Monthly Archives: December 2011

December 9th Podcast – Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost?

David Stern, University of California, Berkeley

To improve the preparation of California high school students for postsecondary education and careers, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation launched a major initiative to develop what is now called the Linked Learning approach. The Foundation asked PACE to inform this effort by gathering evidence on the cost of Linked Learning programs. This seminar presents the results.

The Linked Learning strategy is based on previous studies, mainly on evaluations of career academies. Prior research found that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. A new report on California Partnerships Academies (CPAs) in 2009-10 provides additional positive evidence. This seminar will discuss both benefits and costs. David Stern of the University of California, Berkeley, will present results from the new study of CPAs and from the PACE study of costs.

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State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

A new PACE policy brief, by Michal Kurlaender, University of California Davis, Eric Grodsky, University of Minnesota, Samuel J. Agronow, Saint Mary’s College of California and Catherine L. Horn, University of Huston.

Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend different schools with potentially different grading standards. Despite the appeal of a nationally standardized college entrance exam, critics have asserted that standardized college entrance exams (and the SAT in particular) suffer from several important flaws. These critics argue that the SAT does a poor job of predicting success in college conditional on student high school grades, is biased against women and under-represented minorities, is coachable and thus advantages more affluent families who can afford to pay for test instruction, imposes an additional hurdle on first-generation college students unfamiliar with the steps they must take to gain admission to a competitive college, and is disconnected from the content and performance standards for state K-12 educational systems.

In an increasingly K-16 policy environment, it is important to consider whether and how tests used to monitor the progress of students through secondary education might serve as a substitute for college entrance exams in the college admissions process. This analysis provides important evidence for reconsidering the decision to privilege college entrance exams over state mandated standardized exams for purposes of college admissions at public universities. The analysis in this brief reveals that the CST exam (required for all California high school students in the 11th grade) offers remarkably similar levels of predictive power in determining college performance, and persistence at UC, to that of the SAT.

State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits

In the fourth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges provide a substantial array of student support services, designed to help students master basic subjects and to learn “how to be college students.” However, the use of these services by instructors and students varies substantially. Some instructors rarely or never mention the availability of such services; others make the use of some services mandatory. But the largely voluntary nature of student services means that many students do not use these services, for reasons ranging from competing demands for their time to avoidance of stigma or stereotype threat. The result is general consensus that the students who most need support services fail to get them — except where colleges have moved to portray such services as  “what all good students do.”

Student services suffer from certain structural problems. One is related to funding, since students services (unlike conventional instruction) do not generate additional revenues for colleges. The large number of adjunct faculty members, especially in developmental education, also complicates contact between instruction and student services. The nature of most colleges as laissez-faire institutions, reluctant to place requirements on either students or instructors, contributes to the voluntary use of student services. Various ways of reshaping student services therefore require challenging conventional practices and norms of community colleges, but the results have the promise of making the entire enterprise of developmental education more effective.

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits