Posts published in May, 2014

National Assessment Calculates College Readiness Rate For First Time


WASHINGTON (May 14, 2014) – Thirty-nine percent of 12th-grade students have the mathematics skills and 38 percent the reading skills needed for entry-level college courses, according to results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released today by the National Center for Education Statistics.

These results are the first to link student performance on NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card, with academic preparedness for college.

“As NAEP is the country’s only source of nationally representative 12th-grade student data, it is uniquely positioned to tell us how academically prepared 12th graders will be for educational pursuits after high school. The results are in-and unfortunately they are lackluster,” said David Driscoll, chair of the Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. “But it is only by knowing these sobering data that we can build the sense of urgency needed to better prepare students for higher education.”

The Nation’s Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12, released last week, now includes initial estimates of the percentage of 12th-grade students who are academically prepared for college. These estimates reflect the percentage of students scoring 163 or above on the mathematics assessment and the percentage of students scoring 302 or above on the reading assessment, respectively.

Since 2003, the Governing Board has researched whether and how 12th-grade NAEP can be improved and also used as an indicator of academic preparedness for college. The Governing Board oversaw more than 30 studies conducted since 2008. There were five types of studies that, together, provided a method of comparing performance on NAEP with the skills needed for college.For example, one type of study compared the content of NAEP with that of college admission and placement tests, such as the SAT and the ACT. Another type consisted of statistical linking studies that compared performance of the same students on NAEP and the SAT or ACT. The results of the studies were generally consistent and support the use of NAEP as an indicator of academic preparedness for college.

For more information about the studies, please visit


Transfer Is The Predominant Pathway For Low Income Students

Once considered an infrequent occurrence, transferring between colleges is now common. More than one-third of all college graduates today transferred at least once prior to earning their degrees. The vast majority of non-traditional and lower-income students begin their college careers in community colleges, institutions designed to facilitate transfer for most of their enrolled students. For these students, transfer policy is especially critical. The paper, by Maria Millard, is from Education Commission of the States.

What Is Competency Based Education

Competency-based education appears to be higher education’s “next big thing.” Yet many academics aren’t sure what it is. And that goes double for lawmakers and journalists. A new group is stepping in to try to clear up some of the confusion. The nascent Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) will include up to 20 institutions that offer competency-based degrees or are well on their way to creating them. The Lumina Foundation is funding the three-year effort. Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization, is coordinating the work. The article was in Inside Higher Ed.

Why Do Girls Have Better College Preparation?

by Tom Chorneau, Cabinet Report, Sacramento , CA.
 It is widely accepted that student performance in middle school provides an accurate predictor of achievement in high school and college. Research is also clear that women now account for a larger share of the college population than men.But a new study that looks more closely at the gender gap found that the academic performance advantage females have over males is already well established by the eighth grade.

Researchers Tomas DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann, writing for the  Democratic centrist group Third Way, noted that young girls may have long out-performed boys in the classroom but it is has only been in recent years that they’ve taken advantage of it.

“In the past, girls did not take educational advantage of their superior academic performance by going to college in large numbers,” the researchers said. “As most Americans believed that the point of an education was simply to make women better wives and mothers. But with declining gender discrimination and rising labor market opportunities for women, their numbers in rigorous high school classes and the ranks of college students increased rapidly.

“Today, girls take more advanced courses in high school and on average perform better than boys in these courses do,” the sociologists reported.

DiPrete, a professor at Columbia University and Buchmann, a professor at Ohio State, are perhaps best known for their groundbreaking 2013 book, The Rise of Women, which analyzes the upward trajectory of women in academics since World War II as men have stagnated even as the need to have a college degree to compete in the economy has escalated.

In the paper for Third Way, the researchers first establish the link between middle school and college. That is, eighth graders who do well in school are far more likely to not only attend college but to finish:

  • Students who get mostly A’s in middle school have a nearly 70 percent chance of completing college by age 25.  But those who get mostly B’s have only a 30 percent chance of completing college and less than one in 10 students who get mostly C’s in middle school will complete a bachelor’s degree by age 25.

There is also strong evidence showing that girls do better than boys in school well before the critical high school years. DiPrete and Buchmann said their research finds that “girls’ academic performance advantage over boys is already well established by eighth grade.”

Indeed, DiPrete and Buchmann said that “the social and behavioral skills gap between boys and girls is considerably larger than the gap between children from poor families and middle class families or the gap between black and white children.”

The point of the paper is to shed some light on the vexing issue of why so many college students fail to graduate. Understanding the problem suggests potential actions in the early grades, especially as it relates to young boys.

