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.

Boomerang. Assessment Expert Replies to Prior Entry Re College Readiness

Jon S. Twing of Pearson Educational Measurement recently critiqued a prior Blog entry -- Alignment Needed To Enhance College Completion and College Success. Twing acknowledged that the Blog entrycaused him to ruminate regarding a concept that he works on everyday -- the validity of assessment systems.

My entry, according to Twing, argued that K-12 and post-secondary education systems are not integrated. He agreed with that crucial premise, but had much more to say. I respect Twing’s perspective as he has spent much of his career providing support for many large-scale, statewide assessment programs, some of which include end-of-course testing, college readiness components and consideration of school-to-work transitions.

He agrees that educational standards (both content standards and performance standards) and the assessments are created in different K-12 and postsecondary “orbits”. He listed ACT®, SAT®, and AP® assessments, the PACT and the PSAT, the PLAN®, Explore®, the SAT Subject Tests™, COMPASS™, and WorkKeys® -- all of which explicitly link what is done in one system (secondary school) with another (college).

Many students lack the skills required to be college-ready because their high school courses and exams are different from the expectations at college. For example, he agreed with my earlier comment that -- “for example, some colleges in California complain that secondary tests do not emphasize trigonometry enough.”

But Twing believes that high school educators are working on ways to improve students’ preparation for college. The stated goal of the American Diploma Project by Achieve and it’s sponsoring of the Algebra II End-of-Course Assessment is an example of explicit attempts to prepare students for the rigors of post-secondary study.

Yet, the high school educators with whom he speaks are often talking about what they can do to improve ACT® and SAT® scores, how they can get students college level credit via dual enrollment, CLEP® or AP®, and how they counsel students to take the rigorous courses they will need for college. There are many examples of such notions being supported in the literature, such as the ACT documents: “Crisis at the Core: Preparing all Students for College and Work” and “Courses Count: Preparing Students for Post-Secondary Success.

Yet, according to Twing, all of this tells us that the rigor of the courses taken in high school is insufficient to prepare students for success in college. The expansion of end-of-course testing seen in several states might well be an attempt by secondary systems to compensate.

I’ll continue with my perspective on Twing’s critique of my prior entry in a subsequent entry.

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