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.

Crossing the Chasm to the Clovers of College Completion

There are deep and harmful chasms between K-12 and postsecondary education that inhibit college completion and college success for college students at risk. Nevertheless, those chasms could be spanned with governance mechanisms that include elaborate structural reorganizations of state decision-making.

Usually, governance is the wrong place to start thinking about the problem. Governance reform often ends up directing too much energy toward an organizational or structural fix. Moreover, most higher education policy approaches that focus primarily on governance end up to be more about politics and who controls education, than they are about instrumental goals.

A better prescription is to deduce the governance structure from that which will facilitate positive outcomes, that which each system cannot possibly deliver alone. For example, reducing remediation, improving teacher preparation, and dual enrollment. These approaches utilize accountability and state/federal stimulant grants for K-16 activities to get started.

Governance mechanisms that enable, sustain, and enhance successful K-16 activities then should be designed. Some of these governance mechanisms will be structural like Florida’s K-20 department, or even joint K-16 voluntary organizations used in Georgia and Indiana.

I was a co-author of the attached paper from The National Center on Higher Education and Public Policy that examines the K-16 governance issue through analyzing four states- Florida, Georgia, New York, and Oregon. It ends with recommendations on how to utilize governance changes to improve academic readiness for college and college student persistence.

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