Education Week - April 13, 2016 - (Page 8)
High School Coursework Seen Falling Short
Report finds few graduates
ready for college, careers
By Catherine Gewertz
Courses as Key Barriers
More than half the students who don't
complete a college-ready course sequence-
57 percent-are short two or more requirements,
while the other 43 percent are missing just one
requirement, the study found. Science was the
subject that tripped up most of the students who
were missing two or more courses. Fully 81 percent of those students didn't take enough science
credits, or the right science classes, to meet the
three-course expectation of many colleges.
Among the students falling short of a college-ready sequence by only one class, math
and foreign language were the most frequent
stumbling blocks. Algebra 2, in particular, was
a big one: One-third of the students didn't take
it. The students who missed that mark most
often were the ones who didn't take Algebra 1
in 8th grade, a key door-opener for higher math
A variety of policies and practices have the
potential to remedy the coursetaking patterns that are not serving students well, the
EdTrust researchers write. At the state level,
policymakers can make sure high school
graduation requirements reflect the expectations of state colleges and universities. They
can also work to articulate the requirements
students need to enter various postsecondary
At the K-12 school and district levels, administrators can analyze transcripts, course schedules, and credit policies to identify courses that
students often fail and to see which groups of
students have the most trouble accessing the
powerful combination of both college-ready
and career-ready course sequences.
Districts can also take steps to require
course sequences that reflect their state's
higher education expectations, even if
they're more rigorous than their state's
And schools can focus more intently
on postsecondary planning, instead of
helping students accrue only the credits
needed for a diploma. Schools also can
ensure that counselors and teachers are
aware of their state college and university
systems' admissions requirements.
David Hawkins, the executive director for
educational content and policy at the National
Association for College Admission Counseling, commended EdTrust for highlighting "an
important symptom of trouble" in secondary
schools. But he added that addressing it requires reversing a long pattern of underfunding for the training and support of counselors.
Nearly half of 2013 high school
graduates took a curriculum
that did not reflect collegeor career-ready expections.
SOURCE: The Education Trust
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which tracks news
and trends on this issue. www.edweek.org/blogs
Grant Program Aims
To Recast Testing
| MARKETPLACE K-12 | A new project that seeks to
"fundamentally rethink" the role that assessments play
in student learning has issued 12 grants to schools,
districts, and other awardees to help them fashion
makeovers of testing systems.
The awards from the Assessment for Learning Project are
collectively worth $2 million, with each grantee receiving
between $50,000 and $225,000.
The project is focused on reimagining assessment in a
number of ways. A core goal is to boost student control
or "agency" over testing, moving away from assessment
that's passive or something that is simply "being done to
students," said Sarah Lench, the director of the project.
Other areas of exploration include strengthening
the uses and design of formative and performancebased assessment and developing the use of "learning
progressions," basically academic frameworks based
on an understanding of how students learn and
the knowledge they bring with them to school. The
project also will support trials of culturally responsive
assessments and the cultivation of "competency based"
tests in science and engineering.
Grantees include the Henry County, Ga., school system,
which will try to incorporate feedback from teachers
and students into assessment; WestEd, which is piloting
personalized, video-enabled professional learning for
educators; and Del Lago Academy, a California school that
is creating a competency-based assessment system for
The project comes into focus as standardized tests are
taking a beating from many policymakers and parents
wary of what they see as overtesting and exams that
promote rote learning.
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 13, 2016 | www.edweek.org
It is being supported by the William & Flora Hewlett
Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
(both of which have financially backed Education Week
Tough Tasks Lie Ahead
For New Federal Panel
| INSIDE SCHOOL RESEARCH | President Barack Obama has
signed a bipartisan bill creating a 15-member commission
to figure out how to coordinate and use federal data without
risking personal-information privacy.
The commission could help to give broader and more
permanent approval to the White House's push to use
more tiered-evidence systems-like those to be used
under the new Every Student Succeeds Act-to evaluate
federal programs. It could also provide a context to
hash out long-standing arguments over protecting data
privacy that have complicated moves to update the
40-year-old Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
What exactly will the commission do, and what does it
mean for education?
Foremost, it will take a massive inventory of data as well
as tax-spending information from all federal programs.
The group must come up with ways to integrate rigorous
evaluations of effectiveness-including randomized
controlled trials-into the design of federal programs. At
the same time, members must figure out what structures
and policies must be in place to protect personal data
during those evaluations.
Then the group will decide whether and how to create
a clearinghouse of federal data across agencies and
how the data could be released to public or private
All 15 commissioners will be expected to have
expertise in economics, statistics, program evaluation,
data security, confidentiality, or database management.
