Problem Statement and… (slide 2)In considering present day challenges to higher education, there is no getting around the following question. Are American students adequately prepared to complete high school, perform in college-level classes and graduate? Information on college readiness indicates that the “intellectual pipeline” is suffering in America because of overt college-readiness issues faced by many students in the United States.
Education Mandates (slide 3)In his State of the Union address to Congress in 2009, President Barack Obama made a very bold statement; “America would regain its historical international lead in college attainment” (Carey, 2011, p. 2). The leader of the most powerful nation made a poignant decision to place the topic of education on his list of priorities because, in his own estimation, large-scale changes needed to occur to advance an education agenda. Unfortunately, however, the number of high school graduates and college graduates being produced, presently, is insufficient in replacing and invigorating U.S. professions and trades. As such, in 2007 the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center was formed and the first publication listing recommendations to address a growing problem was released in 2009. The executive summary of this publication reads as such: ("The college completion," 2010) Today we face a crisis across the educational landscape: High school completion rates are dropping. Achievement gaps persist, with significant disparities for students from low income families and for minority students. The proportion of adults with postsecondary credentials is not keeping pace with that of other industrialized nations, and the United States facing an alarming education deficit that threatens our global competitiveness and economic future (p. 3). Authors of the guide (too many to list) come from the education community, state legislature, and advisory boards convened to discuss the primary problem listed. Ultimately, this resulted in the creation of ten targeted recommendations that aim to address high school completion rates and college degree attainment. Additionally, in 2009, collaboration between U.S. governors from the National Governors Association (NGA) resulted in the creation of the Common Core Standards Initiative ("Top 10 higher," 2011). “The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help [students]” ("Implementing the common," 2012). The purpose of the initiative is to create alignment between the educational experience and best practices of primary and secondary schools and the curriculum and objectives of colleges so that students enter post-secondary education better prepared to navigate towards graduation.
Statistics: High School Dropout Rates (by year) (slide 4) The information on national high school dropout rates, by ethnicity, collected by the United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2012) reveals evidence that dropouts are declining. However, according to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “…the dropout rate is still ‘unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high for our African American, Latino, and Native American communities’” (as cited by Brenchley, 2013). High school students are continuing to leave secondary education without completing their program-of-study.
Statistics: College Completion Rates (by state) (slide 5) Variable college completion rates (NCHEMS Information center, 2013) occurring in 2009 in the United States, ranging from 11.7% (Connecticut) to 60.7% (South Dakota) begs the question – Is enough being done to motivate learning and address college readiness issues? What more could be done on the national stage to prepare students, throughout the secondary school experience, to facilitate successful transition to college and ultimately graduation? Even more, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and Policy Analysis Research Team (2011), “…for several decades, researchers have documented the gap between high school and college expectations, noting that even students who complete a college preparatory curriculum in high school are often poorly prepared for college” (p. 1). A misalignment between high school and college core standards has proven problematic in as much as much as college-readiness affects completion rates.
College-Readiness (slide 6) College readiness is synonymous with reading and math aptitude. “According to a research report from American College Testing (ACT), students who do not meet crucial benchmarks in reading and math by the time they leave the eighth grade are likely to fall even further behind in high school” (Schaefer & Rivera, 2012, p. 52). Failing outcomes on college-readiness thresholds creates significant challenges with aligning secondary schools and post-secondary education. On the subject of college-readiness, a study commissioned by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) made three disturbing discoveries: First, American students spent much less time on schoolwork that do students from other nations. Second the time spent on schoolwork is used ineffectively. Finally, students are not taught study skills and time management skills (as cited by Barnes, Slate, Rojas-LeBouef, 2010, p. 4). These statements underscore the importance of valuing primary and secondary education preparation. What is seemingly evident is that high schools are following state standards that allow many individual to eventually graduate, but the issue of college preparedness is still woefully under addressed (Horowitz, 2013). Education is a continuum that begins early in a learner’s life and must extend far beyond high school. Efforts to create college readiness must begin long before college.
Common Core Standards (slide 7) In 2010, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, working in collaboration with parents and teachers throughout the nation, developed what are now known as “common core standards”. “The common core State standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well – and to give students the opportunity to master them” (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). What is so significant about these standards is that college and career-readiness standards are incorporated throughout the K-12 standards. This effort to align K-12 with college-readiness is intended to produce an increase in rates of completion from high schools and colleges. This strategy directly considers the both education mandates created by President Obama and the overt need to see changes occur in national college completion rates.
