Posts published in November, 2015

Better To Compare US Education To Other States Than Nations

By Susannah Meyer

A report recently published by the Economic Policy Institute suggests that United States schools may not be trailing behind those of other countries as much as previous studies have suggested.

The report was authored in part by professor of education Martin Carnoy, an economist specializing in education who has been a professor at Stanford for more than 40 years. The report analyzes international results of two assessments, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Stanford professor emeritus of education and business administration Michael Kirst, who is also in his fourth term as president of the California State Board of Education, found Carnoy’s report to be both insightful and helpful as he continues to engage in work surrounding the improvement of California’s education.

“This is a very informative and unique analysis,” Kirst said. “I think a lot of international organizations like the OECD have been making claims about U.S. education and how to reform it without truly understanding it, and this will help get us on the right track.”

The Stanford Daily


What Colleges Do for Local Economies

Jonathan Rothwell, Brookings via rear clear education

AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

Most economists and policymakers know that people who complete a college degree tend to earn more than people who have not attended college. Yet they often overlook the fact that these benefits extend beyond individual workers. The college earnings advantage also leads to greater economic activity, fueling prosperity at the regional and national levels.

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College Grad Rates Dropping ; Why?

College Completion
Despite efforts, university graduation rates fall

In spite of years of efforts to raise them, including financial incentives for public colleges and universities, America’s higher-education graduation rates are dropping at an accelerating rate, a new report shows. (Hechinger Report, 

Do College Courses Challenge Students?

By Dan Berrett, Chronicle of Higher Education

The question seems straightforward enough: “During the current school year, to what extent have your courses challenged you to do your best work?”

Which students pushed themselves academically, and at what kinds of institutions, features prominently in the report of this year’s National Survey of Student Engagement, known as Nessie. The results, released on Thursday, are either sobering or predictable, depending on your view of students and colleges. The attempt to measure whether students are meeting their potential also raises broader questions about their motivation and about institutions’ expectations for academic rigor. It also illustrates the complex nature of self-reported surveys that ask students to reflect on knotty subjects like their learning.

‘Admission selectivity is neither a prerequisite for nor a guarantee of a high-quality educational experience.’

But first, the findings: Fifty-four percent of freshmen and 61 percent of seniors at 585 four-year institutions in the United States and Canada said they were “highly challenged to do their best work.”

Are those numbers high or low?

“They’re low,” said Alexander C. McCormick, director of the survey. “This is a core value in higher education: that students should be challenged and provided sufficient support to meet those challenges.” Colleges, he said, should take the results as “a wake-up call” to set and communicate high expectations.

Others saw less cause for alarm. The percentages didn’t seem low to Nicholas A. Bowman, director of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at the University of Iowa. A student’s sense of academic challenge reflects his or her perceptions, which are often framed by the educational environment. “Depending on where you go to college,” he said, “expectations differ dramatically.”

Institutions do seem to play a role in establishing expectations. At some colleges, more than 90 percent of students reported being challenged to do their best work, Mr. McCormick said. (Nessie releases national figures, while participating institutions get their own reports.)

But the high-flying, prestigious colleges weren’t always the ones that challenged students the most. Admissions selectivity had no relationship to the level of challenge reported by freshmen, the survey found. For seniors, none of the most-selective institutions ranked among the 50 most-challenging ones identified by Nessie. “Admission selectivity,” the report says, “is neither a prerequisite for nor a guarantee of a high-quality educational experience.”

“It bears repeating endlessly,” Mr. McCormick said, “because of the dominance of the narrative of selectivity as equating with a high-quality education.” The subjective nature of the survey’s question about challenge would also suggest that an individual student’s background matters, too. After all, what’s challenging for a student with profound academic gaps is probably not the same as for one who enjoyed every educational advantage. And yet, the level of challenge was unrelated to students’ scores on the SAT or ACT. Without an objective way to measure challenge, it’s difficult to say just what the term means.

‘Best Work’

A more-objective approach would suit Josipa Roksa, an associate professor of sociology and education at the University of Virginia. The level of academic challenge might be more accurately captured, she said, by the number of pages students are assigned to read and write, for example, or the number of hours they report studying (and study time has declined precipitously since the 1960s).

The survey took those measures, too, finding little connection between the amount of reading or writing and academic challenge, Mr. McCormick said. The number of hours students reported studying did seem to correlate somewhat with their sense that they’d been challenged to do their best work.

