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.

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