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 Response Page - McGee  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

 
Mike McGee, an academic dean at Hennepin Technical College
February 6, 2015

Better K-12 preparation, more career-focused outreach needed
to increase technically competent graduates

OVERVIEW

According to Mike McGee, an academic dean at Hennepin Technical College (HTC), low high-school graduation rates and high numbers of students significantly underprepared for college have a direct impact on HTC's enrollment and course offerings.

McGee reports that high percentages of students coming into HTC test at the developmental level on an assessment exam covering math aptitude and reading comprehension skills. Many of the students with high school diplomas have only seventh- or eighth-grade math and reading skills, with some graduating at even lower skill levels. Yet students cannot use federal financial aid to take developmental college classes at the eighth-grade level or below. He chastises high schools for not making senior year a very rigorous year to help prepare students for college. He calls for the country to make a "social sea change" to hold students back in grade school or high school if they're not making progress.

McGee describes a very positive partnership involving HTC and 13 other two-year MnSCU colleges with the 360° Center of Excellence at Bemidji State University. The center is focused on manufacturing and applied engineering and is engaged in outreach with high school students to expose them to manufacturing careers and training. He points out that some other states have created districts to run technical colleges, such as a state's regional planning districts or special districts with the same boundaries as a state's federal Congressional districts.

For the complete interview summary see: McGee interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (7.7 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (8.4 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Stop graduating the inadequately skilled. (8.4 average response) Minnesota school districts should immediately stop allowing students to graduate from high school with elementary- or middle-school-level reading and math skills.

4. Tech/community colleges cannot remediate. (7.0 average response) Technical and community colleges can't do the job of remedial education for students who have been so ill prepared.

5. Halt unearned advancement. (7.2 average response) It might require a "social sea change," but it is better to hold students back from grade advancement than to allow them to advance without making progress.

6. Lack of rigor harmful to students. (8.9 average response) School districts are failing students if they don't insist that the senior year, or any other year, be a rigorous challenge, not a "throw-away year."

7. Increase awareness of manufacturing careers. (9.0 average response) Technical colleges must do more outreach to help young people understand the opportunities offered by manufacturing careers.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

9%

0%

0%

64%

27%

11

2. Further study warranted.

0%

0%

9%

55%

36%

11

3. Stop graduating the inadequately skilled.

0%

9%

9%

27%

55%

11

4. Tech/community colleges cannot remediate.

0%

9%

9%

73%

9%

11

5. Halt unearned advancement.

0%

18%

9%

36%

36%

11

6. Lack of rigor harmful to students.

0%

0%

0%

55%

45%

11

7. Increase awareness of manufacturing careers.

0%

0%

0%

55%

45%

11


Individual Responses:

Peter Hennessey (0) (10) (10) (2.5) (10) (10) (7.5)

1. Topic is of value. I can't believe any discussion like this can miss no less than four 800-pound gorillas in the room:

1. While it is refreshing to see people admit there is a problem, how can you miss mentioning even once how we managed to get to such a dismal state of affairs in education? Don't you think the answer might just be the 60-100 years of progressive education?

2. How can you hold a discussion on education and not mention Common Core even once? Will Common Core "fix" the problems identified in this discussion? Rather, don't you think it will actually make things far worse, by formally dummying the standards down even further? High school grads are now struggling to meet what used to be expectations in middle school; Common Core makes that the official standard. Where does it stop? Will we follow the progressive path until we set the bar at the kindergarten level for elementary school, at the elementary school level for middle school, at the middle school level for high school, at the high school level for college, and at the college level for the graduate school? When will we expect anyone to achieve at the graduate level; in some post-doc program? Is that what progressives for over a hundred years have meant by "life long education"?

3. The answer to the problem presented in this discussion is obvious. The fault simply lies in the colleges, in their old-fashioned elitist arrogance of setting their expectations much too high. Come to grips with reality, and just lower the bar. After all, even professors colleges are subject to the laws of the free market; you either cater to your customers and give them what they need, or you go out of business. So if these colleges are to survive, first they have to compensate for the negligence and failures of the K-12 schools. Finish your basic education in "college."