Students’ self-reported level of challenge also tended to align with other measures that the survey tracks: the complexity of tasks students are asked to complete, the strategies they use to study, how they approach learning, and their perception of the clarity of teaching.

The term “best work” also raised questions for Ms. Roksa. To students, she said, it probably means putting forth effort. Research for Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates, the more-recent book she wrote with Richard Arum, revealed that faculty members and students have different ideas about what rigor, engagement, effort, and best work mean. Students, she said, often define academic engagement in minimal terms: attending class and completing most of their assignments.

“Students are very high on their perceptions of their engagement,” Ms. Roksa said. “When you unpack what it means to be engaged or work hard, it’s a low threshold.”

The question may be getting at a complicated educational interaction that is difficult to pick apart, she said. In asking about challenge, the question is simultaneously touching on institutional decisions, students’ motivations and perceptions of their instructors, and the cognitive and emotional dimensions of teaching.

There are at least two ways to think about the word “challenge,” Ms. Roksa said. The first is as rigorous and demanding. “Or,” she said, “it might be, ‘faculty expect me to put my best effort forward.’” Challenge, when accompanied by support, she said, might feed students’ perception that instructors are telling students, “I believe in you.”

And if students feel that their professors believe in them, she added, they will probably try to do good work.

Who’s Challenged

The survey’s researchers also observed intriguing relationships between students’ level of challenge and their age, major, and type of coursework.

Nontraditional students, defined as those starting college at 21 or older, reported levels of challenge far greater than their traditional-age peers did. About three-quarters of freshmen enrolled only in online courses said they were often challenged to do their best work, a rate significantly higher than among those in some or no online courses.

Some practically focused majors, especially health, education, and social services (a category that includes criminal justice and social work), produced the highest levels of challenge, 63 percent to 71 percent. Liberal-arts disciplines like social science (57 percent) and the physical sciences, mathematics, and computer science (56 percent) came in lower.

Standardized tests meant to measure general critical-thinking skills often produced inverse results, with practical majors often ranking at the bottom and liberal disciplines at the top. But the level of challenge may get at something different, researchers said. A curriculum focused on training for a specific job like teaching or nursing tends to emphasize discrete skills — say, writing a lesson plan or drawing blood — over general skills like critical thinking.

Rigor in a practical discipline may also look different than in a liberal one. Seniors in practical majors often have to apply what they’ve learned to, or even in, the outside world. The clarity of an academic setting is replaced by the messy complexity and tangible consequences of clinical rotations or student teaching.

“Those real-life applications,” Mr. McCormick said, “do perhaps draw out more dedication and seriousness from students.”

Dan Berrett writes about teaching, learning, the curriculum, and educational quality. Follow him on Twitter @danberrett, or write to him at



5 Things You Won’t Regret Studying During College

By Melissa Burns

College years are a strange mix of wearisome studying process and excessive partying every other night (though in most cases the amount of studies outweighs the fun). However, no matter who you are – a very diligent student or not-so-diligent-at-all, there has to be something more than that. It’s really hard to proceed with self-development during the years after college – there will be internships and full-time jobs, and perhaps family life, so the wise thing for you would be to use up your college years to a maximum. There are at least five things you should study outside the college while you have time for this:

  1. Foreign Languages

It really doesn’t matter what major you chose in college: medicine, arts, business or math – the additional language will come in handy. Of course, it would be smart to study something appropriate for your field of specialization – Spanish, if you plan to start business with connections in Latin America, or Chinese, if you study Eastern Arts. But if you prefer the sound of French or the dead beauty of Latin, who could possibly stop you?

  1. Graphic Design Software

You could become an independent entrepreneur, work for a corporation or be a housewife – a little knowledge of Photoshop never hurt nobody. It doesn’t matter whether you are going to create design for a website, make a leaflet or change the shades in your profile photo, you will benefit from ability to work with graphic design software anyways.

  1. Master Classes in Communication

The mere fact of studying in college means that your communication skills will get a significant boost. However, there is no better opportunity than to visit several master classes that will teach you the art of communication and provide you with diplomacy skills. The best thing about it – you will be able to apply everything you’ve learned right away. It would be just great, if same rule worked for all the knowledge you get in college, wouldn’t it.

  1. Basics of Website Handling

We all live in information society, and you never know when you’ll need your personal website – or when you’ll need to help with maintaining someone else’s website. So why not take an analytic training course or a course in web design, or, at least, find some time and study HTML? Computer skills will never be unnecessary.

