College & Workforce Readiness

College Readiness, College-Admissions Tests: The Most-Read Posts From 2016

By Catherine Gewertz — December 19, 2016 4 min read
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In 2016, we covered many slices of the world that starts with middle school and ends with the transition to college or work. What were the posts that were most popular?

You told us through finger-taps and clicks. Stories about college readiness and college-admissions testing were the clear winners.

Here are the 10 “High School & Beyond” posts you flocked to the most in 2016:

10. Interest in Teaching Continues to Fall Among High School Students. Okay, so right outta the gate, the 10th most-viewed post of the year isn’t about either of the most in-demand topics. But clearly, you guys were interested in ACT’s finding that high school students aren’t hot to become teachers.

9. Charter, Alternative, Virtual Schools Account for Most Low-Grad-Rate Schools, Study Finds. This study explored the poor performance of these nontraditional high schools. It included the startling finding that “virtual” schools—which conduct their business completely online—represent 1 percent of U.S. high schools but 87 percent of them graduate two-thirds or fewer of their students. (EdWeek’s investigation of cyber charter schools, “Rewarding Failure,” dug more deeply into this stuff at the end of the year.)

8. States’ Accountability Systems Flawed for College Readiness, Report Finds. This story showed just how wonky you guys are. You did not fall asleep the minute “accountability” was mentioned. You did the opposite: You came in droves to this story about how states’ accountability systems are not measuring the right stuff at the high school level. Shouldn’t they be tracking students’ credit accumulation, or maybe whether they’re earning college credit while they’re in high school? Those are the questions the study raised, and you were clearly interested in that debate.

7. ACT Offers First Accommodations for English-Language Learners. You were really interested in this story, no doubt because this policy change could help students who struggle. But you are also likely experiencing the expansion and shift in the role the ACT and SAT play in school. They’re not just optional college-admissions exams anymore. Increasingly, they’re mandated by states, and in a growing list of states, used for accountability. Thatputs some students in a bind, when they’re forced to choose between the accommodations they’re used to, and the ones ACT and the College Board permit. ACT’s move was clearly intended to address that problem, which our reporting disclosed earlier in the year.

6. Common Core, College Readiness Skills Don’t Match Up, Study Says. Feeling good because you knocked yourself out to align your teaching to the common core’s writing expectations? Maybe you shouldn’t. That’s the demoralizing suggestion of this study.

5. College Board SAT Designer Drawn Into FBI Investigation. Take a high-pressure, high-stakes test like the SAT, mix it with the rollout of a new version that made everyone really nervous, and then throw in an anonymous insider who claims that the new test has serious design problems. You’ve got instant fascination, worry, and a cascade of questions about the SAT’s validity (reported in a major investigation by Reuters, and denied by the College Board).

4. Some Early Reactions to Just-Released Scores From the New SAT. That new version of the SAT we just mentioned? Students reported a pleasant surprise: scores that were somewhat higher than on the old version. Then they learned that the score scale had shifted slightly, so those “gains” weren’t really gains.

3. Only 8 Percent of Students Complete College- and Career-Ready Curriculum. The dark message of this study fascinated you, judging by its place on our most-read items of 2016. It’s one more exploration of the watered-down coursework that passes for college readiness in too many high schools. And it’s a reminder of how bad a job schools do at helping students build coherent courses of study.

2. SAT Results 2016: It’s Complicated. Everyone was dying to know how the most recent crop of students performed on the SAT. But they were in for a big disappointment. Why? Because it was a really weird year. A small part of the class of 2016 took the new SAT, but most took the old version. So the statistics wonks at the College Board told us, over and over, that we couldn’t compare this to that, and that we couldn’t compare that other thing to this other thing, either. Combine that with a bit of artful numbers revision by the College Board—yeah, take a look—and this year’s SAT report was one of the weirdest ever. No wonder you tracked down this blog post and read it in droves.

1. Grades, Courses Most Important in College Admissions, Survey Finds. And here, the most-read post of the year, reflecting a huge, ongoing concern of our blog readers. What really does matter the most in college admissions? Here, the admissions officers themselves supply the answers. And after all the angling and gaming and test-prep, all the breathless worry about how to survive the college-admissions frenzy, we see—once again—that it’s the daily hard work of tough courses, and grades earned, that matter the most.

Thank you for reading us this year, and staying involved in the discussion about what’s important in secondary school and the journey to college and work. Stay with us in 2017 as we keep covering this world.

Photo credit: Getty Images

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.