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Rethinking Admissions

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Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

SAT Scores Down Create More Cause for Concern

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

This week news of the continued streak of average SAT scores falling highlighted a number of issues around students’ general preparedness for the test, as well as the disparities that exist among different racial/ethic and socioeconomic groups. For the second year in a row (and fifth year in the last seven) the average scores in critical reading and writing have dipped, both of which now sit below the 500-point benchmark. While the number of test-takers grew for both the SAT and ACT, the average score for the ACT remained the same as last year – a 21.1 composite. While these statistics are cause for concern, perhaps more startling are the gaps between majority and minority groups of test-takers, with black and Latino students performing the lowest of any groups.

A reason for such a trend might be students’ curricular experiences leading up to these tests. The vast majority of white students (80 percent or more) who took the SAT report completing their high school’s core curriculum; conversely, only 69 percent and 65 percent of black and Latino students, respectively, have done so. Socioeconomic statistics provide additional perspective; only 65 percent of students with a family income on $20,000 or less completed the core curriculum, whereas 84 percent of those with family income about $200,000 or more did so.

The Changing Demography of Higher Education

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The number of Latino students attending college (2-year and 4-year institutions) has reached an all-time high in the United States, now comprising the largest of any minority demographic at 16.5 percent.  With more than 50 million people, the Latino community accounts for roughly the same percent of the U.S. population. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington, DC based research organization, the number of Latino students (18 to 24 years of age) enrolled in four-year colleges rose to more than 1.2 million within the last year, as similar trends were seen among two-year colleges. Furthermore, the percentage of all Latino students ages 18 to 24 having a high school diploma  or a General Education Development (GED) in 2011 rose to 76.3 percent. An assessment of  pre-K through grade 12 public school students also reveals the direction of the future. Latinos now account for almost one quarter of all public school students.

New Leadership at College Board

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The College Board has announced that David Coleman, architect of  the Common Core State Standards, will become its new president and chief executive officer, beginning in October.  Already, the announcement has created waves across the nation’s educational landscape as many have begun to speculate what changes Coleman’s appointment might bring to the nonprofit organization and one of its best-known products – the SAT.  Over the last decade, Coleman has made a name for himself in the K-12 arena, an area that College Board hopes to penetrate further with implementation of new programs that reach beyond the scope of the AP and the SAT; Coleman provides the “linkage” that is expected to “benefit both K-12 and higher education,” says Lester P. Monts, a former College Board trustee and search committee leader.  Discussing his plans in an interview, Coleman remarked: “What the Common Core does in combination with the College Board is make it more realistic for us as a society to make sure that a kid’s educational life is richer and more rigorous every year,” he said, “so there’s not this sudden rise in challenge when it comes time to take an examination.  Still, critics of the College Board, including Robert A. Schaefer, public education director for FairTest, point to the organization’s continued attempt at using ‘one-size-fits-all’ practices to ‘administer’ the country’s public education.

Whatever your opinion, this juncture provides an opportunity for colleges and high schools to find common ground around an important topic. Coleman’s hiring signals a commitment toward education reform and provides an opportunity for the organization to reforms its own image. “The College Board needs to be known more for what it does than for the SAT and its other products,” says Jerome A. Lucido, another former College Board trustee.  Only time will tell whether this goal might be fulfilled.

A Kaleidoscope Approach to Admissions

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

sternberg bookBack in the day when standardized college admissions tests were created, most applicants were white males in the middle- to upper-middle-class. Today, applicants are from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. That’s one of the reasons why Robert J. Sternberg, the new provost of Oklahoma State University, is urging college admissions deans to go beyond standardized test scores and high school GPA and consider a wide range of qualities when ranking applicants.

The admissions strategy Sternberg is espousing is called the “Kaledioscope” system, and it has been used successfully at Tufts University where he served as dean of arts and science for the last five years. We first wrote about the system on this blog last year.  Now Sternberg has outlined the details of the experiment in a new book called College Admissions for the 21st Century (Harvard University Press)

In an interview with Inside Higher Education , Sternberg said the Kaleidoscope system is based on the view that a college education should produce leaders who will make a positive difference in the world. That’s why questions are based on a theory of leadership called WICS, which stands for wisdom, intelligence, creativity, synthesized.

In a nutshell, the system entails assessing applicants’ creative, analytical, practical and wisdom-based skills. For example, applicants might be asked creative questions like “write a story with a title such as ‘The End of MTV’ or submit a creative video via YouTube. Or in assessing analytical thinking, the question might be: ‘What is your favorite book and why?’ An example of a practical item would be to explain how you would convince a friend to change their viewpoint on an issue. A wisdom-based question could be to explain how you would take a current passion and transform it later to serve the common good.

While the responses are rated holistically, they also are based on rubrics. In addition, the system’s ability to predict college success has been validated statistically, Sternberg said. Furthermore, while traditional standardized tests show “substantial ethnic-group differences, Kaldeidoscope measures do not,” Sternberg said, adding that the measures are designed to supplement traditional assessments, not replace them.