  1. Art Stuff

Studying useful things, that are nothing but useful, usually pays off.  But hey, why not find an enjoyable way to express yourself? Of course, it would be pleasurable and flattering if you suddenly found out that you have a talent in art or music, but even if you have none, it doesn’t matter. Art is something people do for the sake of doing it, and even if you never make it to American Idol, you’ll still have a nice hobby for the rest of your life.

One can find time for many things throughout his life – but while you’re young and full of energy and fresh ideas, it’s perfect time for self-development. So don’t waste your days on college or parties alone, diversify yourself!

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she  is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented.

New Ideas For Federal Higher Ed Policy

From Edcentral-New America

New America joined with a coalition of national organizations to call for a fresh conversation around the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The coalition includes a dozen organizations with distinct constituencies – from vulnerable students to Fortune 500 companies to state and local governments. We span the political spectrum, but are united in our commitment to strengthening connections between education, social mobility and economic development. We have come together around seven principles for reform that we urge policymakers to consider as they prepare to reauthorize one of our county’s most important laws.

Few pieces of federal legislation have done more to open the doors of opportunity to millions of Americans than HEA. The law has benefitted generations of students who might not otherwise have afforded college. It has also benefitted our democracy and economy, providing the basis for a highly educated citizenry and workforce. But as we approach HEA’s 50th anniversary, it’s time to take stock of how well the law is meeting the needs of students today. A lot has changed in fifty years. A lot has even changed since the last reauthorization in 2008, which happened just before the Great Recession laid bare the devastating consequences of not having college-level skills and credentials. And while enrollments in higher education have grown steadily over the last few decades, too many students either never graduate or do not acquire the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. We believe that part of the problem stems from our federal higher education polices which need to be re-thought and re-engineered for a new age.

As policymakers prepare to reauthorize HEA, it is important they take stock of the social and economic trends shaping both the supply and demand of higher education. In particular:

  • Students aren’t who you think they are: They come from increasingly diverse backgrounds, most do not live on campus, and many are older, already working, and juggling family responsibilities.
  • Jobs aren’t what they used to be: More jobs than ever before require a college credential, while job tenure and security have both declined.
  • The transition from college to a career is a lot harder: While college graduates have fared far better than their counterparts with only a high school degree, they earn less, take longer to find good jobs, and are much more likely to be saddled with students loans than any generation of students before them.
  • The cost of college has risen dramatically: By one estimate, the cost of college has increased twelvefold since 1980 and there is no indication that prices will go down anytime soon. Rising tuition, in turn, is driving demand for loans and the increased use of borrowing raises the stakes of higher education for both students and taxpayers. Our policies need to do more to protect both.

Together, these changes have transformed the context of higher education in ways that require updates to our federal policies. Our postsecondary education system must serve a larger and more diverse population of students, and it must prepare them for an economy that is far more demanding and less forgiving than in years past. We offer the following guiding principles for reform which we believe will make higher education more responsive to the pressing needs of students for education that is affordable, timely, personally enriching, and valuable to the larger community in which they live and work. Specifically:

  1. Outcomes are what matter. Institutions should be rewarded for graduating students – not just enrolling them. And we all need to know more about the employment and earnings of students once they leave college.
  2. Federal financial aid policies need to be more flexible. The federal student aid programs do too little to support students who are older, returning to school, or seeking specific skills and credentials for work.
  3. Higher education needs to do more to connect learning and work. We need to get rid of the artificial distinction between learning in the classroom and learning at work. HEA reauthorization should encourage institutions to expand experiential learning opportunities and foster more opportunities for work-based learning.
  4. Accreditation processes need to be more transparent and rigorous. Our quality assurance system is fragmented, duplicative, secretive, and overly focused on institutional inputs and processes rather than program quality and student outcomes.
  5. Quality assurance processes should focus more on programs and credentials. We need better ways to ensure that what students are learning will help them succeed in life and in the labor market. Employers, industry associations, professional societies, and other key stakeholders outside of higher education need to play a bigger role in ensuring program quality.
  6. Higher education is not an island; HEA shouldn’t be either. The reauthorization of HEA creates opportunities to better align the law, particularly the rules surrounding access to the federal student aid programs, with other federal education and training programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Carl D Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.
  7. Policy should encourage innovation and experimentation. HEA should provide safe spaces for experimentation with new approaches to instruction, quality assurance and financial aid.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was a historic and visionary investment in our future. The law reflected our commitment to equal opportunity and the belief that higher education strengthens our democracy and is a source of social mobility and economic security. Fifty years later, the linkages between education, democracy, and economic opportunity have never been stronger – or more fraught with risk. Reauthorization offers the chance to renew our country’s commitment to higher education for all who seek it, while also helping institutions adapt to the fast-paced, technology-driven global economy that their students will face at graduation. If we can renew the promise of HEA, the United States stands poised to reap the rewards of a global economy that runs on advanced technologies and the skills that go with them. We hope that policymakers and the higher education community will come together to seize this historic opportunity.

