Detailed Goals for High School Urged By College Board

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Washington--The College Board last week recommended that all college-bound students demonstrate "basic learning" in six fields of study before they advance to college.

It offered a detailed list of skills in those fields that it suggested every student aiming for college ought to master. The proposals, which came on the heels of a series of national reports urging educators to demand more of the nation's high-school students, marked the first time that the College Board--which oversees the country's largest standardized testing programs--has attempted to specify the competencies that curricula should foster in students.

The guidelines, announced at a press conference, urged that college-bound students meet specific goals in English, the arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages.

To meet the minimum standards in mathematics, for example, college-bound students would have to show that they are able to perform certain specific operations in algebra, statistics, computing, geometry, and functions.

College Board officials said that setting such specific goals would be a significant departure from educators' current policies on academic standards. Most colleges require prospective students to earn a certain number of credit-hours in several disciplines, and most current efforts to upgrade education are based on increasing the number of required hours.

But because the quality of courses varies, the officials said, completion of the required courses is not always an adequate measure of students' academic accomplishments.

The new report is part of the nonprofit organization's 10-year "Educational EQuality Project," which was started in 1980. The College Board will follow through on the report with a campaign to convince high schools and colleges to adopt such goal-oriented standards, said George H. Hanford, the organization's president.

Although the recommendations were designed to improve the preparation of students for college, students who elect to enter the work force rather than continue their education should have similar goals, Mr. Hanford said.

In addition to the "basic learning" in the six academic fields, the College Board added computer literacy to a list of "academic competencies" that students need to succeed in college.

The board's report, asserting that "a revolution in communications and information technolgy is making the computer a basic tool for acquiring knowledge, organizing systems, and solving problems," said students ought to be able to use computers for self-instruction, collection and retrieval of information, word processing, problem solving, and programming.

(The other competencies, which were described in a 1981 report, are reading, writing, speaking and listening, mathematics, reasoning, and studying.)

Educators involved in the board's study interviewed more than 1,400 college faculty members, high-school administrators and teachers, parents, and business people to canvass their opinions in the preparation of the guidelines.

The College Board recommendations come at a time of increasing interest in improving the education system. In the past three weeks, the President's Commission on Excellence in Education, the Twentieth Century Fund, and the Education Commission of the States all have issued reports and recommendations on the subject.

The College Board report differs from the others in setting specific remedies for the perceived decline in basic skills, Mr. Hanford said.

If adopted on a broad scale, the recommendations could change the way students are evaluated and placed in various programs of study, the educators involved in the study said.

Mr. Hanford said new tests might be needed to assess students' mastery of the academic subjects. He declined to elaborate on when and how such tests might be developed, stressing the need to first convince educators of the validity of the goal-oriented approach.

Alice Cox, assistant vice president for student academic services at the University of California, said the goal-oriented approach might also give greater flexibility to the time that students spend in high school.

Ms. Cox said some students who demonstrate early mastery in all subject areas and in a set of "academic competencies" that were outlined by the College Board earlier, might move to college-level study before completing their K-12 career.

That might mean taking college-level courses in high school or enrolling in college earlier, she said. Eventually, the goal-oriented approach could blur the separation of grade levels, she said.

Mr. Hanford said he was confident

Vol. 02, Issue 34

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