Posts published in June, 2009

States Enter Nationwide Curriculum Process With Reservations

Forty-six states agreed to a process to create a common core of English and math standards — see This is a major development but a letter of agreement from California’s Governor and State Superintendent indicates some states are keeping their options open. Below are the direct quotes from the letter.

“California is pleased to participate in the CCSO-NGA initiative to develop common core standards. In particular, we welcome the opportunity to participate in the international benchmarking efforts. This benchmarking will be important for our nation and helpful in California’s efforts to prepare all students to succeed in the global economy.

“As a high-standards state, we have specific issues to bring forward with regard to our participation:

  1. As highlighted by the Fordham Institute, American Federation of Teachers and others, California has some of the highest standards in the nation. We will fully participate in the common core development process, but we cannot commit to adopting them until we have determined that they meet or exceed our own.

  1. California cannot commit to being bound by the premise that the common core standards must represent 85 percent of all state standards in English language arts and math…

With these conditions understood, we look forward to being a part of this important national effort. Thank you for the invitation to participate.”

Data I Would Like To Have On College Transition

  Here are some key data elements all states and schools should make public:

  College Prep Courses students taken in high school   in each subject area with break outs for race, ethnicity, and gender 

   Income, race, ethnicity,gender of students who do or do not proceed to college

     Number of students from each high school who are placed in remedial courses

     Persistence in college after the first year from each high school and college

       Transfer rates from 2 year to four year colleges for each two year college

      college completion rates after 6 years for 2 year colleges and 10 years for 4 year colleges

       measures of curricular alignment between high schools and first year college core courses

  Very few regions or states can produce this kind of data.

State Common Core Standards A Big Deal

I heard a presentation by the staff of the chief state school officers and National Governors Association describing the process 46 states have agreed to formulate shorter, higher, and clearer standards for ELA and math. This is on a fast track with the entire job to be done by early 2010, and then a three year period for states to adopt 85% of these core standards as the state curriculum content. But I was concerned that there is no representative of higher education among the organizations that are leading the effort to set  the  standards, or on the organizations listed supporting the effort! ACT and College Board are on the key organizing  group, but I do not think they represent 4,000 postsecondary institutions. How can this be implemented without postsecondary buy in? Maybe, this will come in the rapid vetting process, but the standards need to link to what colleges teach.

The presenters stressed this process will be based on research evidence, but much of common core is a philoshpical and political question- What knowledge is most worth knowing cannot be settled empirically. Go to for more details.

New York State Regents : Designed For K-16 Governance But Fails Over Time To Perform

The New York Board of Regents was designed in 1784 to provide K-16 integration, and it is the broadest educational governance body in the nation. The Regents’ scope of authority includes public and private elementary, secondary and higher education; the licensed professions, including medicine, nursing, law and accounting; libraries, museums, historical societies; and public television and radio stations. The New York Regents Exams began in the 19th century and have exerted a powerful K-16 influence. Regents are selected by the legislature for five-year terms with each legislator having one vote. Consequently, the Regents are not an integral part of the Governor’s executive branch and lack independent fiscal powers. The legislative selection method provides some political insulation, but also a remoteness and inaccessibility from the res t of state government. In many ways, the Regents are a fourth branch of New York State government.

However, the birth of the State University of New York (SUNY) system in the late 1940s led to a dramatic decline in the Regents’ attention to, and impact on, higher education. All colleges and universities outside the City University of New York (CUNY) system in New York City – public, non-profit independent, and for-profit proprietary – are members of the SUNY system; SUNY has budget authority over the state’s higher education appropriations. Every eight years, the Regents develop a Higher Education Plan that is subject to the Governor’s approval, but recently it has not been viewed as a K-16 policy that links the levels much more tightly. SUNY and CUNY are not tightly linked by the Regents plan (Bracco, 1997, pp. 198-228).

With its current disproportionate focus on K-12 issues, the Regents have retained one mechanism that aligns secondary and postsecondary education: the Regents Exams. When the exams were first conceived, student performance on these high school end-of-course-based exams was a factor in university admission and financial aid eligibility. But most New York financial aid is now need based. As the Regents exams’ purpose evolved to certify minimum standards for high school completion – and the SUNY system’s independence increased – Regents were used less frequently for SUNY admissions decisions. SUNY instead uses the SAT as an admissions factor. The Regents exams do still, however, provide high school students information about postsecondary academic content standards. Regents’ syllabi also provide a higher education oriented underpinning to high school course content in New York. Regents’ exams include essays and open-ended questions that are closer to higher education standards than multiple-choice exams. Moreover, CUNY, uses the K-12 Regents exams as its own placement exam, a policy that can reduce remediation by sending clear signals about college standards to high school students.

