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Posts published in “Day: August 24, 2004

Passing TAKS doesn’t make students college-ready by Rose Rennekamp

TAKS, FCAT, HSPA? These probably look like just a jumble of letters to most of us, but to high school students in 24 states, these letters mean the difference between a diploma and a ticket back to high school. They are the abbreviations for high school exit exams.

Students come to dread the exit exams required for graduation. But it’s worth it once they get that passing score. They’re ready for college or a good job, right?

Unfortunately, no. Too many students who pass exit exams are still not ready for college or for a well-paying job.

A study by Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by governors and business leaders to promote high academic standards, shows that most high school exit exams don’t measure the skills students need for success in college or the world of work.

The report, Do Graduation Tests Measure Up?: A Closer Look at State High School Exit Exams (available free at, analyzed tests in the six largest states requiring them. It found that students who pass the tests in those states aren’t necessarily college-ready. In fact, the “exit exams,” more closely resemble ACT’s EXPLORE Assessment designed for 8th and 9th grade students.

High school students need to know that passing an exit exam doesn’t mean that they’re ready to succeed in college. I’ve met many students and parents who assume that the courses required to graduate from high school are the same as the courses required to be admitted to and succeed in college. In a word, “WRONG!” ACT recommends high school students take at least these classes to be prepared for college:

* 4 years of English — grammar, composition, literature, etc.
* 3 or more years of math — algebra I and higher
* 3 or more years of science — Earth science, biology, chemistry, physics
* 3 or more years of social studies — history, economics, geography, civics, psychology, etc.

Many colleges also recommend:

* At least 2 units of the same foreign language
* Additional courses in visual arts, music, theater, dance, computer science, etc.

Students who followed ACT’s guidelines scored two and a half points higher on the ACT Assessment in 2003 than students who did not. But less than half of the students who took the test took the recommended courses in math and science. In other words, many students who intend to go to college are making the choice to avoid courses that will prepare them for college.

It doesn’t make sense, does it?

When students are unprepared for college-level coursework, they need remedial (sometimes called “developmental”) classes. These classes cost as much as a college-level course, but the student doesn’t
get credit for them. They don’t count toward graduation requirements. It’s a waste of both money and time, learning skills that should have been mastered in high school. Even students who enroll in community colleges, thinking they might not be held to as high an academic standard, receive a rude awakening when they are placed in remedial classes. In too many cases, this means a lot longer than two years to earn a “two-year” degree, and more than four years to earn a “four-year” degree.

An exit exam can be a good tool to see what students have learned, but it should be viewed as a minimum level of learning. Students need to go further to truly prepare themselves for college and for the future. If you’re a parent of a high school student, it’s a good idea to consult with your student’s counselor and make sure his courses are the ones needed for college success. The hard part is convincing some students that hard work in high school will pay off down the road.

College requires a lot of difficult preparation, and students must have the foundation on which to build their knowledge before they arrive on campus.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. She is a mom and has a master’s of education in guidance and counseling. Have a question you want answered in a future column? Send a letter to this newspaper or e-mail Rose at

MacArthur student finalist for Bush/Kiwanas Sports Hero Award

MacArthur Senior High School junior Alexander Johnson has been named one of three finalists for the 3rd annual George H.W. Bush/Kiwanis Sports Hero Award. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Aug. 24, during a dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel.

The award honors a Houston-area football player who is a standout on the field and in the community. Johnson is a two-year letterman for Jerry Drones’ Generals. When the 2004 season begins, Johnson will be a starting linebacker for the second straight year and will also see duty at tailback.

The well-spoken Johnson is also a star in his community and in the classroom. He volunteers in the nursery at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and is involved in various youth organizations at the church. Academically, Johnson carries a 6.8029 grade point average taking AP (advanced placement) and GT (gifted and talented) classes.

MacArthur Senior High principal Rose Avalos said Johnson is a joy to be around. “Alexander is the ideal student,” Avalos said. “He is a fine young man. He is a leader on and off the field. He has a strong faith and shares it with others.”

Drones echoed Avalos’ statement.”Alexander is a coach’ s and parent’ s dream,” he said. “He’ s a shining example of what being a student-athlete is all about. Even though he was a sophomore last year, he was
one of our team leaders and we’re expecting more of the same from him this year.”

Johnson said he was honored to be nominated for the award. “I was elated to get this far in the process,” he said. “This is an honor that I will always remember.”

The likeable junior added he learned at an early age the importance of sharing his time and talents with others in the community.

“I’ve always been taught that you give out what you put in (to others),” Johnson said. “It’s important to help out in the community and in any way that I can. I really enjoy working with the young kids in the nursery at my church. I know all of their names.”

