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College Prep


California Freshmen Lose Out on College

As if beginning freshmen weren’t under enough stress already, one thing that should also be on their minds front and center from day one is college, says a new report from the nonprofit research and service agency WestEd.

The report, which analyzed the final high school transcripts of thousands of California students, reveals staggering figures showing that too many are falling off the state’s college-preparatory track, or are never getting on it in the first place.

Experts say that the situation is not unique to California. “We know that students struggle a lot during freshman year,” says Daria Hall, assistant director of K12 policy at the nonprofit group Ed Trust. If students fall behind in credit accumulation in their first year, they often “face a steep uphill struggle to regain their footing,” says Hall, and will continue to fail if there isn’t effective school intervention.

The lead author of the study, Course Taking Patterns and Preparation for Postsecondary Education in California’s Public University Systems among Minority Youth, says there are all sorts of reasons why students may fall off or not perform at satisfactory levels, such as a lack of understanding of which courses are college preparatory, or simply not having a college readiness mindset.

“The real lesson is that all district leaders, teachers, guidance counselors, and most importantly students, must understand the value of a consistent trajectory for entering higher education,” says WestEd’s Neal Finkelstein, “and they must understand it early.”

Among the study’s key findings were that more than a third of all students sampled had not met the California university system’s English requirements for ninthgraders by the end of freshman year, and more than 40 percent of students had not completed two semesters of college-preparatory math by the end of freshman year.


College Board to Offer New Test

The SAT, PSAT, SAT subject tests, ACT and Advanced Placement exams represent a formidable battery of tests that many high school students take as they prepare for college. Now the College Board, which owns the SAT and other standardized assessments, has debuted one more.

The new test, called ReadiStep, is targeted for eighth-graders and is intended to help prepare them for rigorous high school courses and college. College Board officials are calling it an instructional and diagnostic tool and say it will have “nothing to do with college admissions.”

But others aren’t so sure. Critics say kids are tested enough as it is, and that the new test will succeed only in accelerating the college admissions arms race and forcing it on ever-younger children.

“Who needs yet another precollege standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” says Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group pushing for making standardized tests optional for college admissions.

The new exam, designed to be completed within two hours and divided into three multiple-choice sections of critical reading, writing skills and math, will be available to schools next fall.