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.

Is There a Silver Bullet (Test) for Assessing College Readiness?

Can any test of high school students predict college success and indicate adequate college preparation?
Probably not -- if the only data used for prediction is a single test like ACT or SAT.

There are inherent problems with any single test as reported by the National Research Council’s Lessons Learned About Testing. Below are some relevant direct quotes from the NRC report:

There is measurement error related to the fact that the questions on a test are only a sample of all the knowledge and skills in the subject being tested – there will always be students who would have scored higher if a particular test version had included a different sample of questions that happened to hit on topics those tested students knew well.

Other examples of factors that contribute to measurement error are students’ lucky guesses, physical condition, state of mind, motivation, and distractions during testing, as well as scoring errors.

Therefore, a test score is not a perfect reflection of student achievement or learning.

Another common problem is the tendency to use what are single, inexact measures to make very important decisions about individuals. Testing professionals advise that when making high-stakes decisions it is important to use multiple indicators of a person’s competency, which enhances the overall validity (or defensibility) of the decisions based on the measurements. It also affords the test-taker different modes of demonstrating performance.

High Stakes (1999) concludes that tests should be used for important decisions about individual students only after implementing changes in teaching and curriculum that ensure that students have been taught the material on which they will be tested.

A major rebuttal to Professor Ericksson’s contention that tests are the best predictor of college success is provided by

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