Editor's Corner: Should all go to college? Maybe not

One of the things that baffles taxpayers is why students can graduate from high school without being able to read, write or calculate numbers adequately.

Some students are outstanding, and not only learn what they’re supposed to learn, but also exceed expectations. There are programs in which some students, under proper guidance and with no small amount of effort, not only graduate from high school, but also get a junior college degree.

But probably a majority of high school graduates, if they go on to college, even a junior college, find themselves having to take remedial courses in reading, writing and arithmetic in order to become able to perform in basic entry-level college courses.

The American College Testing (ACT) organization has found that students haven’t progressed in some 40 years, and may even have regressed.

In some states, fewer than a third even come close to college proficiency.

The ACT tests for competency in four areas: English, reading math and science. In recent years, only 26 percent of those tested showed competency in all four areas.

What are some of the problems leading to such dismal results? John Erickson, president of ACT, has some ideas.

First is that while schools have a laudable goal of trying to prepare all students for college, it is a goal seldom reached. “We get some small signs that we start to get optimistic and celebrate about, and then it takes a quick slide back a point or two,” he told U.S. News in 2013.

Also, he said diversity in schools is on the rise, and as that happens, moving everyone to a college-readiness level becomes a challenge many schools don’t reach.

Other observers say there are some other reasons.

First is lack of discipline in schools, followed by lack of discipline at home, and lack of parenting skills on the part of many parents.

Others say there are too many diversions in classrooms. Cell phones, for example, are allowed into the schools, where they immediately attract students’ attention away from their lessons.

Finally, instead of having an unreachable goal, such as trying to prepare all students for college, schools should concentrate on providing opportunities for academically inclined students, and then trade-school opportunities for others. The value of trade schools has been long overlooked, and only now is being widely recognized, such as in Madera.