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Oakland Schools expert to discuss college-readiness

April 20, 2011 - The public and Oxford Community Schools Board of Education will get an opportunity to hear an explanation of MEAP scores and college-readiness from a member of Oakland Schools at their Board of Education meeting on Monday, April 25.

Ernie Bauer, the Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment Programs for Oakland Schools, will be speaking about Oxford High School's 2010 MEAP test scores and the myth behind the term "college-readiness," according to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum James Schwarz.

Schwarz invited Bauer to speak to the Board about the myth of college-readiness after reports were published in the Detroit Free Press ranking Oxford High School 28 out of 65 high schools in terms of seniors who were deemed college-ready.

"Ernie Bauer was invited to speak at our board meeting for the purposes of educating the board on statistical perspectives of the 2010 MEAP as well as responding with statistical perspectives as to the latest buzz in the media about college readiness," Schwarz wrote in an email.

The study, based on ACT scores for graduating seniors in 2011, showed only 18.3 percent of students were deemed college-ready. College-readiness was defined as the percentage of students that meet the following four minimum scores on the ACT: 18 on English, 22 in Math, 21 in Reading and 24 in Science

"I will be talking about what I believe to be a misguided interpretation of what it means to be college-ready," Bauer said.

He feels the term college-readiness should not be used as a predictor of post-secondary grades for a high school student, adding the definition should be based on "the demonstration of the acquisition of content standards."

Bauer used Dr. Joseph Martineau's definition of college-readiness to emphasize his point.

"College-ready means that the student knows and is able to do the things that are described as being appropriate for a student to know and be able to do in order to go into a career or post-secondary education," he said.

According to Bauer, the common college and career readiness standards, which were initiated by United States President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Education, are a set of content standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math that does constitute a curriculum or a test.

These standards represent what students should know and be able to do in ELA in order to succeed in college directly out of high school.

However, Bauer notes it is hard to measure how well students will perform in college due to outside influences both inside and outside the classroom.

"My point is there are literally millions of things that can influence the grades that kids can get in college," he said.

"Even within a single university, the same course can be offered in several departments and the probability of earning an A or B grade in that same course can be the function of which department one takes the course in," he added.

Bauer states the ACT college-readiness scores should not be used to "set expectations for high school students" at the college level.

"The ACT college-ready standards were defined as the point as which a student has a 50/50 chance of earning on A or B in a few courses," he said.

Bauer said the science portion of the ACT test is used to predict grades in college biology, a subject he pointed out most students do not take in college.

"In the case of science, in the ACT study more students were identified as being not college ready who then earned an A or B grade in college biology than were identified as being college ready and then actually earned an A or B in college biology," Bauer said.

He also noted the reading test was used to predict success in courses such as history, psychology and sociology; math was used to predict success in college algebra, which Bauer also noted most students do not take because they test beyond college algebra; English was used to predict grades in English Composition courses.

Speaking on this subject is nothing new for Bauer, who has previously given this same presentation at the Michigan Education Research Association Conference in November 2010 and the Michigan School of Testing Conference this past February. "I am willing to talk about this to anyone," he said.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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