Are Elite College Courses Better? Not Really

By Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

— The public — and heck, many people in higher education — widely assume prestigious colleges and universities provide the best quality education. That’s why employers often want to hire their graduates and why many parents want their children to attend them.

And the assumption partially explains the fascination from the media and others in recent years with massive open online courses from Harvard and Stanford and other elite universities: the courses were believed, rightly or wrongly, to be of higher quality than all other online courses precisely because they came from name-brand institutions.

But what if the richest and best-known colleges and universities don’t provide the highest-quality education? Would the perceived value of degrees from those institutions decline, and would colleges that were shown in fact to provide higher-quality courses be held in more esteem than they are now?

The push to measure student learning outcomes and other attempts to gauge which institutions, programs and courses most help students learn have been motivated, in part, by skepticism about the assumption that the most famous and selective institutions deliver the highest-quality learning. But the quest for proof to the contrary has at times seemed quixotic.

Researchers at Teachers College of Columbia University and at Yeshiva University, however, believe they are developing a legitimate way to compare the educational quality of courses across institutions — and their initial analysis, they say, “raises questions about the value of higher-prestige institutions in terms of their teaching quality.” They are cautious about asserting that they have proof, and experts on learning challenge some of their assumptions and warn against reading too much into them.

But the study and their approach — which were previewed here during a session at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education — are likely to raise questions, and at the very least start an interesting conversation about what and how we define quality in higher education.

Pushing Back Against Prestige

The new research is the work of Corbin M. Campbell and Marisol Jimenez of Teachers College and Christine Arlene N. Arrozal of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, supported by a fellowship from the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation. You get some hints about their perspective from the paper’s working title: “The Mirage of Prestige: The educational quality of courses in prestigious and non-prestigious institutions.”

The researchers work from the presumption that historically, quality and “prestige” in higher education have been defined much more by the “signaling” aspect of an institution or degree (the extent to which employers and others see it as evidence of a student’s potential for employment or leadership) than by proof that it has actually been “transformative,” cognitively and otherwise, to the students who have gone through it.

A whole infrastructure has mimicked and reinforced this bias, the researchers argue, with rankings such as U.S. News & World Report elevating the values of the high-prestige institutions (selectivity in admissions, research over teaching in faculty work, high institutional spending) and influencing the behavior of many students, many institutions, and some governments and other funders.

And by favoring the traits that gain colleges and universities currency in the rankings and all that follows, the researchers posit, colleges and universities adopt trappings and practices (getting more selective, etc.) that strengthen their signaling potential at the expense of those that make them more likely to focus on transforming students through quality education.

“Given that the prestige structure in higher education has bifurcated the signaling and transformation missions, we consider the possibility that higher-status institutions (via the rankings) may fulfill the signaling mission, but institutions that are lower in status may better fulfill the transformation mission.”

So how do the researchers go about trying to define and measure the quality of education, arguably a holy grail? By sending actual faculty observers into nearly 600 classrooms at nine colleges and universities with various levels of prestige and having them judge the teaching quality and academic rigor of the courses they offer, using a common rubric on which the observers have been trained for about 30 hours. The nine institutions — three with high prestige, two medium prestige and four with low prestige — were a mix of public and private, teaching and research intensive.

(Teaching quality was defined as instruction that displayed the instructor’s subject matter knowledge, drew out students’ prior knowledge and prodded students to wrestle with new ideas, while academic rigor was judged on the “cognitive complexity” and the “level of standards and expectations” of the course work.)

The researchers acknowledge many limitations in their approach (about which more later), and characterize the study as only a “first step toward examining the relationship between prestige and in-class practices.”

But they found that on only one of the five measures, cognitive complexity of the course work, did the elite colleges in the study outperform the nonelite institutions.

