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Editorial: Don't just start; finish 

Belleville News Democrat
January 28, 2012
Editorial Board

Finish what you start. Your parents probably told you that growing up, and now Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is giving that advice to Illinois community colleges.

A new report by her states that 80 percent of recent high school graduates who enroll at community colleges do not complete a certificate or degree program within three years. One of the suspected causes: The failure of our high schools to adequately teach students math. Simon's report states that half of those recent high school grads have to take remedial, noncredit math courses before they can start college-level work. Yikes.

High schools often complain that the state's standardized tests aren't an accurate measure of what students are learning. Well, here's another measure that says we're failing a huge number of our students.

Simon recommends that high schools voluntarily require four years of math to graduate. Absolutely. It's hard to believe but Illinois, the state that requires four years of PE in high school, thinks four years of math is optional. It doesn't add up -- although half of the students wouldn't know that.

Also, she recommends that community colleges have an annual report card on their performance, just as elementary and high schools do. That's another sound idea. Transparency likely would help improve these dismal results.