Friday, January 6, 2012

Rethinking College Readiness

 The Winklevoss twins' Harvard education prepared
them for their future after college.

Many of us have believed for a long time that the role of a good education is to get a student ready for college so that he can get a degree that will enable him to not only improve his station in life, but also the situation for the student's family and neighborhood.   President Obama has made college readiness a cornerstone of his education and economic policies.  As a country we've tried to address appallingly low college readiness by adopting the common core curriculum.  Now it turns out we may have been all turned around on things.

A paper by Lauren Rivera from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University revealed that the top professional services firms recruit pretty much exclusively from 4 elite universities -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford.  These firms in the fields of law, investment banking, and consulting really are among the few employers that could provide the sort of transformational wealth that people like Michelle Rhee have called on schools to provide for our students.  To quote Rivera:

"Evaluators relied so intensely on the criteria of 'school' as a criterion of evaluation not because they believed that the content of the elite curricula better prepared students for life in their firms -- in fact, evaluators tended to believe that elite and, in particular, super-elite instruction was 'too abstract,' 'overly theoretical,' or even, 'useless' compared to the more 'practical' and 'relevant' training offered at 'lesser' institutions -- but rather due to the strong cultural meanings and character judgments evaluators attributed to admission and enrollment at an elite school."
I know some of you have had just about enough of my Vassar bashing, but we must ask ourselves if getting a student into a school like Vasser is really doing her any favors?  If a student becomes a teacher for instance, what good is a $40,000 salary if they achieve that salary with $150,000 in student loan debt.   We must not reward our public schools for turning out Dartmouth educated social workers, Vasser educated teachers, and New York University educated television repairmen.

College readiness is a meaningless tradition that simply serves to prop up the Browns and University of Chicagos in our country.  Our goal must be to send students to elite universities where they can truly have the future we want for them.  Currently, we estimate that between 25% and 40% of high school graduates are college ready, but if we look at the 4 elite schools, the number is much lower.   The 4 elite schools accept between 6% and 8% of applicants and that doesn't mean that all of those students are ready for the education they provide.

Until we have all students in America, applying and getting accepted at our country's elite schools, we will never achieve our greatness as a nation and we will continue to shortchange our schools.  There must be a way we can increase the rigor of our schools so that every student knows he has a Yale or Princeton education waiting for him after high school.

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