On two, standards and expectations of the course work and the level of the instructors’ subject matter knowledge, there were no meaningful differences by prestige level. On two others, though — the extent to which the instructors “surfaced” students’ prior knowledge and supported changes in their views, the lower-prestige institutions outperformed the elite ones. (Drilling down, there were differences between the prestige levels for the public institutions in the study, but not between prestigious and nonprestigious private nonprofit ones.)

“This is particularly surprising given the substantial variation in prestige across institutions included in this study: low-prestige institutions were largely unranked and broad access, while the high-prestige institutions were national institutions, highly ranked and highly selective,” the researchers write.

Cautions Aplenty

In the session at which the prestige paper and two others were presented at the higher ed research meeting here, Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, an associate professor at the University of Virginia who was charged with responding to the studies, identified some potential weaknesses in the analysis.

While a total of 587 courses were examined — “astounding work,” Inkelas said — in each case the assessors observed only one class section. “Can you really know whether it achieves goals by attending one class?” she asked. “If I’m teaching a 15-week course, does one class really represent the quality of my teaching?”

Campbell, the lead researcher, said it would be wholly inappropriate to judge any individual instructor based on one observation, since she or he might have had a bad day. But looking across hundreds and hundreds of courses, it’s reasonable to think that average performance holds up, she said.

Inkelas also questioned the extent to which the raters themselves had subject matter expertise, such that they were in a good position to judge the expertise of the instructors. Campbell said the researchers “did our best” to match the subject matter of the raters to the classes they observed.

A member of the audience (and this reporter) asked how the researchers’ definition of “quality” meshed with the national push to try to judge institutions’ performance based on student outcomes.

Campbell said her colleagues’ approach was an attempt to “push back on the outcomes movement a little bit,” since colleges have so little control over many of the economic and other measures on which policy makers are trying to judge them.

“One thing institutions do have control over is using the practices that we know have been related to student learning, and to do more of them,” she said. “This really is malleable by institutions, so I’d like to think there could be more buy-in. ‘Measure me on something I can actually do, actually change,’” she said. “Part of our responsibility as a field is to think about better, more complex ways to think about” quality.

George S. Kuh, the Indiana University researcher who is a strong advocate for more focus on student learning outcomes, was not at the ASHE meeting (though he was honored with a lifetime achievement award in absentia on Friday). But via email, he also questioned the researchers’ decision to measure not actual student learning, but classroom techniques that may or may not produce more learning.

“There is little to no evidence that what instructors do is a precursor to what students do or learn,” Kuh said in an email. “That is, how is student behavior affected by the study’s measures of teaching quality? The guiding assumption is that observed measures of — for example — cognitive complexity of readings or lectures somehow spurs greater levels of student complex thinking and behavior. In the absence of evidence of actual student performance … we are left to assume that the measures of teaching quality used in this study really do represent educational quality (i.e., better student performance/more learning, greater proficiency in applying learning and so forth). Probably in some instances, but likely not in others.”

But Kuh and others who reviewed the research also praised the researchers for their efforts to get inside what one called the “black box” of instruction and learning, and for persuading hundreds of faculty members to let outsiders peer into their classrooms and judge their work. (Not to mention that they convinced three highly selective institutions to participate, albeit anonymously, in a study in which there was arguably nowhere for them to go but down in perception.)


Some college students more prepared than placement tests indicate

Katie Hern, Edsource

Not long ago I was at a meeting of community college and high school faculty, talking about college readiness in our region. “Tell us what we need to do,” said one high school teacher, frustrated that so many of her students were ending up in remedial courses when they enrolled in a community college. “We really want them to be prepared for you guys.”

Three-quarters of California community college students are classified “unprepared” upon entry, and their long-term outcomes are bleak. Just 40 percent of unprepared students go on to complete a degree or certificate, or transfer, within six years, compared to 70 percent of prepared students.

This is often framed as a “college readiness” problem in the high schools, but a growing body of research shows that incoming students are actually more ready than community colleges have recognized.

The Community College Research Center examined data from a large, urban community college system and found that many of the students placed into remedial courses didn’t actually need remediation. The study estimated that 61 percent of incoming students could earn a C or better in college-level English courses if allowed to enroll, but only 19 percent were eligible to do so under the placement test administered to incoming students. In math, the study predicted that 50 percent of incoming students would succeed in college-level courses, while just 25 percent were eligible to take them.