After high school, Johnson would like to attend the University of Southern California and study pre-law. He is the son of Maurice and Deborah Johnson.

Gasoline for 2 cents a gallon, today’s prices…

Just think, another month and it is fall of the year. Time flies when you are having fun or so they say.

I ain’t been having fun as I’ve been playing plumber and working on the sink faucet trying to stop a leak. At least it was from the spigot and into the sink so no major clean up mess. Thought I might have to replace the entire faucet fixture and that would be a night mare trying to disconnect the lines and reconnect them. Seems to be too much of me getting under the sink, and I’ll swear the opening has shrunk over the years. Fortunately the leak was stopped by installing new rubber seals.

Had lunch with the old policemen this past week and one brought up conversation about a fellow coming back from Iraq in a week or so. He told of the price of gasoline was two cents a gallon and diesel was three cents a gallon over there. This same fellow who is coming back to the states and will be hunting with us soon; it should prove real interesting to listen to what he has to say about working over there and all.

An old friend from back home spoke of a labor of love tending to his recently incapacitated wife. I had to look up labor of love and found mostly “having a baby” articles. Using the definition: it said something like doing what you are doing for self satisfaction with no compensation or reward.

It could have read: “Like your growing tomatoes this year Charlie” because my crop was not worth a hoot.

It goes farther than that and deep down in the heart. The Mrs. asks me how difficult I thought it would be taking care of an incapacitated person, doing all of their chores in between coupled with my own.

Gave her a look and shook my head negatively in response.

We be blessed so let’s move on.

Hurricane Charley went through the Southeast with a huff and a puff.

Old brother in law in SC lives on the backwaters of a large lake there. He said they drawed the lake down in anticipation of the on coming hurricane (10 inches). I thought that was a grand idea of whoever is in charge of the dam on that water.

Too bad the engineers on Texas reservoirs don’t do that in preparation of heavy rainfalls upstream, etc. There has been enough flooding over the years that might have been eliminated if the water in our dams was lowered in time. What do you think?

Of course they don’t do flood control or so I read a long time ago.

Times change and so should those people’s thinking.

Or should they?

Old friend said happy hour is a nap.

If Bush loses, what happens in Texas?

BOSTON — Even while busy officially nominating John Kerry for president, Texas Democrats concede President Bush is almost certain to win his home state. The Texas delegation held up red cards during Wednesday night’s presidential roll-call to signify Texas is a “red” Republican state on electoral maps.

But to demonstrate their hopes for the future, the delegates flipped the cards to show the blue on the other side — for a Democratic “blue” state.

“We certainly can make Texas a blue state again,” Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros told the delegates at their breakfast meeting Thursday. ((7/29/04)) “There is no reason in the world that the Republicans have to control every statewide office in Texas.”

If Texas Democrats help get out the vote in neighboring states, including some Bush carried in 2000, they can help put Kerry in the White House. And that can reverberate in Texas much sooner than might have seemed possible, Cisneros said.

Several states Bush carried in 2000 have elected Democratic governors or senators, Cisneros said. If Texas Democrats help in states such as Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, Kerry might carry them too, Cisneros said.

With Kerry in the White House, “we will remove the dominance of the George Bush machine in Texas” and de-fang Bush political adviser Karl Rove, Cisneros predicted. With Bush gone, Democrats could rebound in Texas, Cisneros said.

“Texas at heart is not a Republican state.”

Democratic Congressman Gene Green of Houston called on the delegates to help preserve five Democratic congressmen “in peril because of Tom DeLay,” plus several tight races for the Texas House of Representatives.

DeLay, the Republican House majority leader from Sugar Land, engineered the first mid-decade congressional redistricting not ordered by the courts, with the aim of unseating several Texas Democrats. They include Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Chet Edwards of Waco, Charles Stenholm of Stamford, Martin Frost of Arlington, Max Sandlin of Marshall, and Nick Lampson of Beaumont. Doggett’s new district, which reaches to the Mexican border, leans heavily Democratic, but the others have tough races, including two — Frost and Stenholm — against Republican incumbents.

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio, whose district was reconfigured enough that he may have lost a hotly contested primary to a former friend from the Texas House of Representatives, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, said Democrats have the potential to win.

“We have the numbers to turn it around,” Rodriguez said. “The key is turning them out.”

Congressman Jim Turner of Crockett in East Texas, another Texas Democrat whose district was reconfigured so much that he didn’t seek reelection, said by helping his colleagues survive politically, the Democrats can build political momentum.

“Let’s make Democrats the majority party in Texas again,” said Turner.