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Sunday, January 23, 2011

High School to College: The New Alignment

By Jordan E. Horowitz | Ed Week Editorial
January 3, 2011

For a number of years now, we have been hearing how high schools are not doing the job they need to do and that students remain woefully unprepared for college and careers. In fact, high schools have been doing exactly what we ask of them, but it is time to reassess what we ask of our secondary educational institutions and how we judge the job they do.

To be fair, high schools have been doing just what we have charged them to do for years. They are graduating students who have mastered state content standards in a number of subjects or disciplines, as measured by state standardized tests. We know this is our expectation because this is how we determine success. Passing end-of-course exams, high school exit examinations, or comprehensive single-subject tests is the way we assess students’ knowledge. These tests are linked to state standards in identified subjects, and all are created by educators, content experts, and others in various combinations. Recently, we’ve seen movement from purely academic standards to college- and career-readiness standards, with postsecondary faculty and business leaders joining the panels. Often, these are accompanied by a complete revamping of the assessments linked to the standards. However, this will do little to improve college readiness. This is alignment redux—we continue to align high school curricula and work to state standards and assessments.

If we really are going to improve secondary education outcomes, we need a new alignment. My work with the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success (Cal-PASS) has made me a believer in this new strategy. We must link high school exit expectations with college-entrance expectations. That said, this new configuration requires some courageous conversations.

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