Tribune analysis: College prep courses not preparing kids for …

A full plate of general classes — the most common courses statewide across Illinois public high schools — is supposed to prepare students for life after graduation.

But tens of thousands of students taking only general courses in main subjects — often labeled “college prep” in school curriculum guides — were not prepared for college classes, a sweeping Tribune analysis of the class of 2015 found. Those students made up most of the kids across Illinois who were not considered college ready in fundamental academic areas.

A variety of factors, including the push to improve graduation rates and eliminate remedial courses, quietly weakened the rigor of some general classes, educators said, leaving students in courses that weren’t tough enough.

Public education debates both here and nationwide often focus on school funding, teacher pensions, charter schools and vouchers. Little-mentioned in the discourse, though, is one of the most significant aspects of schooling: The classes kids take.