Tracking = Success?

Tracking Early Progress Could Boost College Completion is an interesting article.

Looking at milestones and indicators of success as students progress through postsecondary education can help state policy makers and institutions be more responsive in providing support, according to a new report by Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based non-profit that studies education and workforce issues.

Solid indicators of success include completing 20 credits in a certain period, such as a year, and completing summer credits, says Jeremy Offenstein, a research specialist with the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy, California State University, Sacramento, and co-author of the report. Also, making it through the first college level math and English courses is a good sign.

It sounds good. Except for one minor issue. Just because I know you didn’t pass first year English doesn’t mean I can get you to pass it. Some of our students, especially those in open admissions colleges, will not be able to pass first year English. That’s perfectly legitimate. It doesn’t say they are goofing off; it says they are unable mentally to pass.

As postsecondary institutions begin to track intermediate steps towards success, it could result in useful information to K-12 systems about college readiness, adds Offenstein. By determining the number of students who need developmental education, it could help bridge the disconnect between high schools and colleges to potentially provide earlier assessment and intervention.

Okay… There are a couple of problems with this.

1. Teachers already know who genuinely needs developmental education.
2. Students who get developmental education (and those who don’t) do not necessarily apply what they have learned in class to their next class. Students think these classes are separate and disparate things.
3. Early intervention is unlikely to help those who are in high school and are already above their heads intellectually, unless early intervention means that those students will be taught reading and writing at the level where they are and then brought forward.

It’s an interesting idea. I don’t really see how tracking will equal success, but perhaps it will illuminate where able students are getting off-track.

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