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.

Testing and Academic Fitness for College Success

Madison, Wisconsin
>Academic Fitness
>Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review
>The NACAC Testing Commission has just released
>its report on the benefits of, and problems
>with, current standardized admission tests. The
>Commission says that "a 'one-size-fits-all'
>approach for the use of standardized tests in
>undergraduate admission does not reflect the
>realities facing our nation's many and varied colleges and universities."
>It might be pointed out, by an outside observer,
>that standardized tests not only do not reflect
>the realities of acceptance for high school
>students receiving athletic scholarships, but
>such tests have nothing whatever to do with
>whether high school athletes are recruited or
>not and nothing to do with whether they receive
>college athletic scholarships or not.
>Athletic scholarships are based on athletic
>performance in particular athletic activities,
>not on tests of the athletic or physical fitness
>of high school athletes. The cost of failure for
>college coaches is too high for them to think of
>relying on any standardized test of sports
>knowledge or of anything else in their efforts
>to recruit the best high school athletes they can.
>The NACAC Testing Commission also says that
>standardized tests may not do a good enough job
>of telling whether applicants to college are
>academically fit. They recommend the development
>and use of good subject matter tests which are
>"more closely linked to the high school curriculum" than the SAT and ACT exams.
>This suggestion begins to approach the rigor of
>assessment in the recruiting and selection of
>high school athletes, but there are still
>important differences. The high school athletic
>curriculum includes such subjects as football,
>basketball, soccer, baseball, etc., but college
>coaches do not rely on tests of athletes'
>knowledge of these sports as determined by
>sport-specific tests. They need to know a lot
>about the actual performance of candidates in
>those sports in which they have competed.
>The parallel is not perfect, because of course
>students who can demonstrate knowledge of
>history, biology, literature, math, chemistry,
>and so on, are clearly more likely to manage the
>demands of college history, biology, literature,
>math and chemistry courses when they get there,
>while athletes who know a lot about their sport may still perform poorly in it.
>But college academic work does not just consist
>of taking courses and passing tests. In math
>there are problem sets. In biology, chemistry,
>etc., there is lab work to do. And in history
>courses there are history books to read and
>research papers to write. Such performance tasks
>are not yet part of the recommended tests for college admission.
>It is now possible, for example, for a student
>who can do well on a subject matter test in
>history to graduate from high school without
>ever having read a complete history book or
>written a real history research paper in high
>school. That student may indeed do well in
>history courses in college, but it seems likely
>that they will have a steep learning curve in
>their mastery of the reading lists and paper
>requirements they will face in those courses.
>New standard college admissions tests in
>specific academic subjects will no doubt bring
>more emphasis on academic knowledge for the high
>school students who are preparing for them, but
>a standard independent assessment of their
>research papers would surely make it more likely
>that they would not plan to enter college
>without ever having done one in high school.
>The reading of complete nonfiction books is
>still an unknown for college admissions
>officers. Interviewers may ask what books
>students have read, but there is no actual
>standard expectation for the content, difficulty
>and number of nonfiction books high school
>students are expected to have read before college.
>The increased emphasis on subject matter tests
>is surely a good step closer to the seriousness
>routinely seen in the assessments for college
>athletic scholarships, but it seems to me that
>some regular examination of the reading of
>nonfiction books and an external assessment of
>at least one serious research paper by high
>school students would help in their preparation
>for college, as well as in the assessment of
>their actual demonstrated academic fitness
>which, as the Commission points out, is not now
>provided by the SAT and ACT tests.
>"Teach by Example"
>Will Fitzhugh [founder]
>Consortium for Varsity AcademicsĀ® [2007]
>The Concord Review [1987]
>Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
>National Writing Board [1998]
>TCR Institute [2002]
>730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
>Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
>978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
>Varsity AcademicsĀ®

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