Education Week - October 31, 2012 - (Page 7)

EDUCATION WEEK n OCTOBER 31, 2012 n 7 College Board Head to Make Underserved a Priority every seven Asian students, by contrast, score in the top 5 percent. Miami The sat has been criticized for The new president of the College being a proxy of socioeconomic staBoard launched his tenure last tus and wielding disproportionate week with a call to use the orga- weight in college admissions decinization’s clout to help historically sions. But in recent years, more colunderserved students reach their leges have begun to consider it oppotential and find ways for all stu- tional, and evaluate applicants on a dents to immerse themselves in aca- range of other factors. demic “work worth doing.” Mr. Coleman cited a new College David Coleman’s Oct. 24 keynote Board study of “undermatching,” in speech at the organization’s annual which many students—especially conference here laid out a social-jus- those from low-income families— tice agenda that focuses on closing choose less-selective colleges than the race- and income-based score they are qualified for. Since complegaps that dog the sat and Advanced tion rates tend to be better at morePlacement exams and on helping selective colleges, undermatching disadvantaged students get access puts students at risk of not finishto challenging academic work and ing college. find their way to college. He pointed to data showing Under the 13-year tenure that low-income stuof Mr. Coleman’s predecesdents who do well on the psat—and thus show “ap sor, Gaston Caperton, the potential”—often don’t New York City-based nonprofit organization built its take those college-level business muscle and pushed courses. Other research the reach of its signature shows that many stuprograms to a more diverse dents with good sat scores array of students. don’t enroll in college. But even as those pro- DAVID The remedy for the underachievement dynamics grams have encouraged COLEMAN isn’t yet clear, Mr. Coleman more students to try new envisions challenges, scores have flat- rigorous said, but they are top priortened as the test pool has coursework ity on his watch. One way he hopes to grown to include less-elite for all students, often with weaker students. drive change is by sparkacademic preparation. Trouing more inquiry into the bling gaps in access to the ap dynamics behind the probprogram remain. lems. The College Board does its Mr. Coleman, who took over as own research, but it is on the brink president on Oct. 15, said he wants of being able to provide its troves of the College Board to consider all data to researchers more easily and students who take its courses and free of charge, he said. tests to be “within our care” and find ways to provide supports that help ‘Work Worth Doing’ even the least-well-prepared take on challenges and do well. He called on everyone in the “While some excuse that decline broad College Board network who [in sat scores] on the basis that interacts with students—ap teachmore diverse students are taking ers, guidance counselors, financialthe test, I believe we cannot take aid personnel, college-admissions comfort in that explanation,” said officers—to play a part in “connectMr. Coleman, who is known nation- ing students with opportunities.” He ally as one of the chief architects of floated the idea of using ap “alumni” the Common Core State Standards as peer counselors who reach back in English/language arts, which all to current students to urge them to but four states have adopted. take on the challenge. “If we are to be internationally Mr. Coleman proposed that the competitive and achieve the values guiding idea behind all the work of of this country, we must improve the College Board—and the 6,000 performance and diversity.” colleges, college systems, schools, and districts that are its members—should be connecting stuUnderrepresentation dents with “rigorous work worth Mr. Coleman quantified his frus- doing.” The phrase appeared 19 tration by listing data points that times in his hourlong address. show the stubborn gaps and probHis vision for such work is that lems. Eighth grade reading scores it focuses deeply on “what matters on the National Assessment of Edu- most” and encompasses all discicational Progress have been essen- plines, not just math and English/ tially flat for four decades, he noted. language arts. It makes students Sat scores, especially in reading, are truly ready for good jobs and higher declining, and minority students education. And it is for all students, are underrepresented among the he said, sparking applause from the highest scoring. audience of about 2,000. Mr. Coleman did not further deIn 1994, one of every 150 AfricanAmerican students who took the fine “work worth doing,” but his resat scored in the top 5 percent, a marks suggested that it reflects the number that has only worsened in priorities of the common standards. 2012, to one out of every 189, he Those guidelines emphasize deep said. Latinos fare only marginally focus on a few key ideas in math, better: In 1994, one of every 65 La- and have sparked debate for not tino students who took the college- requiring all students to reach key entrance exam scored in the top 5 milestones, such as completing Alpercent. Today, it’s one of every 87. gebra 1 by 8th grade. The language One in every 18 white and one in arts standards emphasize reading By Catherine Gewertz more informational text and drawing on evidence in text to build argument, sparking fears in some quarters that the reading and writing of fiction could diminish in classrooms. The College Board’s role in contributing to “work worth doing” is multipronged, according to its new president. It can work to ensure broad access to rigorous coursework like ap and think about how similar challenges—at scale—can be brought to earlier grades. He wants the organization to figure out new ways to offer support to students as they undertake those challenges. Maybe, he suggested, retiring ap teachers can harness technology to serve as tutors for low-income students. Assessing Writing The College Board must also “realign” its own assessments to reflect the goal of work worth doing by making exams worthy learning activities unto themselves, Mr. Coleman said. “The College Board must take responsibility for the practice that our assessment inspires,” he said. One way to do that, he said, would be to rework the writing portion of the sat so that students are graded not only on their writing skills, but on the accuracy of the evidence and examples they are asked to provide as part of that writing. That would reflect a value on analysis, precision, and accuracy, which matter in college and work, he said. Another way to do that would be to emphasize academic vocabulary commonly found in complex texts, rather than endless lists of words most students “will never see again.” Those remarks echoed the goal Mr. Coleman stated in an Education Week interview in May, when he first accepted the College Board job: aligning the sat to reflect the common standards. (See Education Week, May 16, 2012.) Bolstering the goal of work worth doing involves not only coursework, student supports, and assessment, but also the college-admissions process, Mr. Coleman said. Even the work students do to gain admittance should be pursuits that reflect what we most want them to know, he said. Typically, students write a personal essay as part of their admissions package, and such narratives or opinions have come to dominate the high school writing-assignment landscape as well, Mr. Coleman said. But what is most valuable in college and work, he said, is writing that puts forth arguments backed up by evidence and details. Perhaps the College Board, he suggested, could work with its higher education members to see that an analytic essay accompanies college applications alongside the personal narrative, to show off students’ skill in using evidence to build argument. “That would be work worth doing, and practicing,” he said. Supporting work worth doing also involves finding new ways to support students as they complete college, Mr. Coleman said. Risk of Redundancy? After the speech, College Board members had a range of reactions to Mr. Coleman’s ideas. Jonathan Wehner, the director of recruitment at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, said aspects of the speech were “pretty radical,” but he welcomed the new president’s general direction. Audrey Y. Smith, the associate vice president for enrollment at Smith College, in Northhampton, Mass., said she viewed Mr. Coleman’s remarks as a welcome return to the organization’s core mission after years of businessbuilding. “We’re about realizing the academic potential of all students,” she said. The challenge of realizing his vision, however, tempered optimism in some quarters. One teacher, who declined to give her name because she didn’t want to be seen as unsupportive of the new president’s goals, said she spends her days trying to help ap students who enter her class with weak skills. “It’s just so hard to fix parts of a system that aren’t under your control,” she said. “Every day I wish I could wave a wand and have every one of them come in ready for ap. But that isn’t reality.” Michael Nagle Great begins with change great The education I experienced at Peabody prepared me to ideas. understand and confront the challenges in the health care industry. I now have the skills and connections to deliver value to my organization and the patients I serve. Ashley Mace Krueger, B.S. human & organizational development (health and human services) Explore Our Difference

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 31, 2012

Education Week - October 31, 2012
‘i3’ Grantees Face Hurdles on Aid Match
Teacher-Leader Degree Designed as a Vehicle For Career Fulfillment
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Caution Urged on ‘Value Added’ Reviews
College Board Head to Make Underserved a Priority
Miami-Dade Wins $550,00 Broad Prize For Urban Education
E-School Conference Highlights Blended Ed.
Pa. Moves to Ease Penalties for Minors Who Engage in ‘Sexting’
Education Issues Suffuse Ballots
New Orleans Board Race a Magnet For Outsiders’ Cash
Blogs of the Week
Graduation Rates Latest Waiver Flash Point
Practical Hurdles at Play in Pennsylvania Charter-Law Revamp
Policy Brief
Rethinking Principal Evaluation
Teacher Observation: Tech or No Tech?
About the Necktie
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Redefining the Federal Role In Education: Advice for the Winner of Next Week’s Election

Education Week - October 31, 2012