Thanks to the UNC athletics department - for raising awareness of the much larger academic integrity issue
Publisher's note: Former NC Senator Fern Shubert keeps a constant vigilant perspective of North Carolina's government and its people. With Tar Heel Erskine Bowles often in the national news, of late, it is important that Senator Schubert offers, once again, her qualified perspective of legislative events 6 years hence.
The following article was originally written and distributed in January 2006. I've tried for well over a decade to get the NC media to report the facts about the testing fraud and insane university admission policies used to hide the fact so many high school "graduates" are unprepared for work or higher education.
I'm amazed that the N&O has printed Mary Willingham's revelations concerning the way cheating is tolerated at UNC. Maybe they thought they could confine the discussion to athletics. I've made (and documented) similar charges for years, including holding well-attended press conferences at the General Assembly, but somehow what I said or did never made the papers.
Remember, this was written in 2006 and discusses a bill I tried to get passed over a decade ago. There are two scandals that deserve attention: one is the failure of the University system, our K-12 advisors, to be sure students were adequately prepared for college in high school, instead of admitting unprepared students and flunking them out . . . and the other is the refusal of the press to pursue this story a decade ago!
Will Bowles Address the Problems He Inherited?
Time Will Tell, But He's Off to a Good Start
According to the Raleigh News & Observer (January 14, 2006), in his first speech to the UNC Board of Governors, new UNC President Erskine Bowles said there's an "economic tsunami heading our way." Bowles didn't stop with vague comments; he stated some facts that demand attention from anyone who cares about the future of this state.
For years, the UNC administration has ignored my concerns about our low high school and college graduation rates, but how are they going to ignore their new president? Bowles said he is concerned that of every 100 eighth-graders, only 58 graduate from high school, 38 go to college and 18 graduate from college.
For years, the Department of Public Instruction has ignored my concerns about our low standards and misleading state tests. How are they going to ignore the president of the UNC system when he worries that "40 percent of eighth graders in Singapore score at the most advanced level in math and science, while in North Carolina, less than 34 percent are even proficient in reading, math, science and writing."
But as bad as this sounds, combining Bowles' comments with the recently released results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy gives a really scary picture. (The full results of the report are available at http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/, but George Leef has provided a useful summary posted at http://www.popecenter.org/)
According to the Assessment, only four percent of high school graduates achieve proficiency in prose literacy, "the ability to search for and comprehend information contained in written material." Only five percent achieve proficiency in document and quantitative literacy. "Document literacy questions were designed to see how well the individual could understand documents - for example, finding what time a certain bus arrives at its destination. Quantitative questions were designed to see how well the individual could perform mathematical tasks such as calculating the cost per ounce of a brand of peanut butter."
"Among college graduates, 31 percent achieve proficiency in prose and quantitative literacy and 25 percent in document. However, both prose and document literacy registered substantial declines compared with the 1992 data, which were 40 percent and 37 percent respectively."
In other words, most college graduates, over two-thirds, would have trouble figuring out a bus schedule or figuring out the cost per ounce of groceries. So how did they graduate? In fact, how did they get admitted to a college in the first place?
Research has shown that when students are admitted to college who are unprepared for college, they are unlikely to graduate. That's why, in 2001, I introduced House Bill 1211 which sought to stop the University system from profitting at the expense of their students, the students' parents and the taxpayers by admitting students who were unprepared for college.
The bill was very simple. This is what it said:
"§116.3. No remedial programs provided by constituent institutions.
(a) No constituent institution shall provide a remedial education program or course of remedial study for a student enrolled at the institution.
(b) The Board of Governors, in cooperation with the State Board of Education, shall develop and implement a plan to ensure that each high school student who plans to seek a college degree upon high school graduation is adequately prepared in his or her course of academic study so that no remediation should be needed by a student who enrolls at a constituent institution.
(c) The Board of Governors shall direct each constituent institution to develop a program that will provide, upon request, a referral for any student enrolled or seeking enrollment at the institution to an appropriate remedial program of studies offered elsewhere."
It also said "This act becomes effective July 1, 2003, and applies to academic periods beginning on or after that date."
The bill was intended to force the Department of Public Instruction to provide the remediation before the child graduated from high school. If the Universities made it known that they would not admit students who were unprepared, there would be tremendous pressure on the Department of Public Instruction to align their standards with those of the University system.
When the bill was assigned to a subcommittee, I believe UNC had more lobbyists present than there were subcommittee members. I spoke to the head of the University delegation and told her that while I had already provided a two year delay in the effective date of the bill, I would be happy to delay the effective date an additional two years if the Universities would just support the bill. Surely that would give them enough time to work with the schools to identify the eighth graders who needed remediation and act before they graduated. I told her I did not want to deny anyone access to a college education. I wanted to make it possible for more students to be successful in college.
My efforts at compromise were a waste of time. I was told that the University had enough votes to kill the bill in that committee meeting and they planned to do so. Obviously even the University system has trouble finding people with adequate math skills. The bill was not killed that day. Unfortunately, in our legislature, the majority no longer rules. The bill "disappeared."
If Mr. Bowles is serious about addressing the problems he recited, he might want to reconsider that bill.