Posts published in December, 2011

The History Of College Grade Inflation : The Ascendance Of A

Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940-2009
by Stuart Rojstaczer & Christopher Healy  for Teachers College Record
College grades can influence a student’s graduation prospects, academic motivation, postgraduate job choice, professional and graduate school selection, and access to loans and scholarships. Despite the importance of grades, national trends in grading practices have not been examined in over a decade, and there has been a limited effort to examine the historical evolution of college grading. This article looks at the evolution of grading over time and space at American colleges and universities over the last 70 years. The data provide a means to examine how instructors’ assessments of excellence, mediocrity, and failure have changed in higher education.


Another Grim Report On Ineffectiveness Of High School College Counseling

The quality of the coursework students take in high school powerfully affects their life options after graduation.  School counselors can guide students through the course selection process. They also can help schools identify policies and practices that propel all students toward success, as well as those that hold some students back. The problem? Too many of today’s school counselors do not serve this function. “Poised to Lead” outlines what states, districts, and schools can do to help school counselors become leaders and advocates in the effort to prepare all students for college and career.

application/pdf iconPoised_To_Lead.pdf

New Concepts In Remedial Education Are Promising

You can get the latest information
about what is happening in the world of remedial and developmental education
from the Education Commission of the States’ Getting Past Go Project.

The field of remedial education has experienced a renaissance since GPG began
its work in 2009, driven by strategies to increase student success and models
for large-scale change, according to Bruce Vandal. Now it is time for a bolder
and more assertive approach to reforming postsecondary remediation. Beginning
in 2012, the project will engage state leaders on how they can make the
necessary changes to remedial policies and practice to improve student success
based on a set of key principles. Read more in this blog post.

How Parents Can Calculate Net Costs Of College Including Tuition Discounts


Andrew P. Kelly, American Enterprise Institute


Key Points

Six in ten families rule out some colleges because of sticker price, yet many do not know that the “net price” is typically far lower. Stanford’s sticker price for tuition, living expenses, and books is $55,918, while Cal State Long Beach’s is $20,675. But for some low-income students, aid discounts those prices to $4,496 and $3,593 respectively.
To help parents and students make informed choices, the federal government now requires “net price calculators” on college websites. That is a start, but proactively teaching parents–especially those with lower incomes–to think in terms of net price is critical.
An AEI survey found that a majority of parents do recognize a distinction between sticker price and net price after aid when asked to think of the cost for a low-income student. Low-income parents tend to overestimate the net price for their child.


Three corrective measures: (1) generate net prices for the schools students list on financial aid forms; (2) enlist guidance counselors to marshal relevant data; and (3) encourage web developers to create online tools that help to compare net prices across institutions.

  Read this publication online.
  View a printable copy.

States Make Progress On Linking k-12 Data To College Success

A new analysis from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) finds that states could empower stakeholders to make education decisions with data, but haven’t yet. Every state now has capacity to empower all stakeholders to use data to inform decisions that will improve student outcomes and system performance, including robust longitudinal data that extend beyond test scores. Thirty-six states provide information on students’ past performance that could allow teachers, parents, and students to make informed decisions about individual students. Thirty-three states produce reports that measure growth of individual students over time, and 30 states aggregate this information — 23 of which make this aggregated information publicly available. In 2011, DCQ found that states are better positioned to inform policy discussions that promote readiness for kindergarten and college than for careers.  States have built longitudinal data systems and established governance bodies, but these bodies have not yet tackled the full scope of what DQC characterizes as issues of “turf, trust, technical issues, and time.” The analysis credits states with tremendous progress, but says the hardest work remains: “The stakes have never been higher as policymakers and educators are asked to deliver all students a world-class education with fewer resources. The education sector will never reach this goal without effective data use and the political leadership to get us there.”
See the report: via PEN.

11 Student habits For College Success

Dean’s List: Eleven Habits of Highly Successful College Students

by John B. Bader  for Teachers College Record

reviewed by Margaret Austin Smith

The advice here focuses on selective colleges, but is good for most  postsecondary schools.

Public Unaware Of New Secondary School Standards For College Readiness

Strong Support, Low Awareness: Public Perception of the Common Core State Standards demonstrates how critical it is for state and district leaders and advocates to redouble their communications efforts to increase awareness and understanding of the Common Core State Standards, common assessments and related policies—and prepare the public for what the education landscape will look like over the next few years. For tips, download “Common Core State Standards Communications & Outreach.”

