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.

A Prescription for More College-Ready Students

State governments can make substantial gains toward improving college readiness and completion. My research with other colleagues shows that states must create reforms in four key policy areas as well as connect elementary and secondary education with postsecondary education across them all: (1) curricula and assessment; (2) finance; (3) data collection; and (4) the public reporting of student progress and success.

Then, governance mechanisms must reinforce and sustain those efforts (see Bridge publications 19 and 20). I will discuss each of these four key policy areas within my next few posts to the Blog. Let’s start with curricula and assessment.

State government must stimulate high schools and colleges to align courses and assessments in order to improve college readiness. Right now, the standards movement in K–12 education and efforts to improve higher education are operating on different tracks.

For example, a widespread strategy to improve college preparedness has been to increase enrollment in college-preparatory courses. Yet despite some successes, remediation rates in colleges have been estimated to be more than 60 percent at two-year institutions and approximately 30 percent at four-year institutions nationally.

As a nation, we are learning that the number of courses that high school students take, and the units and names assigned to those courses, are often inadequate proxies for whether or not high school graduates are ready for success in college. The quality and level of the coursework and instruction, and their degree of alignment with postsecondary expectations, are the key elements of effective reform.

Ideally, exit standards from one education sector would equal the entrance and placement standards of the next, while ensuring that there are multiple paths of study for high school students, since one size does not fit all. For example, some students might wish to follow a purely academic path while others might desire a more applied course of study; both pathways would lead toward the development of the same set of knowledge and skills.

In the next post, I will discuss FINANCE.

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