Ready for College?

From Education Week comes news that high school teachers and college professors don’t agree on how prepared students are for college; high school students are not prepared for college:

What does it mean when far more high school teachers think their students are ready for college than do the college instructors who teach them? It means we have a pretty big disconnect between what high schools think is needed for success in college and what actually is needed.

One reason is that high school teachers and college instructors have differing views of what skills are important in college. High school teachers, for instance, rate things like media literacy and financial literacy as far more important than do college professors, who value the content areas of math, English, and science more.

This information comes from a survey of high school and college instructors conducted by the ACT.

High school teachers think their kids are ready for college; college professors disagree. While it’s important to note that secondary and postsecondary institutions aren’t on the same page about student learning, a survey is probably the wrong vehicle for assessing college readiness.

Just because a college instructor says something doesn’t mean it’s true. Someone with a PhD in an academic subject, who has spent years of his life studying a single issue, might be inclined to underrate the intellectual ability of a 19-year-old kid. Surveys of college instructors are the source of so much of the overhyped rumors about too many kids going to college.

The ACT study, after all, is full of information like this:

Overall, approximately two thirds of high school teachers reported that more than half of their students are ready to read at the level needed for college work in their content area. College instructors clearly disagreed, with only about one third reporting that a majority of their students read at this level.

But the ability to read at a college level is an actual skill that can be measured objectively. Frankly, who cares how high school or college instructors “think” students can read? Why traffic in these sorts of opinions when the ability of students to succeed intellectually in college can, for the most part, be assessed by measuring actual skills?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer