Tuesday, July 09, 2013

NCEE: "College and Career Readiness" is a Mess

OK, the NCEE wouldn't put it so bluntly, but this is a conceptual mess.

Kenneth Terrell has a good summary:

While the researchers found that “the reading and writing currently required of students in initial credit-bearing courses in community colleges is not very complex or cognitively demanding,” the report’s math findings are even more striking. The report also states that middle school math—“arithmetic, ratio, proportion, expressions and simple equations”—were more central to the community college math courses than the Algebra II most high schools emphasize in college readiness programs. “What really is needed in our community colleges—and really for the majority of Americans in the work that they do—is middle school math,” Tucker said.

It’s a discovery that raises many questions. Should community colleges raise their admission standards? Tucker said that’s not the way to go , given that “many students “can’t meet the current standards.” Plus, as the NCEE research suggests, only a minority of students will ever need to use advanced math skills in college or the workplace, comparing today’s college-prep math requirement to previous generations’ being forced to learn Latin.

Similarly, the report found placement tests two-year colleges use to determine whether students should be in developmental education or credit-bearing courses also mismatch standards with the skills actually needed.

“It looks like we’re denying high school graduates the opportunity to take credit bearing courses because they can’t master math that they don’t need, and that seems very unfair,” Tucker said.

One of the foundations of my dislike of the Common Core ELA standards is that when I got to Providence we were just adopting the NCEE "New Standards," which were a much more reasonable balance of academic, personal and practical reading and writing. You could argue that the New Standards had even less of an emphasis on literature than the Common Core, they just didn't do it in such a strange, off-putting, pseudo-quantified way.

Anyhow, the idea that "college and career readiness" is some kind of stable benchmark concept is ridiculous. It is another abstract political construct subjected to manipulation, like all the others. Why should anybody trust the opinions or motives of community college teachers or administrators more or less than anybody else? The fundamental concept we seem to be working under is that the people closest to kids are least likely to understand their real needs and abilities. This is the opposite of real situation.

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