Conley’s central argument, increasingly echoed by others in the higher education community, is that what it takes to succeed in high school is too often at odds with what it takes to succeed in college.
The crux of the problem, as Conley puts it, is that “high school courses often focus more on memorizing information or interpreting and applying information in a basic fashion, whereas college courses contain more concepts and ideas, theories and principles.” Many high school students, for instance, do little analytical writing and later struggle with college essays. Consequently, as many as half of all college freshmen must take remedial courses.
Conley, director of the Center for Educational Policy Research at the University of Oregon, emphasizes that the issue of college readiness is not a problem for top-tier students, who take AP and other intellectually rigorous courses.
His goal is to raise other students—many of whom have little college knowledge—into the top tier by, among other things, opening admission to AP, signing everyone up for essential tests such as the SAT, and simplifying the curriculum so that kids “cannot make bad choices.” His proposals, ambitious as they are, are worth pursuing, especially in an era when college is more of a requirement than an option for many occupations.
A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2005 edition of Teacher as College Knowledge