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Contact: Alan Richard, SREB
(404) 879-5544
Released: 6/29/2010

States Can Improve Students' College Readiness by Adopting More Coherent Policies Linking K-12 Schools, Higher Education

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia — Many students arrive at college unprepared for the academic work they will encounter, but states can address the problem and improve college-degree completion by adopting college-readiness standards that more directly link high schools to postsecondary education, an important new report by the The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) shows.

The report describes the steps states can take — from adopting statewide college-readiness standards and measuring their progress on meeting the standards through high school exams — to curb the need for remedial education in college. Nationally, the majority of students who begin in remedial courses never complete their degrees.

The National Center and SREB evaluated states’ progress on statewide college-readiness initiatives and found that few states are implementing all of the evidence-based practices needed to make significant progress in improving students’ readiness for postsecondary education.

"At a time when states need more students to finish college so that our nation remains economically competitive, stronger readiness policies are key to improving access and college-completion rates," said Patrick M. Callan, president of The National Center.

"Most states still lack agreement among K-12 schools and higher education on the specific skills — and levels of academic skills — that students need to be ready for college," SREB President Dave Spence said. "For states to meet the urgent need of helping more people earn college degrees and certificates, more students must be better-prepared to begin college successfully."

The model college-readiness agenda — which SREB is working with several states to implement — challenges states to adopt statewide college-readiness standards that are developed and implemented by both K-12 schools and all sectors of postsecondary education. The model agenda includes the following:

  • College readiness standards in reading, writing and math that are developed jointly by K-12 schools and postsecondary education and formally adopted by elementary, middle, and high school districts and postsecondary institutions.
  • High school assessments that measure students’ progress on the state-adopted readiness standards.
  • Public school curriculum that reflects the readiness standards and senior-year high school courses designed to raise students’ skill levels in reading, writing and math.
  • Professional development for current and aspiring teachers on using the readiness standards in their instruction.
  • Colleges and universities using students’ performance on the high school tests for college placement.
  • State accountability systems that require high schools to show annual progress in the percentages of students who show they are ready for college through the state tests.
  • Higher education accountability for colleges and college systems that requires increases in degree completion for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and career certificates.

The National Center and SREB found that most states now require many students to take an appropriate college-prep curriculum, including the courses usually required for admission into higher education. Still, research shows that many students still are unprepared for college-level work, lacking the reading, writing and mathematical skills required to learn at more advanced levels. States need to address this problem by requiring students to master higher-level skills in the required courses.

The report also recommends that all of postsecondary education in each state agrees on the college-readiness standards and related actions — and that K-12 education and higher education join together to implement the entire college-readiness agenda.

SREB worked with The National Center to call for greater involvement from higher education in improving students’ readiness for college and career training.

The brief also includes a checklist for policy-makers with individual strategies for governors, state legislatures, P-12 boards, postsecondary governing boards, and postsecondary coordinating boards. The brief and checklist are available online at www.highereducation.org and www.sreb.org.

The National Center and the SREB president are available to discuss the policy brief or present its findings to an audience of state policy-makers. For more information, contact Pat Callan or SREB Communications.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education promotes public policies that enhance Americans’ opportunities to pursue and achieve a quality higher education. Established in 1998 by a consortium of national foundations, The National Center is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, California. It is not associated with any institution of higher education, with any political party, or with any government agency.

The Southern Regional Education Board is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with 16 member states to improve public pre-K-12 and higher education. Founded by the region's governors and legislators in 1948, SREB was America's first interstate compact for education. Today it is the only regional education compact that works directly with state leaders, schools and educators to improve teaching, learning and student achievement at every level of education.

Southern Regional Education Board
592 10th Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30318-5776
(404) 875-9211

For additional information, please e-mail communications@sreb.org