Colleges Weigh How to Judge Students
Today’s Times has the next step in the college admissions re-evaluatoin: www.nytimes.com/2008/09/29/education/29admissions.html The head of the commission I discussed the other day spoke at a convention to many other college admissions officers. If you read the article to the end you see two opposite strands — all of the college folks know that that SAT system is unfair. A student whose parents can afford $400 a hour test prep tutors starting in 7th grade cannot be meaningfully compared to a student who has to take two busses to reach a test site, or did not know there were ways to wave the fee for the tests, or that, now, scores from various tries at the test can be mixed and matched. While the tests produce scores, the scores are so dependent on the circumstances in which the student takes the test, that they have to be questioned, and weighed, and challenged. They are not meaningless, but it is far less clear how they are meaningful.
But, towards the very end of the article, college after college indicates that it is not letting go of the tests any time soon. So there is a general agreement to move away from strict tiers — scare X number and you are in, socre Y and you are out — but not clear sense on what to do without the scores. And that brings us back to this blog, and nonfiction, and you. Clearly, clearly, what colleges need is to have high school students take classes that require research, independent thinking, and strong writing. Those are the muscles students must be developing in high school. Because those are precisely the skills students will need in college, and in life.
We need to make clear to our schools that trade nonfiction books — reading them, using them in class, taking them as models — give students ways to engage in researching, thinking, and writing. Of course it is in my economic interest to say this. But it also seems so self evidently right. Our books are not chopped up and digested by committees. They are not reduced to the lowest common denominator. They exemplify the skills colleges need high school students to acquire. I am off to NYU today to hear a couple of professors talk about the challenge of creating textbooks for K-12, and college. It will be interesting to listen in, from a trade POV. I’ll let you know what I learn.