College & Workforce Readiness

Testing, Bachelor’s Degrees and More: the Most-Read ‘High School & Beyond’ Posts of 2017

By Catherine Gewertz — December 21, 2017 3 min read
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It’s been a busy year here at High School & Beyond, with stories about mysterious financial-aid hackers, big testing screwups, and big questions about the value of high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. Cue drumroll: Here are the stories about high school and college that were the most popular this year.

10. Michelle Obama to Counselors: You’re ‘Heroes.’

It was a symbolic and powerful choice: Michelle Obama chose to make her final remarks as First Lady to a gathering of school counselors. Wiping away tears, she praised them for giving “the power of hope” to young people.

9. College Board and Khan Academy to Offer Free AP Test Prep

These two organizations garnered a lot of attention when they teamed up to announce that they’d provide free SAT preparation. This post about another free-test-prep project grabbed a lot of eyeballs, too.

8. Students Say Schools Do Poor Job of Preparing Them for College

Are our high schools doing a good job getting students ready for postsecondary education? One of the biggest stakeholder groups for that question—students themselves—weighed in with a pretty dark response. Barely half of the 55,000 students surveyed in this study gave their schools good marks for college preparation.

7. FAFSA Application Tool Shut Off Due to Security Concerns, IRS Says

A hacker tried to get access to the tax records through an online tool designed to help students complete the Federal Application for Free Student Aid, or FAFSA, and the feds responded by shutting it down. The move meant that students had to return, temporarily, to a more labor-intensive way of submitting family tax information if they wanted to complete their aid applications. (Investigators restored the tool after making security fixes. The also discovered that the hacker was trying to get President Trump’s tax information.)

6. Who Gets Hurt When High School Diplomas Are Not Created Equal?

For nearly a decade, policymakers have been focused on making sure states calculate their high school graduation rates the same way, without cutting corners. That focus has begun to shift recently, with a closer look at what those diplomas mean. Some require students to complete rigorous courses of study, while others leave students unprepared for their next steps.

5. Oregon to Drop Smarter Balanced in High School

Readers are still tracking which tests states are choosing. High school folks are particularly interested in a trend Education Week has been tracking for several years: states throwing out tests like PARCC and Smarter Balanced at the high school level and opting for the SAT or ACT instead.

4. Feds Announce FAFSA Security Changes, Sparking New Worries

People were upset when the data-retrieval tool was taken down because of a hacker (see #7.) But they weren’t too happy, either, when it was restored with security fixes that didn’t entirely alleviate worry about the security of students’ personal information.

3. Are You Helping Prepare Students for Jobs That Will Be Lost to Automation?

It’s like a little cloud, hovering there: the question of how K-12 must change to prepare students for jobs in an increasingly automated future. This post reported on a new study of which jobs carry the greatest risk of being eliminated by automation, and asked whether schools are heeding this data in counseling students.

2. U.S. Education Needs to Move Past Its ‘Fixation on the Bachelor’s Degree,’ Study Says

A paper by the American Enterprise Institute hit many of the nerve points in the recent debate about college. Why should students spend so much time and money getting four-year degrees when there are many good-paying jobs out there that don’t require them? It’s an increasingly popular argument being made by Trump administration officials, too.

1. Hundreds of California Students Must Retake AP Exams

You love stories about big testing mistakes! And this was no exception. The most-read blog post of the year here on High School & Beyond was this one, about how 500 students in California would have to take Advanced Placement tests over because their schools didn’t abide by the required testing arrangements.

Thank you for reading about high school and college issues with us in 2017. We hope to keep you informed—and maybe even a little bit entertained—with lots more stories in 2018.

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