TPS College Readiness Put To Reality Check

Friday, August 7th 2009, 8:37 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- An uphill climb may be awaiting students when they return this fall to Tulsa Public Schools.  Only 7% of the district's graduates are ready for college.  That's what TPS recently reported in its bid to win a multi-million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  But, is it a scare tactic or truly a startling statistic?

08/05/2009 Related Story: TPS And Other Proposals To The Gates Foundation

Of all the students who wear the robes, walk the stage, and grasp the diplomas, Tulsa Public Schools says only a small fraction of them are really ready for college.

"I think it is abysmal whether it's seven percent or ten percent. And I think the achievement gaps that we've looked at are abysmal and unacceptable," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard.

The 7% statistic may be one many have a hard time accepting.

Out of a class of 100, TPS says 70 of them would graduate in four years.  Of those, about 47 of the graduates took the ACT.  And, only 15% of those students passed all four sections of the test.  Leaving only seven, ACT research says those seven have a good shot of making a "C" or better in college.       

TPS reports the numbers are even worse for minority graduates with only 1%-2% of black and Hispanic graduates considered college-ready.

"First, it's disappointing, but it's not surprising," said TCC Associate Professor Dewayne Dickens.

Dewayne Dickens is an associate professor at Tulsa Community College.  He says the 7% college readiness statistic supports what he's seeing in TCC classrooms.

"New students coming in have to take a developmental course to be brought up to college level skills," said TCC Associate Professor Dewayne Dickens.  "It's happening for well over half of our students. And, this is a national problem, not just a Tulsa problem.

And, it isn't just a problem at certain Tulsa high schools.  The Oklahoma State Regents report every single high school graduated students who needed to take remedial courses.  More than 80% of Central, McLain, and Rogers graduates needed extra help.  And, even Booker T Washington and Edison weren't exempt.

But, even those numbers don't translate into only 7% of TPS students being college-ready.

"The problem with defining it by all four areas is that I might not be a good tester for reading," said TCC Associate Professor Dewayne Dickens.

Dickens says some students might come up short in one area, but be better prepared in others.  But, he admits, Tulsa and Oklahoma do have a problem, but one that doesn't have to spell the end to a student's educational career.

"You have not been prepared to work at college-level that doesn't mean you can't function or you can't learn it," said TCC Associate Professor Dewayne Dickens.