The lesson from New York’s experience is that a consolidated K-16 governance structure can help align K-16 academic content standards, but as we saw for other states, consolidation does not necessarily lead to the policy development that aligns key components of K-12 and postsecondary education (Callan, Kirst, Usdan, and Venezia, 2005). In particular, states need to pay attention to the authorities, particularly the budget authority, given to a K-16 consolidated structure in order to reach common goals of higher enrollment rates, lower remediation rates, and higher persistence rates.

If governance alone cannot bridge the K-12 postsecondary gap, what can? We surely cannot expect change to be effected spontaneously from within. The two levels of education have so little social contact among faculty, administrators, and policymakers that there is unlikely to be much social pressure to change the current condition. Perhaps K-16 governance mechanisms such as Florida’s can bring K-12 and postsecondary education together in a way that will lead to social incentives to move forward. But most likely, we will have to relay on policy levers, governance reform, and incentives to move towards closing the interlevel gap.

Does College Ready = Ready For Workforce Training?

Several national organizations claim these two are virtually the same. But I went to Kentucky to study their community and technical colleges compared to their four year colleges. The placement standards are different for these different institutions. The community colleges offer AA/AS degrees that have similar math courses and placement cut scores on Compass to the 4 year colleges. But the community colleges also offer diploma and certificate programs that have lower level math courses and cut scores for completion. These different standards are appropriate given the occupations students want – eg. there are three different programs for welding preparation.

If students must meet the same standards for all types of postsecondary work then some students will be put in college remediation that is not required by their workforce training programs.

There Are 4 Types Of Academic Standards For College

Forty six states have agreed to work on common standards that include college readiness. But they are working on only one of four types of  statewide standards-eg content standards for English, math etc. Content standards include what should be taught in a subject like Algebra 2.

But the other three types of standards must follow to allow classroom implementation.

– assessment standards specify what needs to be in a state test and whether the assessment will cover all the content standards

-performance standards set a cut score on an assessment to specify proficient student attainment

-opportunity to learn standards specify what educators need to teach to the standards- eg textbooks, teacher preparation etc.

So the 46 state exercise is just the beginning of a complex and many faceted journey.

EdWeek Report Highlights Lack of k-16 Accountability

 Diploma Counts found that only 8 states use assessments to measure college readiness, and none have significant accountability for postsecondary preparation that includes both k-12 and postsecondary education. The report has a good summary of the Florida k-16 data system that includes the 10th grade state test, PSAT, SAT, college placement tets, and college grades for each student. Local schools use this data, but the state has not made many policy decisions based on the extensive data base. See

`Do E-Textbooks Work For Students ?

  The Chronicle of Higher Education has a very useful article about student reaction to e- texts at Northwest Missouri State that indicates widepsread use of e- texts are a number of years in the future , see, “6 Lessons Campus Learned About E-textbooks”

  NW Missouri has been a leader in e text use but students found the texts awkward to navigate inside the e-text format. 40% of students said they studied less becasue of the e-texts. It was hard to highlight or enlarge the text,or share notes with other students.  The biggest student problem was battery life. Marketing students found the dense tables in the e-text hard to use.

  Despite these and other problems President Dean Hubbard thinks the flaws will be overcome and e-texts will be common on college campuses. He thinks it will spread like convenience stores in gas stations after the first few adopters are satisfied. I wonder about k12 adoption though because of the need to retrain so many teachers to use e-texts.

Edweek Diploma Counts Report Loaded With Good Information

 Edweek’s annual diploma counts –– focuses on college readinesss, student navigation of the application and financial aid process, and k-16 data systems. There are more problems here than solutions, but it is a good overview of the current status. The momentum is building for these issues, but we are still short of concrete solutions. The issue also highlights debates like are the same standards required for 4 year college academic prepardness and for workforce preparation.

Raise The Age Of Compulsory Education To 19?

  Ina New York Times column today Harold Levy, former NYC K12 schools chancellor, wants to add a year of compulsory education and extend it from 18 to 19. He cites Obama’s statement, ” I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education and career training”. But then Levy goes on to cover several other topics before ending with a plea to produce more qualified college applicants. His op ed loses its focus because preparation needs to precede a call for compulsory education extention to age 19. What good is it to send even more underprepared students to college if they cannot succeed? How much will it cost to lower college remediation that is in excess of 60% for community colleges? For some answers go to