California educator Esther Wojcicki shares how putting student’s in charge of their learning, helped her build one of the largest high school journalism programs in the country.
February 19, 2013
January 29, 2013
There’s an interesting development occurring in the push to prepare high school graduates for college— and it doesn’t bode well, despite the very best intentions.
I read with a great deal of interest that a handful of Washington state lawmakers are eager to expand a pilot program that automatically identifies high-achieving middle and high school students and enrolls them in advanced courses.
Federal Way Public Schools launched its Academic Acceleration Program in the fall of 2010 and has experienced overwhelmingly positive results. Since its inception, the number of juniors and seniors who have enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge Program class has increased by 72 percent, with the number of minority students taking advanced courses rising by 76 percent. What’s more, less than three percent of students who were tapped for this program opted out, while 94 percent of those who stayed in the advanced course received a C or better in their first semester.
This all sounds well and good, so, what’s the problem, you ask? Well, the potential problem lies in how colleges and universities will treat these accelerated learning credits.
A few weeks ago, Dartmouth University announced that beginning with the class of 2018, it would no longer be providing college credit for AP courses, declaring that the classes just weren’t up to the university’s high standards.
Just how rigorous advanced courses are — and how rigorous high schools are, for that matter— is a subject the Center for Public Education explored last year in its report, Is High School Tough Enough? The study found that AP courses do seem to have a benefit for those students who take them, while the impact of IB is too small to measure reliably. Ultimately, the study determined more research is needed in this arena, particularly since accelerated learning programs have become a widely popular strategy to boost the college-going rate, as it can reduce the cost of post-secondary education, a major obstacle for many students.
Yet, it would seem all for naught, if just as many colleges began refusing to accept the Advanced Placement scores, whether out of legitimate concern that is not an adequate substitute for a real college curriculum … or, more nefariously, out of concern for their own bottomline.
January 25, 2013
Earlier this week Allison— CPE’s latest and greatest intern— wrote about our rising national high school graduates rates. She made an excellent point that just because more students are receiving high school diplomas doesn’t mean more students are leaving high school more prepared for life unless the diploma represents that student is ready for the rigors of college— be it a two- or four-year college— or the highly competitive labor market.
Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure whether more of our students are graduating from high school ready for college or a career. The good news is if the Common Core standards live up to expectations than we can be relatively certain that those students who earn a high school diploma are indeed ready for college or the workforce since the Common Core standards were designed specifically to keep students on track to be college and career ready after graduation which is not the case for most state standards as currently implemented. So if the current trend in rising graduation rates continue well after the Common Core standards have been implemented there will be little doubt the more students are graduating high school not only with a piece of paper but with the knowledge and skills they need to either succeed in college or the workplace. That would definitely be something worth celebrating. – Jim Hull
January 23, 2013
Yesterday the Washington Post reported that the Class of 2010 had more on-time high school graduates than any high school class in almost 40 years. For those of us who’ve followed an unending stream of dire news about America’s public schools, yesterday’s headlines were a welcome change.
The data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, and in the report there are a whole host of things to feel great about such as: 1) 78% of students in the Class of 2010 earned a diploma within four years of starting high school, 2) the percentage of Hispanic students graduating on-time increased 10 percentage points in a mere five years, and 3) graduation rates improved for every race and ethnicity in 2010.
However, while we as a nation should certainly take pride in the fact that the year 2010 ushered in a greater percentage of graduates, such celebration shouldn’t eclipse the reality that increasing the number of diplomas without knowing the level of rigor those diplomas represent could be a fool’s errand.
In my seven years teaching high school students, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of schools. When I moved from teaching in a low-income school to teaching in an affluent private school, I was blown away by the different levels of rigor in the curriculum of each. Curriculum that might have been part of a twelfth grade honors class in my previous school was the level of rigor expected in an on-level ninth grade course. Ninth grade courses in my previous school read a few novels, many with reading levels below ninth grade, and focused almost exclusively on writing formulaic paragraphs. In contrast, the freshmen private school students read a plethora of novels, short stories, and essays and composed fully developed, non-formulaic writing in all genres.
The rich, challenging curriculum at this private school mirrors the curriculums of many of this nation’s public schools, and certainly the public school I attended, but it isn’t a reality for every public school student. While there are certainly deeper questions about the correlations between income level and achievement in our schools that cannot be ignored when we compare curriculums from schools with students from different socio-economic backgrounds, this doesn’t mean we can simply ignore the reality that the level of rigor in schools nationwide is uneven. These differences can and do play themselves out when students leave high school to move on to college, with many unprepared students unable to complete college-level work. As CPE found in our Setting up Students to Succeed report, in 2009 only 57.8 percent of students enrolled in a four-year college graduated in less than six years, and only 32.9 percent of students in two-year institutions graduated in three years.
More students are graduating with a diploma, and that’s a good thing. But the question remains what those diplomas represent. If more students are graduating, but graduating from schools with watered down curriculums that require little critical thinking, writing, and reading, is there really much to celebrate? On the other hand, there would be much to celebrate if more students graduated high school after completing a rigorous curriculum that prepared them not only to get into college but also for success in life. – Allison Gulamhussein
January 4, 2013
Fareed Zakaria is calling for a “growth” agenda for the nation’s economic health, one that recognizes the importance of developing our human capital. Writing in this morning’s Washington Post, Zakaria acknowledges the urgency — and difficulty — of getting our fiscal house in order, yet argues that our “deeper challenge” may well be finding the collective will to invest in our infrastructure.
Zakaria is singing our song, especially when he highlights our need to invest in education. And indeed, to make the point he quotes from Jim Hull’s recent analysis on international college completions. As Jim points out, our young adults are being surpassed by their peers in other countries in college attainment, but a focus on two-year degrees will go a long way toward improving our standing and give a real boost to the economy.
You can learn more about the role for high schools in improving post-secondary completions by checking out CPE’s high school toolkit.–Patte Barth
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