In the News: The Fog of “College Readiness”

In an essay in National Affairs, Chester E. Finn, Jr. laments the fact that everyone in K-12 education embraces high standards in principle but nobody actually wants to hold students to those standards. As a result, he says

ednext-jan2017-blog-ototn-college-readiness-fogOur K-12 education system has a transparency problem, and our higher-education system is complicit. While some American parents have a decent sense of whether their children are on track for the kinds of colleges they hope to attend, many more have been kept in the dark — or have been sorely misled. Most parents think their children are on track to be prepared for college after their 12th-grade year, and most students agree. But the truth is, a shockingly large share of graduating high-school seniors are not prepared to go to college — more than half, by some estimates. Given that the vast majority of high-school students plan to eventually pursue some kind of post-secondary degree, this means millions of kids are being set up for failure.

The source of this gap between belief and reality is the K-12 education system. Our schools create a fog when it comes to academic preparation for college success. Concerned more with inclusiveness, validation, and graduation than with college preparedness, administrators encourage teachers to, for instance, consider pupil effort in their grading, and push students to take advanced courses for which they have the ambition but not the readiness. Those in charge have their reasons, which mostly turn out to safeguard the interests of adults and their institutions, even as they wreak havoc with the next generation. None of this is acknowledged, however, save by a handful of would-be illuminators, for the education system has generally persuaded itself that this fog is better for kids than clarity would be.

In an article for Education Next, Mike Petrilli wrote about why there is still so much confusion among parents and students about whether kids are prepared for college. Weren’t the new Common Core-aligned tests supposed to provide more accurate information about college readiness?

Mike writes

As promising as these new score reports and web sites are, however, they are still just works in progress. They all have a tendency to soft-pedal the bad news to parents.

– Education Next

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