Help for high-school students who aren’t quite ready for college

New classes designed to help high school students avoid remedial classes in college will be offered at about 100 Washington schools this fall — and then expanded to roughly 60 percent of them in the next 3-4 years.

The classes, called “Bridge to College,” were piloted this year in about 40 schools, and supporters hope their growth will help the many students who are expected to fail this spring’s Smarter Balanced exams.  This is the first year that Washington students must take the new tests, which have sparked controversy here and across the nation, and are tied to the Common Core learning standards in  reading and math that most states are now using.

“If a junior doesn’t score well on the Smarter Balanced tests, this is an option in their senior year … that can help them become college ready,”  said Heather Gingerich of College Spark Washington, the group that has donated  $3.2 million to increase the number of schools offering the courses.

The new classes, she said, will make the Smarter Balanced tests less scary and more useful, since seniors will have a way to recover from a bad score.  The classes will be taught in a more applied way than many high school classes, she said,  similar to the I-BEST classes that were featured in an Education Lab story earlier this week.

If students earn a B or higher in the Bridge to College courses, they can automatically enroll in college-level classes at any of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges.

The hope is to dramatically reduce the number of high school graduates who, when they go on to college, must take remedial courses in math or language arts.  Math is the biggest problem.  As it stands now, about half of the high school graduates who immediately enter community college are required to take remedial math, based on their scores on entrance tests.

The new classes have been designed by high school and college instructors, and “seem like a game changer for so many students,”  Gingerich said.

Linda Shaw: Linda Shaw is the Seattle Times education editor.

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