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SUNY considers high school exam to test college readiness

The State University of New York is looking to stem the tide of students who arrive at college unprepared.

A quarter of a million students attend the State University of New York's 30 community colleges. But not all of them are ready to be there. That's according to Johanna Duncan Portier, the SUNY Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges.

"Anywhere between 40 to 70 percent of the new students coming to our colleges are need of remediation."

Those students spend $93 million dollars of their financial aid annually for classes to help them catch up. SUNY kicks in another $70 million for students in remedial classes. And students who have to enroll in review classes take longer to graduate.

In May, SUNY created a task force to consider possible solutions. This was after the New York state legislature directed SUNY and the City University of New York to conduct a study of the remediation issue and make recommendations by November 1.

One of several ideas is a proposal by Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to require a new test administered to high school sophomores. It would gauge their readiness for college work, and identify areas that need improvement.

"What we want to do is, for the thousands of students who need this additional assistance, that they are able to get it when they need it. So we are talking about as early as the tenth grade," said Portier.

New York State Teachers Union spokesman Carl Korn said more testing would add to the drudgery to the current regimen.

"While that profits the big testing companies, that over-reliance on standardized testing cheats students out of the rich and full education they deserve," said Korn.

According to a NYSUT study, students already spend over three full days of their high school careers taking standardized tests before they reach college.

"The fixation with standardized testing has thrown the state education system out of balance," said Korn. "We have to question, do students need yet another standardized test?"

Another proposal would move regents exams earlier in the high school curriculum and include questions designed to discover areas of difficulty.

For now, Vice Chancellor Portier says the remediation task force expects to have a finalized plan out this fall.