In a matter of months, Florida will begin leading the way in preparing high school students and college freshmen for the academically challenging task of graduating.
The Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) is designed to reveal academic weaknesses that often force students to take remedial courses or eventually fail out of college.
Currently, only three of Florida’s 28 state colleges administer the exam, but all will be required to do so by the end of the spring semester.
The state is wise to push for a simple technique that can help identify students’ academic problems.
The computer-based exam will be easily accessible and will test proficiency through questions that vary in difficultly based on whether the student correctly answered the previous question. The test will also gauge deficiencies through a diagnostic portion.
The results of the test will highlight what a particular student needs to improve on to be academically successful in college, allowing high school students to take the equivalent of college remedial courses before they even receive their diploma.
Students already in college would be able to use the results of the exam to determine what classes they should and need to take to improve their chances of graduating.
At USF, where the average six-year graduation rate is a lowly 49 percent, the necessity of such a program is evident.
Approximately 60 percent of all college students and 75 percent of community college students enter postsecondary school unprepared, according to a June report by the Southern Regional Education Board.
According to results from the Nation’s Report Card test released last month, Florida’s 12th graders ranked below the national average on math and reading skills.
“All of this work by the state and various sectors of education in Florida should curb the need for college students to take remedial courses, and that’s important because students don’t get credit for remedial courses; it costs them extra because they have to take them in addition to their regular credit courses,” said Alan Richard, the communications director of the Southern Regional Education Board, to the Naples Daily News. “And, research shows us that most students who have to take those remedial courses do not complete a degree.”
While many argue that college is simply not for everyone, failure is often the result of not having the necessary base education that’s required to learn in a college classroom. And as Richard correctly notes, remedial classes are often not the answer.
This test is a much-needed alternative method to increase the number of individuals with a college education in the U.S., as well as the nation’s ability to compete globally.