BAKERSFIELD, CA - Educators call it an epidemic in education. An overwhelming percentage of local students are graduating high school without the knowledge they need for college. This forces local colleges and universities to provide a high school education to students with high school degrees.
"I passed high school. I come in here and I thought this is going to be easy, easy tests. When I got the tests and I saw it and the length it was, I didn't understand it," said Andrew Mercabel, a freshman at Bakersfield College.
It's a phenomenon happening to a majority of students at our local colleges and universities. At Cal State Bakersfield, 45 percent of students need to continue their high school education. At Taft Community College, 85 percent of students need pre-collegiate courses. Of Bakersfield College's approximately 17,000 students, 70 percent start out reading and writing at a high school level.
Kaila Stoddard is one of them. Right now, she is taking high school sophomore-level writing at Bakersfield College.
"When I took the assessment test it was a lot of stuff I didn't remember and I wasn't prepared for and I got placed in the classes because of that," said Stoddard, a freshman at Bakersfield College.
Andrew Mercabel is in the same class.
"I thought I was going to get right into classes and be able to transfer in two years. It's the totally opposite," said Mercabel.
Now he's looking at attending Bakersfield College for four years just to get the credits he needs to transfer to a four-year university.
"This class up here is helping out a lot," said Mercabel.
Those classes are also taking over the curriculum at the college. According to Bakersfield College, about 1,500 of their 3,200 courses are high school level courses.
"There's a lot by need," said Amber Chiang, spokesperson for Bakersfield College. "We're not offering them without students needing them."
Cal State Bakersfield offers only 90 high school level classes of their 4,300. But, those classes cost the university about $400,000 to $500,000 to run each year, taking money away from college level curriculum.
"Rather than teaching more upper division courses in more majors, we're using those resources to provide instruction in remedial math or English," said Dr. Horace Mitchell, President of Cal State Bakersfield.
Administrators said the problem is a difference in expectations. High schools teach kids the skills to pass California Standards Tests.
"Those are not necessarily the standards colleges are looking for when our seniors or other people are going into the community college system," said Mike Zulfa, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Kern High School District.
Those standards are tested by the California Exit Exam and the California Standards Test.
According to Taft Union High School District Superintendent Blanca Cavazos, these are tests districts need to pass to get funding from the federal government and to give their kids a diploma.
"We always look at what's most immediate first and preparing students for college. It doesn't make sense if they are not even going to graduate from high school," said Cavazos.
"There's a misalignment between what's being taught in the classes, which are responsive to California standards for high school gradation, and what's needed here," said Dr. Mitchell.
Educators are working to align the standards so if you pass the tests you're prepared for college. There's even a group dedicated to the cause called the Enrollment Advisory Council which meets once a quarter.
"We're working very actively on it," said Dr. Mitchell.
"We're not there yet, but it appears we're all focused on that alignment now," said Cavazos.
It's an alignment students feel is owed them in their public education.
"You should be ready especially if you graduated. You should be able to be prepared and just roll into college and be ready for it," said Stoddard.
Last year, the Kern High School District added a mandatory writing class for seniors to help better prepare them for college.