The definition of college-ready

The Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education announced last week the establishment of uniform statewide standards for students entering a two-year or four-year college or university to be considered “remediation free”. House Bill 153, signed into law by Governor Kasich in June 2011, required Ohio’s college presidents to spell out the assessment thresholds that would define “college readiness” and the methods by which this can be determined for students completing high school and wishing to move on to higher education without the need for expensive remedial courses.

The full standards and expectations document works out to multiple pages and is well worth a read, detailing the goals that our education chiefs – and this parent, for one – want to see our students meet.

How to determine whether a student has reached these worthy goals as of graduation from high school: ACT and SAT scores. The essence of the agreement between ODE and Regents is the establishing of cut scores for each content area (except science, which could not be agreed upon in the first round effort) that indicate a sufficient degree of achievement.

 Source: Ohio Board of Regents

The establishment of these standards and defining the means of assessment are significant for a number of reasons:

  • This is another step – along with adoption of the Common Core and the third grade reading guarantee – toward quantifying a rigorous K-12 curriculum for Ohio’s students and making sure that those students are meeting the benchmarks set at each level to assure students are prepared to move to the next.
  • No new assessments are required to determine college readiness. By retaining the widely-taken ACT and SAT tests (as well as the Accuplacer test which is more common in community colleges) as the determination of remediation-free status, no further burdens are put upon students or post-secondary institutions.
  • Students who rank as remediation free will not need to waste time and money – and risk dropping out of college – on classes that do not count toward their graduation requirements. College classes are not the ideal format for taking high school level algebra in any case.
  • The cooperation between the Board of Regents and the Department of Education signals an unofficial move toward the full establishment of a PreK-20 education continuum in Ohio, a movement that will continue now that Regents and ODE are office roommates.

But there are also some concerns still to be addressed in the establishment of these standards:

  • No science standard could be agreed upon, mearning that subject area will possibly not have a remediation-free threshold.
  • Students and their families could easily be confused by achieving remediation-free status and still having the student placed in lower-than-expected classes to start. These standards do not address academic placement.
  • Students and their families could be “scared off” of college entirely if their SAT/ACT scores do not reach remediation-free status, even though it does not automatically mean that a student must be placed in remediation once accepted to a university or community college.

Kudos to the Board of Regents and the Department of Education for their cooperative efforts on this issue. We are hopeful that the adoption – and proper publicizing – of these standards will have positive effects on college-readiness of entering freshmen statewide.

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