Education Week - August 29, 2012 - (Page 7)
AUGUST 29, 2012
Most Students Still Not College-Ready, ACT Report Finds
By Caralee Adams
Student performance on the act essentially held steady this year, with slight improvement shown in the math and science parts of the college-entrance exam. Still, 60 percent of the class of 2012 that took the test failed to meet benchmarks in two of the four subjects tested, putting them in jeopardy of failing in their pursuit of a college degree and careers. “The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2012,” released last week by the Iowa City, Iowabased act Inc., includes performance information from students in the spring graduating class who took the act as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. This year, 1.67 million seniors, or 52 percent of the U.S. graduating class, took the exam. “I was hoping with the focus [in the education community] on career and college readiness, we’d start to see a more dramatic improvement. We are still early in that,” said act President Jon Erickson. A greater focus on career and college standards and more attention to teacher professional development are encouraging signs, he added, but the output from a graduating class is not apparent yet. The average composite score was 21.1—the same as it has been for the past five years. A perfect score is 36. Act Inc. has set “college-readiness benchmarks” in the four subjects it tests: English/language arts, reading, mathematics, and science. That is the measure needed to predict a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course. In this year’s report, 25 percent of all tested high school graduates met the mark in all four subjects—the same percentage as last year. Fifteen percent of the test-takers met one subject benchmark, 17 percent met two, and 15 percent met three. Twenty-eight percent failed to meet the minimum standard in any area.
Large proportions of seniors who took the ACT this past school year were unprepared for college, according to the testing organization.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Tested National 1,421,941 1,480,469 1,568,835 1,623,112 1,666,017 English National 68% 67 66 66 67
PERCENT MEETING BENCHMARKS Mathematics National 43% 42 43 45 46 Reading National 53% 53 52 52 52 Science National 28% 28 29 30 31 Meeting All Four National 22% 23 24 25 25
SOURCE: ACT Inc.
Emphasis on stem —science, technology, engineering, and math—curriculum has helped bump performance on the math and science sections of the test, according to Mr. Erickson. In 2008, 43 percent of students met the math benchmark; by 2012, it was 46 percent. Science scores rose from 28 percent meeting the standard in 2008 to 31 percent in the most recent report.
“Typically, math is the first thing to get closely aligned with a new standard,” Mr. Erickson said. As in previous years, an achievement gap was evident among students by race and ethnicity. Asian-American graduates had the highest scores, with 42 percent meeting all four benchmarks. Thirty-two percent of white students hit all the benchmarks, while 17 percent of Pacific Islander, 13 percent of Hispanic, 11 percent of American Indian, and 5 percent of African-American students did. That breakdown is virtually the same as last year’s. Christina Theokas, the director of research for the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group based in Washington, is encouraged that more students, especially Hispanic students, took the act, but the wide racial and ethnic gap in performance is a concern. “We really have to do better for African-American and Latino students,” she said. To remedy the situation, students need to be better prepared through the pipeline leading into
high school, and once they’re in advanced courses, educators need to ensure that those students are getting a rigorous experience, she said. The act research finds that students who take a more challenging courseload are more likely to graduate from high school and perform better on the college-entrance exam. For instance, only 8 percent of students who took fewer than three years of math were considered “college ready,” while 54 percent of students who took three years or more of math were college-ready.
Michael W. Kirst, a professor emeritus at Stanford University’s education school and the president of the California board of education, said the new act report can be misinterpreted and imply that American educational attainment is not progressing. “It’s very hard to move these numbers one way or the other, given the huge numbers [of students] that take it,” he said. With a growing number of states mandating that all juniors take the
exam, Mr. Kirst said he wonders about the impact on scores. “You don’t know how hard students are trying in states where all kids are forced to take it,” he said. The act’s Mr. Erickson acknowledged that the rising numbers of test-takers can have an effect, but at the same time, he said, required statewide testing (nine states in this graduating class) is revealing the academic potential of students who might not have considered themselves college-bound. Mr. Kirst suggested that a better measure of college readiness might be end-of-course exams in high school or exams geared toward individual colleges’ standards. He also questioned what the act’s role will be when assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, now adopted in 46 states, go into effect. The College Board, which sponsors the rival college-entrance exam, the sat, will release its annual report in the fall. The act report includes a breakdown of performance of students by state.
