Placement Exams: The Hidden Gateway

Placement exams are the hidden gateway in American education.  SAT and ACT get all the attention but are more relevant for the small percentage of kids that go to selective universities.  The rest stumble in to a two or four year college where they must take a placement exam; about half flunk and retake courses coving what they should have learned in high school.  That’s the beginning of the end of college for half of them.
An announcement on Thursday gives some hope that the hidden gateway will be replaced by a transparent and aligned high school exit and college eligibility assessment system.  Inside Higher Ed reports that a “new partnership between the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers could be the mechanism that brings them together.”

While the partnership between the groups is specifically designed to facilitate work on implementing the Common Core Standards, the associations’ leaders hope it will have a broader impact: to “develop more meaningful and sustained relationships between K-12 and higher education,” said Blakely Whilden, program manager for federal relations at AASCU.

The core standards will only be truly effective if “higher education is satisfied that the common core is an adequate measure of college readiness,” [CCSSO’s Gene] Wilhoit said.

High school students should be able to pass an on demand exam subject by subject and should become eligible for college credit upon passing.  Online and community college dual enrollment should be available to all prepared high school students.  Most students should be able to complete high school with some college credit in three years and be prepared to make an informed decision about post secondary learning.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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