Obama will appoint three members. The speaker of the
House, the House minority leader, and the Senate majority
and minority leaders will each appoint another three
-SARAH D. SPARKS
Does More Playground Time
Equal Classroom Success?
| TIME AND LEARNING | Some schools in Texas are going
against the grain when it comes to recess. Instead of cutting
it out, as many districts do, to spend more time on core
subjects, they're adding recess periods.
Six elementary schools are taking part in LiiNK (Let's
Inspire Innovation 'N Kids), a research study on the effects
of students' having multiple recess periods a day.
Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth
implemented the program this academic year for
kindergartners and 1st graders, who get four 15-minute
recess periods a day-far from the norm across the country.
"We are sitting our students in the seats way too many
hours of the day, so we're creating very sedentary kids," said
Debbie Rhea, a professor of kinesiology and the associate
dean for research and health sciences at Texas Christian
University, who runs the LiiNK Project.
Participating schools offer recess that is unstructured,
outdoors, and kid-centered.
"When they come back to the classroom, they're much
more focused, much more on point, and ready to take in
material," said Rhea. "They do better on tests. They do
better on everything when they have that."
Principal Bryan McLain said office referrals at Eagle
Mountain are down, and instructional time is up. "The time
that might have been focused on redirecting students or
reteaching because of misbehavior now we don't have to do
... because the kids are more focused."
Percent of Graduates
Only 8 percent of high school graduates complete a curriculum that prepares them well for
college and the workplace. Even fewer complete those course sequences with grades that
would suggest they mastered the content.
Those are the conclusions of a study published last week by the Education Trust, which
advocates for policies that help low-income students. It raises questions about how well adults
in schools are guiding students along pathways
that provide strong preparation for college, job
training, or the workplace.
The study analyzes transcript data from the
federal High School Longitudinal Study of 2009,
which tracks 23,000 students from 9th grade
through graduation in 2013 and beyond. EdTrust
researchers looked at the courses students took,
and the grades they earned, to produce a rough
proxy of college- and career-readiness.
Concerned by the patterns they saw, the
EdTrust researchers concluded that students
were "meandering toward graduation" with a
focus on accumulating credits, rather than on
systematically building a strong base of knowledge and skills that will set them up well for life
"High schools are prioritizing credit accrual,
which treats graduation as the end goal," write
researchers Marni Bromberg and Christina
Theokas. "Instead of being prepared for college
and career, many of our students turn out to
have been prepared for neither."
Only 31 percent of students completed a college-ready curriculum, defined in the study as
four years of English; three years each of math,
science, and social studies; and two years of
foreign language. Thirteen percent completed
a "career ready" sequence, defined as three oneyear courses that focus on one career field, such
as health sciences. Eight percent completed
both sets of those requirements. Another 47
percent, however, completed neither, or "no cohesive curriculum."
The situation was worse for students from lowincome families. Fifty-three percent of students
in the lower 40 percent of family income complete "no cohesive curriculum," compared with
44 percent in the upper 40 percent of income.
Only 7 percent complete a curriculum sequence
that prepares them for both career and college,
compared with 10 percent of students who come
from the upper 40 percent income bracket.
Once students' grades are added to the mix,
the picture gets even bleaker. When Bromberg
and Theokas weeded out students who had completed a career-ready course of study, a collegeready one, or both, but earned less than a 2.5
grade point average in those classes, they concluded that an additional 14 percent of students
were not well prepared for life after high school.
COURSES OF STUDY
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 13, 2016
Education Week - April 13, 2016
N.Y. Flip-Flop Affects Policy In Key Areas
Students Help Shape Measures Of ‘Soft Skills’
Kasich’s K-12 Record
Can Latin Build Young Vocabularies?
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: FCC ‘Lifeline’ Effort Expanded to Bridge the Digital Divide
News in Brief
Study: Tracking Not an Issue For Career-Tech-Education
San Diego Strives to Close Gap In Access to Advanced Courses
High School Coursework Seen Falling Short
Blogs of the Week
Fee-Payer Issue Still Alive, Despite Close Call for Unions
As First Education Secretary, Shirley M. Hufstedler a Pacesetter
ESSA Negotiators Dig Into Regulatory Details
Shield From Deportation Threat To Get Day at High Court
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
JONATHAN LASH: Buildings, Blocks, and Experience
ZOE WEIL: You Are What You Teach
HAROLD O. LEVY: How Should Schools Purchase Technology for the Classroom?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PAUL KIHN: The District Is Dead. Long Live the District.
Education Week - April 13, 2016