They found evidence that the gap begins as early as the third grade. “The female advantage in reading tests is about .15 standard deviations at the beginning of kindergarten and declines only slightly through the end of fifth grade,” they reported.

“In contrast, kindergarten boys have a slight lead over girls on tests of mathematics at the start of kindergarten, and this gap grows to about .25 standard deviations by the end of third grade, and remains at that size as of fifth grade.”

Perhaps more important, however, is the edge girls have in social and behavioral skills, “which include attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, flexibility, organization,  expressing feelings, ideas, and opinions in positive ways, and showing sensitivity to the feelings of others.”

What are the root causes? The academics said the reason behind the gender gap are complex and require more study.

They noted that the male deficit in social and behavioral skills at an early age is clearly one factor. But they also said that boys are more negatively affected than girls by growing up in families with absent or less-educated fathers.

“Boys are also more negatively affected than girls by classrooms that lack a strong learning-oriented environment,” DiPrete and Buchmann explained. “Too many adolescent boys underinvest in education due to out-of-date masculine stereotypes that depict academic excellence, attachment to school, and interest in art, music and drama as unmasculine.

“These stereotypes, in turn, are fueled by boys’ failure to understand (or the system’s failure effectively to communicate) the strong connection between effort in school and later success in the labor market. While the causes are complex, our results contain a straightforward conclusion: because boys’ academic deficit is well established by middle school, reforms targeting the early and middle school years offer the greatest potential for closing the gender gap in college completion,” they said.


Let’s Have The Right Debate About Higher Education Finance

New America’s Rachel Fishman:

The debate surrounding parents who borrow massive amounts to send their children to college leaves out important program and policy problems that interact with parent borrowing programs. Such narrow debate fails to capture the scope of the problems with our higher education finance systems. Read more at EdCentral

Survey On Students Well Being, Great Jobs, Great Lives

Higher Education
Report: Gauging graduates’ well-being
The evidence from a survey of 30,000 college graduates is mixed about whether colleges are doing enough to help students’ well-being in life. Researchers found that certain sorts of formative experiences in college help prepare graduates for not only “great jobs” but “great lives,” but that too few graduates recall having had those experiences. (Inside Higher Ed, May 6) and ECS.

New College Readiness Indicator System

As greater numbers of students strive for a college degree, districts are struggling with how to prepare them for the challenges ahead—to build the critical attitudes, aptitudes and skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

To address this problem, education researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Education, Brown University and the University of Chicago are releasing a “College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS) Resource Series.” The series is a suite of educational products designed to help school districts use data to identify students and the supports they need to graduate high school and have success in college.

Funded by a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CRIS initiative brought together the researchers with urban school systems in Dallas, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Jose. The aim of the initiative was to develop and study the implementation of a system of indicators and supports designed to deliver the knowledge and skills students need to be truly ready for college.

“A CRIS, at its most basic, is really a strategy for promoting educational equity. It is unusual in that it is not an early warning system, but a proactive approach that gets out ahead of the problem,” said Milbrey McLaughlin, the David Jacks Professor of Education & Public Policy, Emerita at Stanford and founding director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. “A CRIS ensures that meaningful opportunities are available for the long-term success of all students, particularly those who have been traditionally underrepresented in the post-secondary education system.”

The CRIS Resource Series is free and available for download by interested educators and administrators via any of the program’s partner websites:,,

A Robust Tool for Districts

“Education leaders are grappling with the fact that students are not college ready when they leave high school,” said Jenny Nagaoka, deputy director of the University of Chicago Consortium for Chicago School Research. “Although many districts are starting to use indicators, too often they are not linked to practices and policies in ways that would enable action to create meaningful, lasting change. There is a great need for actionable resources that help districts and schools understand the problem and develop strategies that meet their specific needs and context.”



10 Things All Assistant Professors Should Know

By William Tierney, USC School Of Education

I got my PhD in 1984.  During that time I’ve done research on students, faculty, and administrators.  I’ have seen different individuals and groups as ‘research subjects’ as students, colleagues, and as friends.  I’ve developed some thoughts I’d like to share based on my research, my observations, and common sense.  By no means is this everything someone should know.  Think about what else should be added and let me know.

Decide if you are going to write articles from your dissertation or publish it as a book.  Don’t do both.Only publish in tier one outlets; the stream of online publishers that will publish anything today does not indicate quality.

Size does not matter:  “I have published 34 articles” tells me nothing.

Size does matter:  “I’m still working on revising my dissertation” is cause for concern if you’ve started your second year.

Ideas matter:  People need to know what you do.  Ask a senior colleague who you trust, “What do I do?”  If he/she can say no more than “You do work on schools,” or “You do qualitative work” then you’ve got a problem.

