The AP has a disconcerting story that illustrates just how poorly prepared public school students are for college. According to Department of Education numbers, more than 30 percent of students entering American colleges require remedial training in at least one subject—in community colleges, it's more like 40 percent. Students forced into remedial classes are much more likely to drop out of college.

The cost of remedial education ends up being passed onto the taxpayer, who ends up paying twice to teach a student a particular subject. (That fact is less important than the human impact of failing to prepare students for college-level work, but monetary arguments are often better for prompting change.) According to the AP story:
The price of providing remedial training is costly. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates the nation loses $3.7 billion a year because students are not learning basic needed skills, including $1.4 billion to provide remedial education for students who have recently completed high school.

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with Kati Haycock, president of the advocacy organization Education Trust, which focuses most of its work on closing achievement gaps that leave low-income and minority students behind. The problem of remediation and college- and career-readiness was a big topic of our chat, especially in light of the new Common Core State Standards proposed by the National Governors Association in March. Here's what Haycock said:

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Voting begins today to help choose the winner of President Obama's Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Six schools were selected from more than 1,000 applications from high schools vying for the grand prize: President Obama as their commencement speaker.

The schools chosen as finalists are in far-flung locales
: Miami; Los Angeles; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Overland Park, Kansas; Denver, and Cincinnati. All are examples of the Obama administration's objective of educating students to be college- and career- ready.

Each of the six high schools produced three-minute videos
that show off the success they've had and highlight some of the hallmarks of their particular campus—such as a family-like atmosphere, student diversity, or a strong focus on environmental issues.

Anyone can watch the videos and decide which school is most deserving of having Obama address its graduating class. The public voting (which is open until Thursday night) will narrow the list down to three schools; the president will then decide upon the winner.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan went on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports this afternoon to discuss the contest, as well as call on Congress to pass a stimulus bill for education jobs, as schools around the country are facing budget cuts that will almost certainly result in mass layoffs of teachers.

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