New Techniques Reformers Are Using To Tackle College Readiness

Trey Rasmussen excelled at hockey at his Martha’s Vineyard high school. Academics, not so much.

“I was planning on graduating and just jumping right into construction,” said the 20-year-old who earned mostly Cs. “I crunched the numbers and figured how much money I’d be making, so why the heck not. A lot of kids go to college and spend all sorts of money and never graduate.”

His older brother was among them and Trey worried about the financial burden of college on his family if he, too, attempted it and failed. Thanks to a tip from his hockey coach, he never had to find out.

The coach told him about a private, yearlong bridge program for boys, Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine. There he learned what he should have in high school and received thoughtful attention to get him college ready.

It worked. With an interest in business administration, Trey just happily completed his freshman year at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., with a 3.0 average. The son of a Montessori preschool teacher and a summer home caretaker is now on track to be the first in his family to graduate from college.

“That was the best money I ever spent,” said Trey’s mom, Christeen. “I knew that had I sent him to college right from high school he probably would have been home by Christmastime.”

But such remediation comes at a cost to students and taxpayers at a time when some researchers estimate about two-thirds of all new jobs in the U.S. require some postsecondary schooling. At Bridgton, tuition, room and board is $42,000 – out of reach for many families, even with financial aid.

Trey is among thousands of students to face the problem. Roughly one of every three entering a public two- or four-year postsecondary school will have to take at least one remedial course. Doing so dramatically increases the odds that he or she won’t graduate, according to a March report from the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education. Read more>>

Via Leanne Italie, Huffington Post.

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Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success

The American higher education system is plagued by two chronic problems: dropouts and debt. Barely half of the students who start college get a degree within six years, and graduation rates at less-selective colleges often hover at 25 percent or less. At the same time, student loan debt is at an all-time high, recently passing credit card debt in total volume. Loan default rates have risen sharply in recent years, consigning a growing number of students to years of financial misery. In combination, drop-outs and debt are a major threat to the nation’s ability to help students become productive, well-educated citizens.

The federal government has tracked these issues separately by calculating for each college the total number of degrees awarded, the percentage of students who graduate on time, and the percentage of students who default on their loans. While each of these statistics provides valuable information, none shows a complete picture.

In Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success, Education Sector has created a new, comprehensive measure, the “borrowing-to-credential ratio.” For each college, authors Kevin Carey and Erin Dillon have taken newly available U.S. Department of Education data showing the total amount of money borrowed by undergraduates and divided that sum by the total number of degrees awarded. The results are revealing.

Via Kevin Carey and Erin Dillon, Education Sector

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Upcoming Webinar Hosted by

Clearing the Hurdles: Helping Low-Income Students Get Into College

This event is scheduled for Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 2:00p.m. to 3:00p.m. Eastern time. Despite the push for more diversity on college campuses, low-income students are still underrepresented in higher education. To meet the nation’s goal of improving college completion, more supports are needed to help those students get into college. Yet college-going students from disadvantaged backgrounds face barriers—from understanding the application process, to filling out financial-aid forms, to covering fees. Learn about how the landscape has changed for low-income students and what policies could help improve access, and hear about innovative programs that are successfully walking students through the transition from high school to college.


Jennifer Engle, Director of Higher Education Practice and Policy, The Education Trust, Washington.

Traci Kirtley, Director of Programming and Evaluation, Admission Possible National, St. Paul, Minn.

Moderator:  Caralee Adams, contributing writer, Education Week.

To register click here.

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Arizona CTE Students Outperform Non-CTE Students

Arizona career technical education (CTE) students perform significantly higher in math and writing than their non-CTE peers, according to recently-released 2011 state assessments.

In a recent Inside Tucson Business editorial, Kathy Prather, director of career and technical education at the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), highlights 2011 Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards scores; the outcomes underscore the “drastic contrast between the general population of [TUSD] high school students and those students in the district who are enrolled for at least two credits” in CTE.

The data shows the strong performance of TUSD CTE concentrators (students completing at least two CTE credits) on the spring 2011 AIMS assessment, with 87.46 percent of them meeting or exceeding the pass score for AIMS math compared to 41.6 percent of the general high school population in TUSD, she noted.

Further, in the AIMS writing test, CTE concentrators in TUSD had a pass/exceed rate of 95.51 percent versus 55.3 percent for the district’s general high school population. In reading, TUSD CTE students had a pass/exceed rate of 95.43 percent versus 65.8 percent for the district’s general high school population, according to the editorial.

“Today’s CTE programs are more rigorous and focus on the need for preparing students for post-secondary education success,” Prather said.

“With solid [Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards] scores and passion for their programs-of-study, these TUSD CTE concentrators are well on their way to successful careers.”

Via CTE Blog.

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College Shouldn’t Be the Only K-12 Goal

Higher education shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of K-12 education, writes “edu-traitor” Cathy Davidson, an English professor, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary.

Higher education is incredibly valuable, even precious, for many. But it is bad for individuals and society to be retrofitting learning all the way back to preschool, as if the only skills valuable, vital, necessary in the world are the ones that earn you a B.S., BA, or a graduate and professional degree.

Many jobs require specialized knowledge, intelligence and skills, but not a college education, Davidson notes. Yet our educational system “defines learning so narrowly that whole swaths of human intelligence, skill, talent, creativity, imagination, and accomplishment do not count.”

Schools are cutting art, music, P.E. and shop to focus on college prep, Davidson complains. (I’d say schools are cutting electives — especially shop — to focus on basic reading and math skills.)

. . . many brilliant, talented young people are dropping out of high school because they see high school as implicitly “college prep” and they cannot imagine anything more dreary than spending four more years bored in a classroom when they could be out actually experiencing and perfecting their skills in the trades and the careers that inspire them.

We need value “the full range of intellectual possibility and potential for everyone,” Davidson writes.

The brilliant, talented kid who drops out to pursue a passion for art, carpentry or cosmetology is a rare bird, I think. But Davidson is right about the college-or-bust mentality in K-12 education. Many students who are bored by academics could be motivated — maybe even inspired — by a chance to develop marketable skills.

Some 80 percent of new community college students say they want to earn a bachelor’s degree. They sign up for remedial or general education courses. Few succeed. Students who pursue vocational goals — a welding certificate, an associate degree in medical technology — are far more likely to graduate.

Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

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