To view the survey results (either in PowerPoint or report form) see,

Women Sprint Ahead Of Men In College Completion

Two University of Michigan professors (see below) found that inequality in educational attainment has risen more sharply among women than among men. For those entering college in the 1980s, the gap between men and women was small: about 2 percent more females in the top income group graduated from college than did males; and about 2 percent fewer females in the lowest income group graduated than did males. But for those entering college in the 2000s, the gender gap widened significantly especially at the top of the income distribution, with 13 percent more women than men in the highest income group graduating from college.

This female advantage in educational attainment is not a new phenomenon, the researchers point out. More women than men graduated from college in all birth cohorts since 1950. But the gap has grown recently, with the overall college graduation rate for women now ten points higher than the rate for men–32 percent compared to 22 percent.

The recent increase in women’s college graduation reflects rapid achievement gains among women from upper-income families who have outperformed their brothers, according to Bailey. Why this is the case is not entirely clear.

Whatever the reasons for the growing gender gap in college graduation, the growing income gap has some clear policy implications, according to the authors.

“Inducing more low-income youth into college will not, by itself, serve to close income gaps in educational attainment,” they conclude. “Even if rates of college entry were miraculously equalized across income groups, existing differences in persistence would still produce large gaps in college completion.”


Martha Bailey is an assistant professor of economics in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) and a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). Dynarski is an associate professor at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the U-M School of Education, and also holds appointments in the Department of Economics and ISR.


Some Students Do Not Borrow Enough Money

Students who do not borrow enough risk dropping out

Despite the media’s
recent focus on students who borrow too much, students who do not take out
sufficient loans put themselves at risk of dropping out with attempts to
save money on their education, including not buying required text books
or taking too many units per academic quarter.

High School Dual Enrollment In College Effective In Particular Circumstances


   Two new studies from the National Center for Postsecondary Research have found that participation in dual enrollment – in which high school students take college classes for credit – has strong positive effects on college enrollment and completion, but where students take dual enrollment classes and what classes they take are critical in driving these effects.


The first study, which tracked all of Florida’s 2000-01 and 2001-02 high school seniors, found that students who participated in dual enrollment (DE) were 12% more likely to go to college and 7% more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than similar students who did not participate.  However, these strong effects were driven entirely by dual enrollment classes taken on college campuses.  Students who took dual enrollment classes exclusively on the high school campus showed no statistically significant gains.


The study also compared the impact of Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment classes on college outcomes.  Contrary to popular assertions that AP classes are more beneficial than dual enrollment, the study found that DE and AP participation had similarly positive impacts.  DE students were more likely than AP students to first enroll in two-year rather than four-year colleges, but they went on to earn bachelor’s degrees at a comparable rate.


The second study, which tracked a subset of Florida’s 2000-01 and 2001-02 high school seniors who took a college algebra placement test, found that students who passed the test and enrolled in a rigorous dual enrollment college algebra class were 16% more likely to go to college and 23% more likely to earn a college degree than similar students who did not take the class.


Interestingly, participation in dual enrollment in general had no effect on marginal students whose GPA was just above the minimum necessary to participate.  These students were no more likely to enroll in or complete college than statistically similar students who did not participate in DE.  The combined findings suggest that, at least for some students, the benefits of dual enrollment are driven by the type of class they take.


The two studies offer important insights into how dual enrollment can best be structured to deliver maximum benefits for students.  Previous studies of dual enrollment programs in Florida and New York City, conducted by the Community College Research Center, found positive impacts for participating students on a range of college outcomes.  However, the studies did not disaggregate the effects of course location and content which – as the new studies demonstrate – vary significantly.


States across the nation have increasingly embraced dual enrollment as a promising intervention to help students of differing abilities and backgrounds gain college knowledge and a head start in obtaining a degree.  Almost one million American high school students took a college course in 2002-03 (the last numbers available), and since then the numbers have grown.


The new studies confirm that dual enrollment can be advantageous for students, but also contain a note of warning: dual enrollment programs and experiences vary significantly in the extent to which they benefit students.  Districts and colleges should consider tracking outcomes for dual enrollment students in order to use data to adjust program structure for maximum impact.


For more information, please contact  To read the studies, please visit