4. Before you don't brush this off as evidence of some kind of progressive derangement syndrome, please remember that the same people who brought us Common Core are now making sure it will also apply to colleges, too, not only by their efforts to lower the bar in colleges, but by applying the big stick: they are dummying down the SAT and the ACT to make them Common Core compliant. Thus colleges will have no choice but to accept students who have been "educated" to the much lower levels of expectations (Algebra 1 in the 12th grade, illiteracy in grammar, literature, history and science). This is how the scenario in my point number 2 above will be our reality.

The point that has eluded the progressive reformers and their egalitarian notions in the past 100 years is that you can't achieve equality of results, except by setting the bar at an absurdly low level. We can all be equal, but only equal with the dumbest, laziest low-life among us; that is, by shortchanging the rest of us who are higher up on the normal distribution curve. The reality that the progressive strive to evade is the inescapable fact that that there is a normal distribution curve in everything, especially human traits. The reality that the progressive strive to evade is that while you can offer to everybody the same program based on a common core of knowledge, you can't infuse into everybody the same level of innate intelligence, drive, interest, motivation, etc. The reality that the progressive strive to evade is that the best you can do is offer everybody the same equal opportunity -- a goal that can be achieved only by letting people make their own choices, and by making sure they have access to all the information they need to make intelligent choices and by making sure they have access the resources they need to go as far as their talents can take them. That is the only "social justice" that can be achieved.

Beverly Aplikowski (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10)

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10)

3. Stop graduating the inadequately skilled. Perhaps, the state should provide financial incentives and disincentives based upon their graduates’ levels in math and reading.

4. Tech/community colleges cannot remediate. They could, but that is a waste to them. The students should return to their high school and the cost of remedial education should be borne by the district and student.

7. Increase awareness of manufacturing careers. There needs to be more coordination between technical colleges, high schools and guidance counselors and technical/manufacturing businesses.

Vici Oshiro (10) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (10)

3. Stop graduating the inadequately skilled. Stopping immediately would create grave problems for current students. We need to concentrate on the full scope of the problem, which is created by society outside the classroom.

4. Tech/community colleges cannot remediate. Let's differentiate between can and should. They can. Should is another question.

5. Halt unearned advancement. Just holding back and repeating a grade is probably not helpful. Directing them to remedial help may be more constructive and might cause delay in graduation.

6. Lack of rigor harmful to students. Don't wait until senior year for rigor - by that time you're looking at rigor mortis.

7. Increase awareness of manufacturing careers. Young people need to learn much more about what it means to become an adult. Much of the problem addressed here needs to be solved by and through community at large. Start with addressing poverty and go on to cope with the lifestyle changes needed to cope with globalization, emerging technologies and climate change. We need better understanding of community. E.g., How does society deal with those with very limited abilities?

Chuck Wiger (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Well done!

Trixie Girtz Golberg (8) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Putting the child's best long-term interest first similarly puts our communities best long term interests first as well. We can't forget the work to be done with parents and educators to be partners in this. A child's failure is a system's failure. We have to believe that every child can learn and can be on a path to successfully participate in the workforce/economy. When we advance kids without the adequate proficiencies, even at the youngest ages, we are telling them otherwise. Changing the current culture will take both educational and social services support.

Paul Hauge (8) (9) (5) (6) (6) (6) (9)

Chuck Lutz (8) (8) (10) (7) (9) (9) (8)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (7) (7) (9) (7) (7) (8) (8)

In addition public schools and private schools should do more to help young people understand the opportunities offered by manufacturing careers. Parents also need to be educated so they understand the opportunities.

Wayne Jennings (7) (7) (7) (8) (1) (8) (10)

David Detert (9) (5) (9) (9) (5) (9) (8)

Tom Spitznagle (8) (9) (10) (8) (9) (10) (8)

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
 Dan Loritz (chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman


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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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