Measurements like the ones in the Kaleidoscope system reflect 21st century thinking, in contrast to standardized tests, which have remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years, Sternberg said.

“Those who work for testing organizations might see this constancy of measurement as a positive thing. But imagine if other technologies, such as in telecommunications or medicine, were largely stuck a century in the past!” he said. “The problem, as I see it, is that the skills measured by traditional tests are quite narrow and do not adequately reflect the full range of skills needed for college and life success.”

Did you feel the ground move, or was it just me?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

By Tamara Blocker

I write today from the annual SACAC conference being held in Jacksonville, FL.  As I stroll around the hotel attending sessions, drinking coffee and chatting with colleagues – old and new – I find the conversations shifting in a new direction.  The opening session keynote was given by Ted O’Neill, long time Dean of Admission at the University of Chicago.  He has long been admired for his student-centered approach to admissions and spoke very directly about the frenzy of admissions today.  As he spoke of the evolution of standardized testing and its invalid role in admissions, I noticed hundreds of heads nodding in the room, not just mine.  As he spoke of US News & World Report rankings and its tendency to make otherwise good and honest admissions people “behave badly” I heard a buzz across the room.  As he spoke of the ability of students to apply to too many schools too easily, I think I felt the ground move – really.  Former Dean O’Neill wondered aloud, when will the frenzy end?  Soon, I hope.

As I moved through sessions I found some of the same…vendors sharing how they could cut the information session time dramatically to move prospective students in and out of the Admissions Office and on the tour quickly.  I heard about ways to funnel more students through our respective recruitment pools to yield more applications.  I heard about uses of social technologies and ways to converse with prospective applicants even more.  More, more, more!  Is that what it is about – just more?  What about better?  What about the right students for our respective institutions? What about getting to know our applicants and determining their fit for our own institutions?

I also heard about personalized tours based on student’s academic interests.  I heard counselors expressing their interest to sit in on classes and hear from faculty on counselor tours.  I heard colleagues stand up in sessions and express their concern over standardized validity studies presented.  I heard about direct mail efforts based on areas of academic interest.  I heard many, many good conversations centered around the purpose of our work – the student and academics. 

I think I can feel it.  The admissions frenzy – I think I feel it beginning to shift – or is it just me?

Tamara Blocker is Senior Associate Director of Admissions for Wake Forest University. She submitted this blog post from the Southern Association of  College Admissions Counseling’s annual conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

No More Senior Slump

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Now that college admissions applications are in and graduation is just a few short weeks away, many high school seniors may be tempted to start slacking off. But with a growing number of colleges now making admission contingent on final grades, senior slump can have serious consequences. According to the Associated Press, many universities now have a policy of checking with high school guidance counselors to see how students are doing just before mailing acceptance letters.

“We have a policy to do 100 percent verification to ensure that final high school transcripts are received and reviewed,” said Matt Whelan, assistant provost for admissions and financial aid at Stony Brook University in New York, told the AP. “While it has been the exception, unfortunately, I have had the experience of sending letters to students informing them that because they did not successfully complete high school, they could were no longer admitted, and we rescinded both admission and financial aid.”

While harsh action based strictly on academic grounds remains the exception rather than the rule, most universities do not hesitate to rescind their offers if students are involved in serious incidents involving violence, cheating or alcohol or drugs.”The colleges cannot afford to take students who are immature socially and morally,” says Don Dunbar, author of the book, “What You Don’t Know Can Keep You Out of College.”

So does that mean senior slump has gone away? Not entirely, says Andrew Selesnick, principal of Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., an affluent suburb where 90 percent of the students apply to college. I don’t want to give the impression that it’s gone away. It’s not like it’s not there. We do see some drop-off in terms of performance and attendance, but we don’t see a lot of kids who go from 60 to zero.”

What Happens When there are More Women than Men on Campus?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Courtesy of New York Times

Courtesy of New York Times

Women have accounted for the majority of U.S. college enrollments since 2000. That’s according to a new report by the American Council on Education, which found 57 percent of those who enroll in college are female. Men also lag in graduation rates at the undergraduate level. Why the gender imbalance? Researchers say men tend to drop out more than women and generally have lower grades. What’s more, older students as well as low-income, black and Hispanic students tend to be disproportionately female.

The gender gap is not universal. According to the New York Times, Ivy League schools are largely equal in gender, and a few are still predominately male. But at some universities, efforts to balance the numbers have led to complaints that less-qualified men are being admitted over women. In December, the United States Commission on Civil Rights  subpoenaed admissions records from 19 private and public colleges as part of an investigation into possible discrimination against qualified female applicants.

But the legal and academic ramifications are not the only issues concerning women. Female students say they also worry about the social ramifications of the gender imbalance — namely the trouble they now have finding dates. “On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, author of “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” told the New York Times.  W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia concurs, adding that women on predominately female campuses are being victimized by men because they have outperformed them. Says Campbell: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships.”