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Impact of College-Admissions Criteria on Schools Explored

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Washington

Educators who have been rethinking college-admissions requirements delivered a progress report at the College Board's recent annual meeting here.

Representatives from some of the nation's top public schools and most selective colleges first met last January at Harvard University. Since that meeting, four regional school-college partnerships have formed and are examining how college-admissions criteria shape the high school curriculum.

The regional partnerships are looking into broader philosophical issues of teaching and learning, as well as more concrete questions such as whether to abolish weighted classes or redesign student transcripts to better reflect achievement.

Several national education-policy groups--among them the College Board and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching--are closely monitoring the partnerships' work.

About 30 of the 36 high schools and colleges that attended the January meeting have signed a "statement of commitment," which says they want to insure that "our graduates will be active participants in powerful learning experiences so that they will become skillful, confident, lifelong learners, prepared to be effective in further education, in the workplace, and in the conduct of their lives."

The high schools and colleges also have identified several issues to explore further, such as defining the nature and scope of what students should learn, interdisciplinary instruction, alternative assessment, and the use of instructional time.

'Building Momentum'

The educators also called on schools to develop new ways to measure the "skills, knowledge, and values students have developed and applied." Such new methods could replace or augment such traditional student-sorting devices as class rank and standardized test scores.

The College Board invited the two Massachusetts superintendents who convened the Harvard University meeting to run a seminar for guidance counselors and admissions officers at its annual meeting here late last month.

Karla DeLetis, the superintendent of the Wellesley, Mass., schools, said an important result of the meeting at Harvard was "building momentum and some of the relationship-building necessary for partnerships to develop and grow." (See Education Week, Feb. 2, 1994.)

Ms. DeLetis and Robert J. Monson, who was then the superintendent of the Westwood, Mass., schools, arranged the meeting to increase cooperation between high schools and colleges.

Mr. Monson has since left Massachusetts and is a superintendent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The two superintendents have also made presentations on the partnerships to the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, which represents Ivy League schools and other competitive colleges, and the Association of Chief Admissions Officers of Public Universities.

Other Progress

Among other developments since the educators met in January:

  • A Boston-area partnership of five districts--Belmont, Brookline, Lincoln-Sudbury, Wellesley, and Westwood--and five area colleges has focused its attention on the use of instructional time.

    Last week, teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and superintendents from the five districts met at Belmont High School to discuss using "block scheduling"--a school day with longer instructional periods--to create more opportunities for interdisciplinary instruction.

  • Two of the schools represented at the January meeting are among the 20 high schools working with the American College Testing Program to pilot portfolio assessments in reading, math, and science.
  • Another participant, Milburn High School in New Jersey, formed a local assessment task force, which has led to the shortening of final exams and the creation of new student-performance exhibitions, such as oral exams in foreign languages and laboratory practicums in science.
  • Faculty members at Scarsdale High School in New York and their departmental counterparts at Cornell University have been meeting to discuss common academic interests.

Representatives of the partnerships will meet again in February at the College Board's regional meetings across the country.

The participants from the Harvard University conference plan to meet again next fall to evaluate their accomplishments.

"I bet five years from now this will be the hottest [issue] in education, because the heat will be turned up on colleges," Mr. Monson said. "We'll see colleges reaching out to high schools, instead of us reaching out to them."

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