Reports Urge School-College Linkage

By Robert Rothman — September 10, 1986 3 min read

Collaboration between schools and colleges is necessary to close the “artificial gap” that separates them and that keeps some students from attending college and causes others to enter college unprepared, a new report contends. A separate report, which surveyed the way colleges make decisions about placing students in remedial programs, has concluded that colleges currently send “no signal” to high-school students about skills needed for college-level work.

The first report, released recently by the American Council on Education, calls on educators to bridge the “historic demarcation point that separates the education world at the 12th-grade level.”

“Kids get lost in the pipeline,” said Reginald Wilson, director of the A.C.E.'S office of minority concerns. The office prepared the report, “Our Collective Stake: Bridging Education’s Separate Worlds,” in conjunction with the Brummel of Educational Organizational Leaders and the Institute for Educational Leadership.

''This is particularly true of minority students,” Mr. Wilson added, noting that college-attendance rates for minorities have declined and that among minority students who do attend college, 30 percent require some kind of remediation.

Although the report is not aimed at prescribing a specific plan for college-school collaboration, Mr. Wilson said, it does argue that successful collaborations are conducted on a small scale and have a sharp focus.

As examples, it cites the University of Pennsylvania’s “academic alliances,” which bring together highschool and college teachers in the same subject area, and efforts by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering to involve local schools and businesses in helping I minority students who show promise for engineering careers.

S.R.E.B. Study

Meanwhile, a report released last week by the Southern Regional Education Board sharply criticizes colleges for failing to agree on what constitutes adequate. preparation for college or on criteria for placing students in remedial courses.

Based on a survey of public two and four-year colleges in the S.R.E.B.'S 15 member states, “College- Level Study: What Is It?” shows that “higher education has no consensus on what college-level work is,” said David S. Spence, vice president of the S.R.E.B.

Such a consensus, he said, “would send a clear signal to high schools about what skills need to be developed in high-school students to be ready for college. Now, we’re sending no signal or virtually no signal.”

The study found that the colleges surveyed used almost 100 combinations of 70 writing, reading, and mathematics tests in deciding whether to place students in degree credit or remedial courses.

In addition, it found, even colleges that used similar tests had established widely varying cut-off scores for college-level placement.

The S.R.E.B. sent surveys to 489 public institutions, of which 83 percent responded. The responses indicated that, in making placement decisions, the institutions used a variety of measures, from examinations developed by the colleges themselves to scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing Program.

In addition, the findings “indicate that entry-level placement is based on scores that vary from as low as the 1st percentile to as high as the 94th percentile” among colleges using the same test, the report says.

“We’re not saying everybody should have the same placement scores,” Mr. Spence said. “But there should be some kind of floor. We want to make sure students have mastered certain skills before beginning college work.”

State policymakers and state college and university leaders should work to set specific standards for college freshmen, he said. Florida, Tennesee, and New Jersey have already developed college-placement I standards, he noted.

A previous S.R.E.B. report, issued in June by the group’s commission on educational quality, urged colleges and schools to work together to raise college-admission standards and to prepare students to meet those standards.

Copies of “Our Collective Stake” are available for $5, prepaid, from A.C.E., Office of Minority Affairs, 1 Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036. “College-Level Study: What Is It?” is available free of charge from S.R.E.B., 592 10th Street, N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30318.

A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 1986 edition of Education Week as Reports Urge School-College Linkages