The College Puzzle Blog
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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.

College Success Can Only Be Realized With Better Testing

Washington-based Achieve Inc. operates the America Diploma Project Network (ADP) primarily using Gates Foundation funding. ADP is a coalition of twenty-six states dedicated to aligning K–12 curriculum, standards, assessments and accountability policies with the demands of college and work.

Achieve’s primary goal is to align state high school graduation requirements with college and workplace expectations. Over the past decade, states have led the national movement to raise standards, improve teaching and learning, and hold schools more accountable for student success.

Standards are in place in every state. But, as the demands of the economy continue to increase, standards must keep pace. Achieve recognizes that too many young people leave school without the skills they need college success or to compete in the workplace. Achieve’s goal is to help every state close the expectations gap so that all students graduate ready for success.

Achieve also wants states to use high school assessments for college admission/placement. And, Achieve hopes to develop a K-16 longitudinal data system. These strategies are part of the solution to overcoming student risk factors that inhibit college persistence, college completion and college success.

Achieve monitors progress toward these goals in all fifty states. The organization reports slow, but steady progress. Achieve’s 2006 report says eight states (Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) have enacted college- and work-ready high school graduation requirements. Apparently, more states will reach this goal of graduation requirements in 2007 as twelve more states plan to align K-14 tests.

Nevertheless, few states have high school tests in place that are sufficiently rigorous to signal whether students are college-ready. Colleges are aware of this deficiency and, as a consequence, ignore the results of most high school tests.

Six states {California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, and Texas) report that statewide high school assessments are used for college admissions and/or placement decisions. Eight more states are working toward this goal.

It is difficult to get K-12 and postsecondary education to work together on curriculum/assessment alignment.. Thus, the progress in meeting Achieve’s goals is not that impressive.

State-elected officials probably will increase their intervention in these policy areas in the near future. Achieve has a new report coming out in February 2007 that may show more progress.

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