high school and college. In the math and writing departments at Stony Brook, introductory courses are offered to help prepare students for upper level classes, when realistically, students should have learned those skills in high school.
Enrolled freshmen at Stony Brook have an average GPA of 3.6 and only four percent of students are admitted with a GPA under 3.0, according to College Data, a website sponsored by the First Financial Bank.
Anna Lubitz, an 18-year-old freshman commuter, graduated high school at the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA and still had a difficult time transitioning from high school to college.
“At first I was overwhelmed with school work,” Lubitz said. “But then I learned how to use my time wisely and focus more on my studies.”
Lubitz said she thinks her high school prepared her for college academically, but people need to learn how to handle the college workload.
Ann Horbey, a writing and rhetoric professor at Stony Brook, thinks that high school administrators need to “stress personal accountability.”
According to Horbey, in high school, parents are the ones who sometimes take responsibility for their children’s work by pressuring them to succeed. When students get to college they are given full responsibility academically and are never taught how to properly transition.
Horbey taught at a high school in Maryland three years ago. At that time, 25 percent of the graduating class went to college, 25 percent to the military and 50 percent into the work force.
Dr. Alfred Posamentier is a professor of math education and previously the Dean of the School of Education at the City College of New York. Posamentier has been a professor for 37 years and is a frequent commentator on educational issues.
He stated that today, everybody feels that they need to go to college, but not everbody is ready.
“Thirty years ago, there was no stigma attached to not attending college,” Posamentier said.
Eugene Hammond, the director of the writing program at Stony Brook, has been teaching English for 42 years and overall, has seen the ability of students improve since he began teaching.
Writing 102, or WRT 102, the intermediate writing workshop all freshmen must take, is an indicator of how students can write when they first arrive to Stony Brook. It is a follow up to WRT 101, which some students must take if they don’t receive a combined score of 1000 on the critical reading and writing portions of the SAT.
Of the 2,000 students in WRT 102, only five percent of them fail the final portfolio, but between 100 and 200 students drop the course before they finish. About 300 incoming freshmen are placed in WRT 101.
According to Hammond, it is not preparedness of students affecting incoming classes as much as it is attitude towards learning. Students believe they don’t need to know how to write.
“Writing is the most fundamental skill,” Hammond said. “It helps process thoughts and perspectives.”
But according to Sutherland, if students are to succeed, colleges and high schools need to work together to create preparedness academically as well as prepare students for the social responsibilities that college brings.