Study: Vouchers Linked to College-Going for Black Students
By Jaclyn Zubrzycki
Receiving a voucher to attend a private school in New York City did not increase the likelihood of attending college for most students, but did lead to higher college-going rates for black students, a study of participants in a privately funded scholarship program concludes. Forty-two percent of the 1,363 students who received vouchers through the New York School Choice Scholarship Fund, and 42 percent of those who applied for but did not receive the tuition aid, had enrolled in college within three years of their expected high school graduation date, according to the study, which was presented last week at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. It was co-written by Paul E. Peterson, a professor of government and the director of Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, and Matthew M. Chingos, a fellow at Brookings’ Brown Center on Education Policy. But African-American students who used the vouchers to attend private schools were 8.7 percentage points, or 24 percent, more likely to attend college, and were twice as likely to attend a selective private university as their peers who were not winners in the voucher lottery. “This is consistent with evidence from other voucher programs ... and shows that vouchers are an effective intervention,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington think tank that favors parentalchoice-based schooling options. But vouchers are a highly politicized topic, and some researchers and advocates disputed how much could be extrapolated from the results. “While it provides some information, it really lacks the depth to generalize to a bigger population,” said Jim A. Hull, a policy analyst with the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, which opposes school vouchers. “The rhetoric doesn’t necessarily match the findings.” There is no longer such a voucher program in New York City, but five states offer lowincome students vouchers to help defray tuition costs at private schools, and several others offer similar programs for students with special needs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The vouchers were distributed to students by lottery, allowing researchers to compare students from families that were similarly motivated for their children to succeed in school. The researchers used college-enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse to track participants’ educational attainment after high school. The rate of college enrollment of Hispanic students was unaffected by whether or not those students had received a voucher—45 percent attended college either way. On the other hand, AfricanAmerican students were more likely than peers who had failed to win a voucher to enroll in college (42 percent compared with 36 percent) and twice as likely to enroll in a selective private university (7 percent versus 3 percent). The authors speculate that Hispanic families may have been more likely to be interested in vouchers for religious reasons in addition to dissatisfaction with their current schooling options. The black parents were less likely than those of Hispanic students to be Catholic, and indicated less satisfaction with their other schooling options. “Choice makes a bigger difference when students’ options without additional choices look bleak,” said Jay P. Greene, who chairs the education reform department at the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Christopher Lubienski, an associate professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted that the impact of actually using a voucher was not much greater than the effect of being offered one. The study shows that being offered a voucher increased the college-enrollment rate by 7.1 percentage points—just 1.6 points shy of the 8.7-percentage-point gain from actually using the voucher to attend private school. While the authors touted the results for black students as evidence of a positive impact on the “most disadvantaged,” Mr. Greene said it is unclear whether the most disadvantaged students were represented. Since the scholarships did not cover full tuition at most schools, which averaged $1,728 in New York City Catholic schools at the time, parents who could not pay at all may not have applied. Voucher programs seem to have a stronger impact on students’ educational attainment than on their performance on standardized tests, said the Fordham Institute’s Mr. Petrilli. “What you really care about is how kids do in the real world,” he said, adding that Catholic schools may be more effective at teaching students certain character traits, like grit, that lead to future success. Mr. Chingos said his research team would likely look at whether the same set of students actually graduated from college later.
Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence From New York City.”
Effects for Some
The study tracks 2,642 New York City students entering elementary school in 1997 who applied for vouchers from the scholarship fund. The nyscsf provided tuition aid of up to $1,400 for low-income students to attend any participating private school, most of which were Roman Catholic. Approximately half the students received scholarships, and 78 percent of the scholarship winners used them to attend private school for at least one year.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 29, 2012
Education Week - August 29, 2012
FOCUS ON: AGE: Districts Adjust To Growth in Older Population
Catholic Ed., K-12 Charters Squaring Off
Advocacy Tactics Found To Differ by Families’ Class
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Educator Cadres Formed to Support Common Tests
Ala. Blocked From Asking About Students’ Citizenship Status
Most Students Still Not College-Ready, ACT Report Finds
Study: Vouchers Linked to College-Going For Black Students
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION
NSF Awards Grants for Climate-Change Education
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. Gears Up to Manage NCLB Waiver Oversight
Poll Hints Tight Presidential Race on K-12
PETER GOW: Let the Dialogue Begin: It’s Time for Independent Schools to Start Sharing What They Know
PATRICK J. MURPHY & ELLIOT M. REGENSTEIN: Trimming the Cost Of Common-Core Implementation
MALCOLM GAULD: Sowing Parents’ Role In Character Development
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
MIKE SCHMOKER: The Next Education Fad: Complex Teacher Evaluations That Don’t Work
Education Week - August 29, 2012