Monday, September 24, 2007

IEREA Conference Scheduled for November 30th in Iowa City

While the presidential election may seem years away, it is right around the corner here in Iowa as evidenced by the many political pundits vying for sound bytes. An outsider may well consider this a time of confusion and turmoil prior to a more focused direction once the party candidates are chosen. This is also true on the education front. The reauthorization of NCLB is yet to be determined. Recent Federal guidelines for the assessment of students with special needs (the "two-percent population") have raised more questions than have provided answers. College-readiness, school-to-work transition and high-school reform are still topics of the day. As such, your conference planning committee worked hard to come up with a conference this year that would provide you with information that would be helpful in getting your jobs done—namely educating Iowa’s youth—in a time of transition with much unknown about the future.

Our conference theme this year is “Success for All: Access, Connections and Transitions” and focuses on the strong commitment Iowa educators have to ensuring that all students, regardless of background and circumstances, have an opportunity for success whatever the endeavor: finding a job, going to college, starting a business or pursing a trade.

We are very fortunate this year to have Dr. Judy Jeffrey, Director of the Iowa Department of Education to be our keynote speaker. Dr. Jeffrey will discuss how Iowa is prepared to meet the challenge of providing success for all students as they transition across the developmental curriculum. Dr. Jeffrey will speak about course taking patterns, particularly as they apply to students at risk. She will speak specifically about closing the equity gap for such students and will highlight the community college as a key component of the transitional plan.

Other presentations will include “Project Lead the Way.” This project provides technical and engineering career pathways and outlines coursework and critical experiences that are needed to help students fully explore and prepare for the world of work. Additionally, Project Lead the Way helps provide a consistent curriculum process that is recognized across the country.

Plan ahead and register early! Registration information can be found at the IEREA website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why is Linking College Readiness to High School Skills so Difficult?

In a previous newsletter to NCME, Dr. Michael Kirst argued that our post-secondary and secondary education systems are disconnected. He argued, that:
"A big issue is the proliferation of tests in grades 9 through 11 caused by the combination of post-secondary admissions assessments, and the new statewide tests created by the K–12 standards movement."
Dr. Kirst also suggested that there are very few synergies between the college and high school space:
"Education standards and tests are created in different K–12 and post-secondary orbits that only intersect for students in Advanced Placement courses."
Now, in all fairness to Dr. Kirst, these quotes are taken out of context; and I suggest my readers review his thesis in its entirety. When you are finished, I hope you check out my reaction:
"The 'Intrinsic Rational Validity' of an Integrated Education System"
As well as my colleagues' reaction:
"Assessing College Readiness: A Continuation of Kirst"
by Scott Marion and Brian Gong of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. Both of these commentaries can be found in the June 2007 NCME Newsletter.

My summary conclusions were oversimplified like usual. Namely, it should not be that hard to align enabling skills required in elementary school with what will eventually be needed in high school, or that high school should teach the enabling skills that will ultimately be needed in college. The premise of the entire argument, however, is somewhat like the one about "the chicken and the egg." Dr. Kirst claims that post-secondary needs to remediate college students because they are unprepared. State testing directors claim they measure the curriculum that is required by their state standards. We all know, or should, that often the state content standards do not prepare students for success in college. (Where are the Algebra II standards?) So, instead of pitying the very successful colleges who earn lots-o-dollars remediating students, or lamenting the terrible job high schools do preparing students for college, maybe we should step back and ask what the purpose of high school is, because I am not at all sure it is to make students college ready.