Monday, May 3, 2010

What does 'ready for college' mean?

You've probably heard the new target for No Child Left Behind; to quote the New York Times: "A new goal, which would replace the 2014 universal proficiency [in reading and math] deadline, would be for all students to leave high school 'college or career ready.'" But what does "college or career ready" mean?

Recently I (Kim) was asked by my department chair to draft an "operational definition of 'ready for college composition at UND'". Here's what I came up with, with feedback from UND's long-time composition directors:

Students who are ready for college composition at the University of North Dakota will…
  • …have had significant practice in the full range of reading comprehension strategies (summarizing, inferencing, visualizing, predicting, questioning the text, seeing causal relationships, recognizing the author’s purpose, having fix-up strategies when comprehension breaks down, etc. See the work of Kylene Beers, Carol Booth Olson, and Cris Tovani for details.);
  • …have had significant practice in producing lengthy texts (longer than two typed, single-spaced pages) that develop and support the writer’s ideas;
  • …have had significant practice in, and have developed a commitment to, strategies for substantively revising the content of their writing through multiple drafts;
  • …have developed the ability to take college work seriously, to understand and follow course policies and procedures, to meet deadlines, and to communicate effectively and appropriately with teachers and peers about their writing and about the course.
This operational definition is based on our observations of students and regular surveys of instructors during the previous eight years of the UND composition program. Inadequacies in one or more of these four areas are the most common reason for students to fail English 110 at UND.

What are your thoughts on this? There is currently a proposal from North Dakota's Lieutenant Governor to have all ND juniors take the ACT; anyone who got below an 18 on the English portion would be prohibited from taking college composition once they matriculate until they've completed some kind of remedial course. This is a terrible idea for all kinds of reasons, but in particular--with what you know of the ACT, can you see it measuring any of the items in the above list?