College Completion Agenda (slide 8) The College Completion Agenda that was created in 2010 is a comprehensive plan with ten strategies (recommendations) that are organized by functional area specific to education and government. These functional areas are primary school, secondary school, post-secondary school, and government (local and federal). Processes of improvement and an awareness of what works to improve college completion rates, based on current research, help to form the underpinnings of the plan. It’s important to point out that the purpose of this presentation is not to conduct a deep dive into the agenda itself. Rather, since the topic of this presentation is built on explaining factors that drive college readiness, a broad introduction to the Agenda must be accomplished. The College Completion Agenda is built on the idea that specific tasks must be fulfilled and certain roles maintained in order to improve college-readiness and therefore improved high school and college rates of completion. Early intervention in the lifespan of a learner is a fundamental principle to seeing all of the recommendations built-out fully. For example, “Children entering school ready to meet its academic, social and emotional demands or more likely to achieve success in academics and in life” ("The college completion," 2010, p. 8). It is quite easy to see how, based on this statement, important a well-rounded, comprehensive approach to student development leads to more satisfying experiences in school and better outcomes right through to college graduation.
Meeting the Challenge (slide 9) Much research has been conducted on the topic of college-readiness (Barnes, W., Slate, J. R., & Rojas-LeBouef, 2010; Horowitz , 2013; Schaefer, M. B., & Rivera, L. M., 2012). There is no good reason to disregard the many strategies offered for improving college-readiness. Now it is up to post-secondary institutions to do their part by reviewing internal practices to determine where institutional plans may be the most effective in retaining students so that higher completion rates actually begin to occur. The stakes are high and the objectives are clear. “To remain competitive in the global economy, we must enable a greater percentage of our college-age population to enroll in postsecondary education and complete a degree in a timely fashion” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, p. 1). Colleges and universities must be vigilant in aligning admission practices with the growing desire for education occurring in high schools around the nation. “Nationally, the share of 10th graders who stated that they hope to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher double 40% in 1980 to 80% in 2002” (Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). Today that percentage is even higher. As higher education looks to implement best practices for admission procedures, a review of screening processes will help to assure that students in need of additional academic support are steered towards resources earlier rather than later. Higher enrollment numbers does not translate into higher completion rates. The “open door” enrollment practices are creating problems for faculty who later have to instruct the deluge of academically-challenged students dropped off in their classrooms at the start of each semester. “Community college is open enrollment policies have a negative effect on student motivation during high school, particularly during senior year” (Skelly, Scott, 2011, p. 33). If the goal is to improve completion rates, a simultaneous goal should be to properly screen incoming students’ academic abilities.
Louis Cabuhat, RN Academic Dean
Allied Health Programs
Deficiencies in college-readiness is a national problem with
High School Dropout Rate (changes)
Still alarmingly too high
Variable College Completion Rates
Wide disparity across the nation
Primary and Secondary Education Systems are Operating in
Isolation from Post-Secondary Education
A conspicuous misalignment is affecting college-readiness
Problem Statement and…
A Call-to-Action – Large Scale Changes
State of the Union Address - 2009
2009 – Creation of the “Common Core Standards”
A national effort to align all states in the union
2010 – Creation of the “College Completion Agenda”
Acknowledgement of a problem with completion rates
Ten recommendations to improve education (K-12 –
2009 – Two Year
Identified by reading and math skills
ACT reports benchmarks (eighth grade)
Study Conducted by the National Commission on
Excellence in Education (1983):
American students being compared to other nations
Time-on-task deficiencies exist
American students lacking time management skills
Standards implemented in primary school extend
Standards are aligned with college and work
Higher order skills
Build on current state standards
Informed by top-performing Countries
Evidence and/or research-based
(National governors association center for best
practices, council of chief state school officers, 2010)
Primary School Education
Middle School Ed.
Secondary School Education
College Completion Agenda:
There are many clear parts to play
("The college completion," 2010, p. 7)
Review of Institutional Improvement Plans
Identify the higher purpose for improving completion rates
Review of Admissions Practices
Screening students to discover academic challenges
Meeting the Challenge
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CollegeBoard advocacy & policy center, (2010). The college completion agenda state policy guide. Retrieved from
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Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16