Aligning K-12 Standards with College Placement

Published December 1, 1998

“We must adjust, and even overhaul, the current mélange of K-16 education policies that sends confusing signals to students and schools about what knowledge is worth knowing,” says Stanford University education professor Michael W. Kirst in a recent Education Week article.

“Universities must collaborate with K-12 leaders and policymakers to improve policies that will enhance academic preparation, elevate education standards, and let prospective college students know what lies ahead,” he argues.

Kirst and his colleagues at the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement in Stanford, California, have developed a series of recommendations to address the remediation issue, including the following:

  • Require all prospective four-year college students to complete at least four years of English, three years of math (including algebra), three years of science (one lab), three years of social studies, and two years of a foreign language.
  • Align freshman placement exams with other state standards, and make high school students aware of exam content, standards, and consequences.
  • Require a writing sample for all admissions decisions.
  • Standardize high school procedures for computing class rank and grade point average so that high grade point averages are not based on nonacademic courses.
  • Revive the original purpose of high school accreditation, which was to ensure that students successful in high school college-preparation programs would not need remediation in college.
  • Inform the mass media as well as local educators about the college remediation needs of students from different high schools. Such reports rarely are publicly discussed by local educators concerning possible policy changes to improve university preparation.

“Dramatic steps must be taken to bridge the gap between K-12 reform and postsecondary education,” urges Kirst.