To understand this, you need to know how community colleges determine “readiness.” For the most part, colleges don’t review student transcripts, or assess samples of student writing. Instead, students take placement tests consisting of short, multiple-choice questions in English and math, often without preparing or understanding the stakes. And if they score below a certain level, they are required to take up to two years of remedial reading, writing and/or math courses. If they’re placed into English as a second language courses, it could be more than two years.

Placement tests are weak predictors of students’ performance in college. A second CCRC study found that standardized reading and writing tests explain less than 2 percent of the variation in students’ college grades. ACT’s Compass – one of the most popular placement tests used nationally – is being taken off the market, with the test-maker directly acknowledging its limitations in assessing readiness.

By relying on these tests, community colleges underestimate the abilities of many students. This was illustrated by the Multiple Measures Assessment Project, which analyzed a large dataset from California high schools and community colleges. The researchers determined that 72 percent of incoming community college students could be placed directly into college-level English courses by using high school transcript measures instead of their scores on placement tests, and that these students would do just fine, earning an average grade of C+. In other words, nearly three-quarters of students are coming out of high school prepared for college English.

Another problem with colleges’ current approach is the use of a single, algebra-based definition of “readiness” in math. A student with shaky algebra skills might be under-prepared for a Pre-Calculus course, but that same student could do perfectly well in College Statistics, because little algebra is required there. Colleges and universities need to recognize that different college-level courses demand different prerequisite math skills (as the University of California has recently done for Statistics courses). Unless a course requires substantial algebra – that is, unless a student is highly unlikely to succeed without it – algebra-based testing and prerequisites are not legitimate.

Why does all this matter? Because placement is destiny. When students are assessed “not college ready,” the treatment prescribed – layers of remedial coursework – leaves them less likely to reach their goals. Statewide, among community college students who start three or more courses below college math, just six out of 100 will complete a math course within three years that they can use to transfer to a four-year university.

One recent study found that students’ initial course placement is the single largest driver of racial inequities in long-term college completion rates. African-American and Hispanic students are much more likely to be excluded from college-level courses based on our non-predictive placement tests. These students are also disproportionately concentrated in the lowest levels of remedial math, a starting point from which they have virtually no chance of earning a degree.

In a little over a year, California community colleges will begin piloting a new “common assessment” system, with all 113 colleges administering the same English, ESL and math tests to their incoming students. Plans are also underway to include high school transcript information, such as students’ grade point average and English and math coursework, so that colleges can consider this in course placement. But for the system to be effective and benefit all students, the California Department of Education needs to provide statewide, automated high school transcript data to community colleges, rather than the scattershot, district-by-district transcript-sharing currently in place.

The shift to a common assessment provides a tremendous opportunity for community colleges. Research shows that by enabling more students to begin taking college-level courses as soon as they enroll, colleges can substantially increase student completion and narrow achievement gaps for students of color. Even greater power lies in combining changes in course placements with redesigned, accelerated models of remediation, which are helping many more students to complete college-level requirements in California and other states.

Over the last several years, there has been a lot of research into the disappointing completion rates among students classified “under-prepared.” But there is reason for optimism: When colleges accelerate students’ progress into college-level courses, they’re seeing that students are much more prepared than previously believed.

•••Katie Hern is an English instructor at Chabot College and co-founder of the California Acceleration Project, a statewide professional development network that supports community colleges in transforming remediation to increase student completion and equity.

Design principles to support student success and scale effective higher education practices



Core Principles for Transforming Remediation within a Comprehensive Student Success Strategy highlights practices such as placing the vast majority of students directly into credit-bearing work with effective support; refining mathematical and other academic content to align with each student’s choice of academic direction; and helping students stay on track to a college credential.

The principles expand upon a document released three years ago in response to outdated practices for helping students master remedial (pre-college level) content. Roughly half of all undergraduates and 70 percent of community college students take at least one remedial course and only a quarter of those students graduate within eight years.

“This represents a transition from a system that served some students well to a system that serves all students well,” said Uri Treisman, a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education Commission of the States and mathematician and founder of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

“We’ve described the principles we see in common across this work and why it is especially promising for students from low-income and underserved populations. We want to add momentum and legitimacy to the work and embolden leaders to bring it to scale,” said Treisman.

The authors of the document are Achieving the Dream; American Association of Community Colleges; Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin; Complete College America; Education Commission of the States; and Jobs for the Future.

