College Guide


March 19, 2010 1:25 PM Get Ready

By Daniel Luzer

No Child Left Behind is a complicated law and the Obama administraton’s plan to reorganize it will have many many components.

One proposed change has to do with college, sort of. Currently public schools must make “adequate yearly progress” in various subject areas. Under the Obama plan, schools will be measured such that the final outcome is students who are college and career ready. Washington Post columnist George Will thinks this is a little silly:

But how does one fulfill — or know when one has fulfilled — Obama’s goal of “college and career readiness” for every child by 2020? That gauzy goal resembles the 1994 goal that by 2000 (when, Congress dreamily decreed, every school “will be free of drugs and violence”) every child would start school “ready to learn.” Is “college and career readiness” one goal or two? Should everybody go to college? Is a college degree equivalent to career -any career? -readiness?

Will has a point. The reason for public education is, at least in its most basic sense, to prepare Americans for life after public education ends. While in theory college-ready makes more sense than mere progress (however “adequate” it may be), at this point college and career ready look pretty hard for federal policy to appropriately define.

Vagaries and grand goals are not the ingredients that make for successful policies. As Will says, “Doubling down on dubious bets is characteristic of compulsive gamblers and federal education policy.” Let’s see if the Department of Education can find a way to give “college ready” and “career ready” real meaning.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Betsy Hammond on March 30, 2010 8:10 PM:

    Good questions -- which is why the data geeks among us so look forward to sessions like this one planned for the national meeting of the American Education Research Assoociation in Denver in May. Disclosure: This is honestly a place I would love to be at 8:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning!

    Measuring College Readiness: Validity, Cut Scores, and Looking to the Future
    Working Group Roundtable
    Discussant: Andrew C. Porter
    Chair: Walter D. Way (Pearson)
    Commentary Papers:
    James Sconing, Wayne J. Camara, Laura McGiffert Slover, Jon S. Twing, Susan Cooper Loomis

    The topic of college readiness has reached a point of unprecedented interest in the education dialogue. In this roundtable, representatives from major testing organizations involved with assessing college readiness will share perspectives on their work. Specifically, participants will describe efforts to validate test scores for measuring college readiness, speak of challenges associated with setting a college-ready cut score, and speculate on how the definition and assessment of college readiness will evolve in the future. Participants will prepare papers on this topic prior to the symposium. An expert discussant will challenge the participants and provide additional insights on the topic.