Save the maximum amount you can for retirement.  Take advantage of every dime the institution will put in for you; every nickel matters.

Build in time every day, week, and semester to enjoy your family and friends.  Do not work all the time.  If you don’t schedule it, it probably won’t happen.

You’re not a grad student any more so socializing with grad students is likely to cause you a problem.

Speak your mind.  If you think you are going to hide until you have tenure and then speak up is a recipe for never speaking up.  If senior faculty and administrators don’t want to listen to your ideas then that place is probably not the place for you (or me).

Find someone you can trust to ask for advice and lean on from time to time.


Rural Students Less Likely To Attend 4 Year College

Students in rural counties are less likely to attend college, and those who do are less likely to choose a four-year, private, or highly selective institution, according to a recent report. Andrew Koricich, an assistant professor of higher education at Texas Tech University analyzed federal higher education and longitudinal data to determine how living in a rural community influences postsecondary choices. Koricich’s study found that about 64 percent of rural students pursue postsecondary education, compared to nearly 70 percent of students who live in metro areas. Nationally, about 66 percent of graduating high school students enroll in a postsecondary institution.

Source: Carnegie Foundation

Gear Up: Doubts Grow About Whether It is Effective

by Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute

I’m guilty. I did it. I Googled myself. I’m not sure why, but I did. Ego, I guess. It sounds worse that it is, but in the end, I Googled myself.

And what I found astonished me. I found a 15-year old video of me speaking at an event in Washington, DC. The date was June 25, 1999, and I was co-representing The College Board at a Brookings Institution  dialogue led by former College Board Director Lois Rice and higher education expert Art Hauptman. The discussion was about the impending Higher Education Act and the creation of a new program called GEAR Up, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, a new Title IV program of the HEA to join, and at sometimes compete, with the TRIO programs (Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Success Services).

Dr. Swail at the Brookings Dialogue in 1999 (click on the graphic to watch)

The cast of characters reads like a who’s who of college access. Lois Rice acting as the moderator; Congressman Chaka Fattah providing an overview of the new GEAR Up program; as well as Acting Deputy Education Secretary Mike Smith; the Department’s Pauline Abernathy (now Vice President of The Institute for College Access &  Success ); Steve Zwirling of The Ford Foundation; Linda Shiller of the Vermont Student Assistant Corporation; Juliet Garcia, then and still Chancellor of the University of Texas, Brownsville ; my old boss and great guy John Childers of The College Board; another former boss, Arnold Mitchem of the Council for Opportunity in Education; and David Longanecker, former Deputy Education Secretary under the Clinton Administration, who was new into his current gig at the Western Interstate Consortium of Higher Education(WICHE).

Just watching the clip was like a reunion of sorts, including me viewing a former me with dark hair, bad glasses, but nice, if not dated, light yellow suspenders (yes, I still have them). While I only speak for a couple of minutes during this dialogue—and I’ve spoken more eloquently, to be sure—what struck me is that I would say pretty much the same thing if given the opportunity today. So I’m taking that opportunity now.

In short, I spoke of the challenges trying to produce outcome data for programs like GEAR Up and TRIO that can show that they have a positive (or negative) impact on students. The problem then and now is that these programs are largely too watered down by school districts. Since 1999, I have been involved and have followed these programs to a fine detail, and the song remains largely the same: they do not produce the outcomes as Congressman Fattah and Deputy Assistant Secretary Smith suggested they would, because the programs got too watered down by those who wanted to broaden it to more students with the same level of funds. Thus, the chance for impact is greatly reduced. The programs that keep focused do better because they serve a finite number of children; those that spread the dollars across larger groups of students and classrooms see virtually no impact.

Pauline Abernathy suggested that GEAR Up would leverage “universal” changes through how schools use their Title I and other funds, essentially “transforming” schools and how they use other monies to help kids. Ford’s Steve Zwirling echoed that by reminding participants that the dialogue is not about money but about ideas. He says that he couldn’t see how school districts with $9,000 per student in funding (now double that amount) would not be able to sustain the ideas and changes through GEAR UP. He was wrong, unfortunately, because school districts that I have either evaluated or followed have not done what Zwirling said they would do.

David Longanecker echoed my point and said that we didn’t have the luxury of waiting 20 years to find out if these public programs work. Interesting, 15 years later the data and the analysis of GEAR Up and similar programs are still equivocal. The programs work in some places and do not in others.

My bet is that if we brought together the today’s government and association stakeholders, the conversation would be much the same. This is a long video, but if you want insight into the thoughts back in 1999 about college access, this is a must see (and hear). Now back to my Googling.

To view the entire event, click here.