Posts published in April, 2009
ACT and SAT have traditionally been used for predicting first year grades and not graduation. But the USA policy conversation has shifted to college completion through president Obama’s leadership. Here is a new blockbuster study soon to be released in a forthcoming book- Crossing The Finish Line by former Princeton president Bill Bowen and Spencer Foundation head Mike McPherson. ACT and SAT 1 reasoning bear almost no relationship to college completion after high school course grades and SAT2 subject tests are taken into account.
High school grades are the best predictor of college graduation. They are followed by AP exams and SAT 2 subject matter tests like world history. Why should so much focus be put on first year grades when college completion is the real goal?? Perhaps admissions officers should rethink their criteria.
Obama wants the USA to be the first in the world in completion of college certificates and degrees by 2020. But there is a steep hill to climb. From 1960 to 1980, the relative supply of college workers rose 3.77 percent per year, but between 1980 and 2005 , it rose just 2 percent a year. This low completion rate has been going on for a long time and is embedded in the way our k-16 institutions operate and are funded. Many things must change at once to make major improvements. However, the new Undersecretary of Education, Martha Kanter has a better grasp of how to overcome this trend than recent federal officials.
Martha Kanter was nominated for Undersecretary of Education. She is the Chancellor of the community college district that is in my California county. I have spoken with her many times and she really understands the problems of college preparation for broad access postsecondary education. Moreover, she understands the fundamental disjuncture between secondary and higher education that creates poor preparation. Martha taught at the high school level and worked for ETS. She grasps the inadequate signals secondary students get about standards and expectations at the college level. She has crafted specific ideas on how to improve college transition. I think she is the first community college person to hold such a high level position in the Office or Department of Education. Her perspective will be essential to meeting Obama’s goal of imroving postsecondary persistence and completion.
The journal Education Next has a fine debate on the desirability and design of national k-12 standards between Chester Finn and Deborah Meier- Spring 2009, www.educationnext.org
But neither author addresses how to involve higher education in setting these standards, so we would repeat the mistake in the 1990’s of formulating national standards in isolation of explicit college considerations. Moreover, the debaters feature common content by Finn and habits of mind like contrasting views by Meier, without emphazing that students need both of these perspectives to succed in college. Finn suggests secondary schools use IB as a national standard, but bringing IB to national scale seems very difficult and probaby unrealistic. Overall, this is a good debate on a topic with growing interest.