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.

Most Recent Blog
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::A Prescription for More College-Ready Students>
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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: Final in a Series

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: curricula and assessment, finance, data collection, and the public reporting of student progress and success.

Governance mechanisms must reinforce and sustain those efforts (see publications 19 and 20). Specifically, state governments can make substantial gains toward improving college readiness and college completion.
I have discussed the first of the four key policy areas within the two prior posts to the Blog. Let’s conclude the series with my discussion of data collection and public reporting.

Create data systems to track student progress across educational levels and institutions. Currently most states are unable to determine if their efforts to improve academic readiness for college are having any impact. Although many states are working to improve their ability to gather information—Florida, for example, already has a model system up and running that links K–12 and postsecondary education, along with other public data—few, if any, currently link information from schools and colleges. Some states do not even collect data on the course-taking patterns of their high school students.

Consequently, in those states, it is impossible to determine the relationships between the courses that high school students take and students' persistence and college success. Likewise, it is impossible to identify and analyze success rates for students who enter college from the workforce, students who attend part time, or students who attend multiple institutions. In short, the lack of reliable facts and figures that connect different levels of education makes it difficult to assess needs accurately, identify the worst problems, work toward finding solutions, and evaluate reforms.

States should be able to use their data systems to answer questions such as:

How do students who take college-preparatory courses in high school perform in postsecondary education?
Of those students who require remediation in college, what percentage took a college-preparatory curriculum in high school?
How do students who earn a proficient score on a state’s K–12 assessment perform in college?
What pedagogical approaches are common among high school teachers who consistently send well-prepared students to college?
Given their students' performance in college, how can high schools change their curricula and instruction to improve college readiness?

Publicly report on student progress and success from high school to postsecondary education. To be effective in improving college readiness, states should establish student-achievement objectives that require the education systems to collaborate on reaching them. Determining how to use the information to improve teaching and learning is an ideal area in which high schools and colleges should collaborate. For example, high schools should use data about their graduates' performance in college to improve their curricula, instruction, and grading practices.

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