Monday, March 1, 2010

If they aren't college-ready, why are they collecting college degrees?

Over the last five years, the ACT has consistently reported very few Kentucky students meeting their science benchmark for college readiness, which is a demanding 24 on a 0-36 scale.  As shown in the chart below, we've only once had more than 9,000 students reach that mark in a high school graduating class.  And yet, over the same five years, we've consistently given out more than 14,000 associate and bachelor degrees.
This is an imperfect method of raising the issue.  A much better way would be to use higher education data files to take each year's graduates and see how many brought a 24 on the science ACT with them when they entered.  Better still would be to show those results separating graduates based on whether they completed high school in a public or private setting in Kentucky or another state. 

However, I'm stuck using published data.  This sandlot method strongly suggests that quite large numbers of Kentucky residents who are collecting college degrees are doing it without meeting the ACT's definition of college-ready in science.

This issue begs for thoughtful discussion and would benefit greatly from sustained analysis of data on individual students.  Again, the key question is:  If Kentucky students aren't college-ready, why are they collecting so many college degrees?

Data sources: the science benchmark numbers come from the annual ACT state profiles available here, with 2005 being the first year for which I could locate the counts of students scoring 24 or above.  The degree numbers come from the CPE report on 2009 May Graduates, with the 2009 numbers being labeled as "preliminary."

1 comment:

  1. I can assure you that if a formal study was conducted in this area, "the worms would crawl out of the can" en masse across the state's college and universities nicely manicured grounds. Just has been the case in the high schools for too long, there has been no common or uniform curricular standards (measured by a common assessment)at the college level. Every professor designs his/her course and creates an assessment system to determine whether or not a student passes a given course; obviously, if a student passes all required courses (decision made only by the individual professors) he/she is awarded a diploma.

    And so the story goes...Suzy scores an 18 on the science component of the ACT as an entering college freshman. She meets the college's science requirements by passing with a grade of "C" courses in Intro. to Physical Science, Human Anatomy, and Environmental Science. Although she didn't make stellar grades on the two or three lecture and lab tests in the classes, the professor curved the grades giving her enough points for a grade of "C." In a couple of the classes she may have received extra points for simply attending class or assisting in the cleaning of the lab. Perhaps more importantly, there are no quality checks for the professor-designed assessments calling their validity into question. And so it goes...
    Academic freedom prevails!

    I would bet good money that you already have the answer to your question heading on this post before any research is conducted.


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