Educators Taking New Approach to College Readiness

As thousands of new students step onto college and university campuses across Texas for the first time this week, educators worry that too many are arriving unprepared for the studies that await them.

Administrators and faculty attribute this perennial problem to a misalignment between both the curriculum and the expectations of the state's public and higher education systems.

Worried about the long-term effects of this incongruity — including additional expenses for students who must stay in school longer and increased costs to public institutions that must get them up to speed — higher education innovators are stepping up their efforts to bring the two sectors into sync.

Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research at the University of Texas at Austin, said a lack of preparation in lower grades is preventing students from going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields — areas in which the state has been attempting to boost its productivity.

"Even with a lot of hard work, on average, about half of the kids who matriculate into STEM fields will complete in STEM fields," he said.

To combat this, Keller has led the development at UT-Austin of OnRamps. The $3 million program, launching at 14 high schools and in one community college district this fall, offers teachers training and support, including full curriculums, instructional videos, class assignments and assessment tools designed to ensure their students are prepared for college courses.

Katie Artzt teaches 11th- and 12th-grade math at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin and is using OnRamps in her classroom this fall. Artzt said she was motivated by concern that some of her students were leaving high school unprepared for higher education — many without realizing it.

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