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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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 Part Deux. Assessment Expert Speaks Out.

Jon S. Twing of Pearson Educational Measurement recently critiqued a prior Blog entry. Twing acknowledged that my January entry ("Alignment Needed to Enhance College Completion") caused 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.

This is the 2nd entry (the 1st entry was "Boomerang ..." dated June 23rd) in which I share Twing’s perspective.

Twing took issue with the state policy possibilities which I mentioned that may help resolve the problem. He argued that I ignored the cause of the problem, namely that policymakers have not defined what is to be accomplished by all of the testing.

Twing argues that policymakers are trying to accomplish the notion of a linked academic system, an intrinsically rational system. An intrinsically rational academic system would be required to survive the scrutiny of a rational human asking if such a linked system was valid. For example, if Algebra II skills are required for success in post-secondary efforts, an intrinsically rational system would suggest secondary school systems would prepare students by teaching them the same Algebra II enabling skills post-secondary requires. Similarly, such an intrinsically rational system would require the primary school system teach the content standards required as pre-requisites by the secondary school system such that students coming to high school would be ready to learn the information they needed to be successful when they got to college. As a result, college readiness would be elevated for many more students.

Twing acknowledged that “several obstacles appear to stand in the way of achieving an intrinsically rational ‘all encompassing’ system”. The lack of a linked system is not simply the lack of the secondary system understanding or preparing students for college success.

First, the post-secondary system may have difficulty agreeing on a single set of educational standards. Twing believes that the independence of college faculty and others in the post-secondary arena might preclude a single set of well articulated standards from being developed. He doubts that universities are inclined to prescribe curriculum for not only introductory courses but also subsequent courses that build on the skills acquired in these beginning courses. Just how likely are universities going to be in persuading all faculties who teach, say, introductory sciences courses, to ensure they cover the same big ideas, let alone the same scope and sequence? Compared to, arguably the sometimes flawed but nonetheless vertically articulated, statewide curriculum the post-secondary corpus of content seems disjointed.

I'll continue sharing Twing's perspective on my prior critique in my next entry.

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