“In our outreach and consultation with state policy leaders, we’re seeing a distinct trend among states in moving this work forward — which is great news for students, colleges and the economy.” Brian Sponsler, Director of Postsecondary and Workforce Development, Education Commission of the States

A diverse set of states and major postsecondary organizations have already endorsed the principles as a path forward to significantly improve student success rates, and next month a group of leading philanthropies will meet with the authors to explore areas for collaboration.

A research and learning agenda has also been developed to strengthen and support implementation of the principles.

Additional information, including the full text of the Core Principles document, can be viewed at

Contact information:

  • Uri Treisman, 512-471-6190, Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Karen Stout, 240-450-0075, Achieving the Dream
  • Kay McClenney, 512-470-3397, American Association of Community Colleges
  • Stan Jones, 317-829-0483, Complete College America
  • Brian Sponsler, 303-299-3615, Education Commission of the States
  • Michael Collins, 617-728-4446, Jobs for the Future

Endorsing States and Organizations
Achieving the Dream
American Association of Community Colleges
American Association of State Colleges and Universities
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Center for Community College Student Engagement
Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin
Complete College America
Education Commission of the States
Jobs for the Future
NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

States & Organizations within States
California – Central Valley Higher Education Consortium
Colorado – Colorado Department of Higher Education
DC – University of District of Columbia Community College
Georgia – University System of Georgia
Hawaii – University of Hawai’i System
Illinois – Illinois Board of Higher Education
Indiana – Indiana Commission for Higher Education
Kentucky – Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
Maryland – Maryland Higher Education Commission
Missouri – Missouri Department of Higher Education
Montana – Montana University System
New Mexico – New Mexico Department of Higher Education
Northern Marianas Islands-Northern Marianas College
Ohio – Ohio Department of Higher Education
Oklahoma – Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
Rhode Island – Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
Tennessee – Tennessee Board of Regents
West Virginia – West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission


Money Management Tips for College Students


By Jane Hurst

When you get out on your own for the first time, everything can be pretty overwhelming, including paying your bills. After all, you have a bit of money from student loans, part time jobs, etc., and you may feel the urge to blow it on unnecessary things. It is important that you learn how to manage your money, so you have enough to live on from month to month without having to hit your parents up every couple of weeks. Here are some money management tips you can start using now.

Ø  Set Up a Budget – The first thing you need to do is create a budget. When you have a budget, you can see where your money needs to go, and you will know how much you have left over at the end of the month for frivolous things. It is actually a good idea to learn how to create a budget as soon as you get your first job. That way, you will be ready when it comes time to head off to college. You may not always stick to your budget, but once you have something in place, it will be easier than having to worry if you are going to have enough to pay the bills every month.

Ø  Protect Your Information – These days, there are all too many people who are just waiting to steal your personal information. Often, it is students who get hit the hardest, and they are at the highest risk for identity theft. It can take months to detect fraud, and by that time, you are out of money and often out of luck. It is also a good idea to learn how to detect counterfeit money. It is easy to do, and it will protect you from ending up with money that is no good, or getting into trouble for passing off counterfeit money, albeit unknowingly.

Ø  Go Online – There are loads of online services that will help to make money management a whole lot easier for you. You likely always have your mobile phone with you anyway, so you may as well take advantage of some these apps, such as Mint. You can upload your bank account and expenses, and be able to manage all of your finances in one convenient place. If you are too busy to sit down and look at your budget, you can still be sure that you aren’t going to have a lot of missed payments, and additional charges for missing those payments.

Ø  Take Advantage of Student Discounts – Many companies offer discounts to students, and you should take advantage of as many of these discounts as possible. You can get discounts at many local venues, venders, restaurants, and services that are near your campus, and of course, discounts online as well. In addition to getting the best deals, you will also learn all about the value of bargain hunting to get the lowest prices and save money.

Ø  Be Careful with Credit Cards – Often, this is the first time anyone has a credit card, and the temptation to use it for just about everything is too much for many people. Credit card companies are looking for people who do just that, because they will rack up charges, and end up having to pay the credit card companies ridiculous amounts of interest. Don’t be fooled by the special offers, such as promises of freebies if you sign up for a card. In fact, it may be best if you don’t bother getting a credit card at all, just to be on the safe side.


Jane Hurst has been working in education for over 5 years as a teacher. She loves sharing her knowledge with students, is fascinated about edtech and loves reading, a lot.