The College Puzzle Blog
Prior PostingsAbout
Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

New Report Challenges Us to Get Ready for College

Tough Choices or Tough Times -- a new report by the Commission of the Skills of the American Workforce -- holds huge implications for the transition from high school to postsecondary education.

The bipartisan Commission of twenty-six members includes two former Secretaries of the U.S. Dept. of Labor, a former Governor, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, and other notables. Its main concern is the strong growth of highly skilled workers at low wages in other nations.

The report argues that strong growth in cheap labor elsewhere, poses a radically new challenge to American college skill levels and college preparation. The report calls for a high stakes national exam at age sixteen in order to impel students to make proper choices regarding postsecondary programs or colleges.

Also, the report recommends better academic preparation -- less memorization and more analytical skills in high school that will provide a better match with what is taught in college. The proposed national exam -- at age sixteen-- supports the idea that starting college sooner can be better for many students.

The report argues for curriculum changes that would prescribe reading that matters more for college success. The senior year in high school would not exist for more students who do not benefit from it now. And senior high school would increasingly focus on college preparation.

For more on the senior year issue, see my 2001 monograph, Overcoming the High School Senior Slump: New Education Policies at


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