Gap Between Perception and Reality in College Readiness Remains Wide

This year's edition of a school curriculum survey shows that the gap between high school teachers' understanding of how well their students are prepared for college and the reality of their preparation remains wide, The Washington Post reports.

The results of the ACT National Curriculum Survey 2012: Policy Implications on Preparing for Higher Standards indicate that typical high school curriculum remains out of step with the set of skills students need to learn in order to succeed in college.

Authors believe that one of the largest contributors to the "perception gap" is the lack of computer technology in many classrooms, making it harder to assess students in such a way that makes peer comparison possible. The problem is especially acute in high schools where lack of access to a computers makes it less likely that a school will administer assessment exams meant to judge how well a student is prepared for college and likewise makes it less likely that students have the computer skills to take them.

But that hasn't stopped teachers from feeling confident that students leave their classrooms equipped to take on more challenging coursework. Despite the rift between feelings and reality, teachers seem to embrace a realignment with standards that will close the gap:

Nevertheless, K–12 teachers tend to be generally optimistic about the value and potential effectiveness of college- and career-ready standards. This suggests that most of these teachers support the effort to improve standards and will work to help make it a success in the classroom.

There's reason to believe that the gap between college preparedness and assessment of that preparedness will narrow with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards which are slowly being rolled out all over the country. The bad news, however, is that on another recent survey, teachers reported being too unfamiliar with Common Core to teach it successfully.

The authors recommend that K-12 and post-secondary educators collaborate to align course material so that more graduating high school students are ready for the rigors of college. And they call for more and better professional development for K-12 teachers about college- and career-ready standards.

The report was issued by ACT, the nonprofit organization that owns the ACT colleges admissions test and also provides assessment, research, information, and program management services in education and workforce development. ACT, it should be noted, has its own set of college readiness standards.

The report is based on replies to surveys collected from thousands of primary and secondary school teachers as well as instructors from colleges across the country in subjects like English, mathematics, reading, science and technology. In total, the survey drew nearly 10,000 respondents.

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