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Monday, May 19, 2008
But, as reported here in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a new study of the impact of exit tests on student achievement suggests that being able to pass them does not really say much. The reason? Those states that adopted fairly tough tests soon found themselves besieged by the angry parents of children who did not pass, and responded by making the tests a lot easier. Other states felt no need to lower the bar because they had not set it very high in the first place.
One consequence of such actions is that the exit tests do little to drive schools to improve student achievement. When it comes to their scores on federal reading and math tests, students in states with high-school exit exams have not performed any better over time than those students who live in states without them.
Given that many of the students who fail the exit tests drop out of high school without ever getting their diplomas, the authors question whether the social benefits offered by the tests outweigh the costs.
The authors of the study, the results of which have been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Educational Policy, are Eric Grodsky, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California at Davis, Demetra Kalogrides, a graduate student in sociology at that campus, and John Robert Warren, an associate professor of sociology and a director of undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
In a separate study published in January in the journal Sociology of Education, Grodsky, Warren, and Jennifer C. Lee, an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University at Bloomington, found that people who earned their diplomas in states with high-school exit tests did not earn higher incomes than people who earned their diplomas elsewhere, and were no more likely to complete college or be employed.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
"While more research in this area is certainly needed, the biggest challenge in better serving minority college students is not creating new knowledge about how to help them; it is creating new incentives for institutional leaders to act on the knowledge that already exists," says the report, written by Kevin Carey, Education Sector's research and policy manager.
"If there is a single factor that seems to distinguish colleges and universities that have truly made a difference on behalf of minority students, it is attention," the report says. "Successful colleges pay attention to graduation rates. They monitor year-to-year change, study the impact of different interventions on student outcomes, break down the numbers among different student populations, and continuously ask themselves how they could improve."The report identifies several institutions--including Florida State University and the University of Alabama--where black students are at least as likely as their white peers to earn degrees in a timely manner. It says nothing is preventing other colleges from adopting the strategies such institutions have used to great effect, such as aggressively intervening to help students who run into trouble in the beginning of their freshman year and placing students in "learning communities" where they offer each other support while taking courses together.
Nationally, black students at four-year colleges have a six-year graduation rate that is about 20 percentage points lower than the six-year graduation rate for white students.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article summarizing the report's key findings is available to subscribers here.
Lincoln University, a historically black institution located in Missouri, bestowed a Unity Award for education reporting on Schmidt for a series of stories on affirmative action at colleges. Lincoln University annually confers its Unity Awards in Media on journalists to honor them for outstanding coverage of issues affecting minority groups and people with disabilities.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
As of this week, however, the best result he can hope for is to score wins in three.
On Sunday, his campaign organization in Missouri conceded that it would not be able to meet a deadline for submitting enough petition signatures to get proposed ban on the November ballot in that state. With his Oklahoma organization having similarly abandoned its efforts in that state last month, Mr. Connerly is now left with three remaining targets: Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska.
The campaign organization in Colorado has already submitted its petition signatures for counting. Mr. Connerly says he remains confident he will get measures on the ballot in Arizona and Nebraska, and he has vowed to continue his fight in Missouri and Oklahoma in the coming years.
Political analysts had predicted the measures would pass easily in all five of the states--provided, that is, they got on the ballot. As discussed in early blog postings here, however, Mr. Connerly ran into a tight deadline for gathering signatures in Oklahoma, and his Missouri campaign ran into massive resistance from state officials who sought to alter the measure's wording and local pro-affirmative-action activists who hit the streets to insert themselves between those circulating the petitions and potential signers.
A full Chronicle of Higher Education story on the latest Missouri development is available to its subscribers here.