The Tide Is Turning: High School Is Coming Back

Sometimes changing one thing in a culture changes everything. That is what more than 50 college and university deans of admission, college presidents, and university chancellors, in addition to representatives from public and independent schools, are hoping for. Their one thing to change is the process of applying to college.

Educators on both the high school and college side of the college admissions process have been looking with dismay at what adolescence has become for many students due to the pressure to succeed in high school in order to gain college acceptance. They are concerned that those pressures have been harmful to the students’ well being and have influenced them to be overly self-absorbed. That group, with representatives from the most prestigious colleges and universities, recently released a report through the Harvard School of Education, entitled Turning the Tide, which details proposed changes in the college application process. All of those deans of admission endorsed the changes and will put them into effect so that high school students will enlarge their view of what success means and make huge changes in how they go through their high school years.

The report points out that the college application process itself sends the message to young people that their individual success, rather than concern for others and the common good, is paramount. The report calls for specific changes that will improve the emotional and psychological health of adolescents, increase opportunities for a broader range of students, and contribute to shaping a national culture different from the one we now have. The new application will redefine the roles of AP courses, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, and community service in admission decisions.

Currently, many students take as many AP courses as possible because they have been told that will impress colleges. The original intent of AP courses was to provide post high school experience for those who benefit from the challenge of college work in a specific area while in high school; now a schedule dominated by four or five AP courses a year has become high school for many students. The report notes that the achievement pressure resulting from that kind of schedule contributes to “high rates of depression, delinquency, substance abuse, and anxiety” in adolescents.

Many years ago, a student came to me, as English curriculum leader, and asked for permission to take a junior English honors course and a senior AP Literature and Composition course at the same time in her junior year because she would be studying abroad for her senior year. I explained to her that it would not be wise because each of those courses had hefty time commitments and required a prodigious amount of reading and writing. As I listed the specific books and writing assignments, she looked me in the eye and said, “ I hear what you’re saying, but for me that’s a party.” I didn’t give that student permission to double-up because of the amount of work and the availability of an AP English course at her international school although it would not have the particular challenge and the particular teacher she wanted. However, after that, when students or their parents asked for my advice about taking an AP course, I would use her word “party” and tell them that if the student thought that the course, in some intellectual way, would be a party, then he or she should take it. It has been my experience that two “parties”, two AP courses a year, is a maximum for high school students.

Turning the Tide doesn’t use the term “party” but endorses that concept. The new application process will state clearly that “a large number of AP or IB courses per year are often not as valuable as sustained achievement in a limited number of areas”. The report recommends that the college application process identify students who are passionate about an area of study, students who find intellectual engagement in that area, not the ones who “game the system” with a long list of AP courses.

According to Turning the Tide, students similarly try to “game the system” with a long list of extra-curricular activities. Admissions officers are dismissive of the “brag lists” of a large number of activities in which they suspect students may have minimal commitment and surface involvement.

Their suspicions are correct. I recall a faculty meeting at which the advisor to the National Honor Society recommended that guidance counselors advise 8th graders about how to plan for their upcoming high school years. They were to be told that in high school they should play at least one sport, join one music group, join one academically oriented club, and do a community service project so that they would qualify for National Honor Society as seniors and get into a good college. I objected, saying that students had a lifetime to become neurotic and questioned why we should make it happen when they are fourteen.

Turning the Tide throws that whole idea of resume building for 14 year olds out the window and encourages meaningful engagement in extracurricular activities. Applications will ask students to report only two or three activities and to explain in narrative form how the activities are meaningful for them.

Turning the Tide just about throws the SAT out the window too. Time has changed the purpose of the SAT. Originally, the SAT was put in place to ascertain a student’s aptitude for college, but, starting in March 2016, the SAT will be used as an achievement test to determine how well students have mastered the Common Core curriculum, how high schools will be ranked, and how teachers will be evaluated. Even when the SAT was considered a test of aptitude, it didn’t function well. The scores always correlated with the income of the students’ parents. The SAT didn’t measure student aptitude as much as it measured student affluence.

The report recommends that colleges and universities make the SAT optional. Already more than 850 colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree students and more than 200 top tier colleges and universities deemphasize the SAT and ACT in making admissions decisions. It may take a while for all colleges and universities to do that. Recently, when commenting on Turning the Tide, the president of a highly regarded university told me that within 10 years, standardized testing for college admission will be gone because all colleges recognize it is high school grades that predict success in college, not standardized tests.

Turning the Tide also addresses the common practice of students listing a number of community service endeavors even if their participation is minimal and does not have a deep impact on their lives. The new college application will ask students only about community service in which they have been involved for at least a year, about which they feel passionate, and from which they have learned and grown. The definition of community service is also expanded to “substantial and sustained contributions to one’s family”, such as working outside the home to provide needed income or caring for siblings or other family members. Doing that honors the service of less affluent students who give time to their families and do not have time for other kinds of service to others.

Big changes.

How will high school students be affected?

  1. It will open up possibilities for higher education for students of poverty and reduced income who have fewer advantages and more responsibilities than their peers.
  1. It will give adolescents a greater chance for emotional and psychological health.
  1. It will allow adolescents to experience high school for its own opportunities for intellectual growth and social development and not only as a pathway to college acceptance.
  1. It will give students more authentic learning experiences as the pressure of the SAT goes away and the incentive to teach the deeply flawed Common Core, which the SAT assesses, is reduced.
  1. It invites students to follow their own intellectual passions and to relate to their community in authentic and caring ways.
  1. It increases the chance that students will live their adult lives in a more compassionate world.

Thank you, Harvard. Thank you, Yale. Thank you, University of North Carolina. Thank you, M.I.T.. Thank you, Holy Cross. Thank you, Connecticut College. Thank you, Trinity. Thanks to all the other 44 colleges and universities who have endorsed these changes in the college application process.

75 thoughts on “The Tide Is Turning: High School Is Coming Back

  1. (Over 850) Colleges and Universities That Do Not Use SAT/ACT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs
    http://www.fairtest.org/schools-do-not-use-sat-or-act-scores-admitting-substantial-numbers-students-bachelor-degree-programs

    200+ “Top Tier” Schools which Deemphasize the ACT/SAT in Admissions Decisions
    per U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guide (2016 Edition)
    http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf

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  2. None of this matters if schools don’t stop measuring their level of prestige by how hard it is for kids to get in. Accept more students and stop admitting kids from other countries!

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      1. Colleges justify admitting increasing numbers of foreign students as being good for cultural enrichment. The more probable reason is these students pay full tuition.rather than in-state rates or receiving heavy scholarships. Every seat taken by a foreign national denies a seat to a worthy American. Then there’s the problem of foreign students, rather than being appreciative of the opportunity afforded them, forming protest groups who denounce American policies they may not agree with as well as joining brainwashed loons on campus who denounce our government, our Constitution, and anything else that doesn’t meet their approval.

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  3. Generally I completely agree with this trend and your thoughts on it. As a parent of a high school senior who loves her AP courses, though, I disagree with the assertion seen in this article and in others that APs should automatically be limited. There are students who take multiple AP classes without stress or anxiety, and who would, in fact, be more stressed out by not being in classes with their intellectual peer group or being forced to take a lower-level course without the pace and challenge and subject matter that they crave. And if there are students who will be stepping into a rigorous college experience as first-year students (think Case Western Reserve and other schools like that, for examples of non-Ivy schools that accept more students than the very most selective institutions), those students need to be prepared for success through their high school experience. If a student seeks out the rewards of AP classes for the intrinsic educational benefits, and has demonstrated ability to handle difficult coursework, why would we tell them no?

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    1. A lot of high schools have gotten rid of honors level courses to push AP courses. Those are courses where students can explore a subject at a deeper level without following such a rigid curriculum. There will always be students capable of taking more than 2 AP courses during a year. Exceptions will be made for those truly exceptional students. But the vast majority of students should stick to the 2 course limit to do their best work and learning.

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    2. I agree. I have a senior who will be graduating in May with 19 AP classes (14 “5”‘s so far) a 4.6 GPA, 2 sports and president of NHS. The regular classes have been watered down so much in our school district that it would have been senseless otherwise. Homework hours? Yes, ridiculous, but he still has plenty of time for fun. My junior daughter in the same situation.
      And to be fair, I have a sixth grade daughter who does not currently seem to be following that path. And that’s ok, too. Kids need to have options that work for them individually.

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    3. Whether you think it’s stressful or not is not the answer. Children want to empress their parents and want to be accoladed, therefore they will do whatever’s necessary to receive those accolades. I have a master’s degree but still believe students should enjoy being in high school and make memories before they enter a life of work and stress because they can’t ever go back.

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  4. My 14 year old 9th grader was convinced she “had” to take all honors courses so she could get into the “right” college. Those classes, in addition to 20 hours a week in a competitive sport, proved to be more than she could handle after just a few short weeks of beginning high school and they wouldn’t let her out even though she was failing. She ended up with severe anxiety to the point she could barely function. It has taken 6 months of counseling and medication, plus a change in schools, to get her back to the point enjoying school, learning and excited to pursue her academic goals. The pressure is too much too soon. Something needs to change or kids, like mine, are going to break.

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    1. SUCH a good point. There really needs to be a sane compromise. The problem my high school Freshman is facing now is that although she needed to step out of the ‘all honours, all the time’ track, the regular level courses are full of disruptive students that don’t take their education seriously at all. Unfortunately, her high school uses what I call the ‘bastardized block’ schedule. Most core subjects (ELA, Math, Science, SS) are one credit in a semester, so they expected her to take at least five core credits (Chem & Physics) her Freshman year – there seems to be a push to get the requirements over with by the end of Junior year so that Senior year is a party….. I really don’t get it. She is done with Algebra I and if Geometry doesn’t fit nicely into her schedule next Autumn will go an entire year without math before the second semester starts.

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  5. Hello Ann– I wish I could share your optimism about the “Tide” report, but I can’t. It’s a document that continues to blame the victims (students) for their frenzy in the college process and lets those who have constructed and perpetuate it (colleges and universities) off the hook. I’ve commented on it extensively on my blog, College Counseling Culture at collegeculture.net, so I won’t go into detail here. But until colleges and universities actively change the stakes in college admission, simply asking prospective applicants to be more other-directed will only shift the pressure from one sphere of behavior to another. The report reveals a real lack of connection to the realities of high-stakes college admission, not a wonderful new day of kumbaya.

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    1. I have read the report carefully, and would love to feel hopeful–but I’m afraid I have to agree with Mr Dix on this. As a teacher at a highly competitive high school, my fear is that the report only adds to the stress my students feel. Now they feel the need to write narratives about depth of community impact ON TOP of having the long list. AP courses will continue to be maxed out as long as administrators are being evaluated based on the number of AP courses offered, or the number of students enrolled. Until the community sees colleges actually changing the students they accept, nothing will change….but honestly? What college is going to turn down the over-involved, AP maxed, SAT busting stident? And as long as that student gets into top ranked colleges, every other student is going to feel the need to replicate the path.

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      1. Exactly. They’re only following the path that’s presented to them. It’s colleges that need to change their behaviors. When they start accepting kids with only two APs and rejecting kids with super-stacked courses and schedules, we can talk.

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    2. As a former counselor in a high school filled with well-accomplished students, I can assure you that it is not always the students who are driving the frenzy surrounding college admission. More often it is the parents, and, sadly, many counselors cave to parental pressure and emphasize academic rigor and achievement to an extent detrimental to young people. Much of the problem related to the college admission furor lies in the fact that families are convinced that there are only two or three dozen colleges in the US that are worth attending, and failure to gain acceptance to one of them will result in a bleak, unfulfilled existence. Try convincing parents and students to explore any of the myriad colleges and universities that don’t rank at the top of the US News & World Report’s list of schools but are nevertheless outstanding institutions. There are many more factors at play besides the overemphasis on academic achievement and underemphasis on building a meaningful life.

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      1. We’ve all been seduced in one way or another by the mythologies of the Ivy League and other high-status institutions, which are abated by the media, for whom rankings are ratings and sales dynamos. I think plenty of people would and do look beyond rankings, but the gravitational pull of PR and marketing is hard to escape.

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    3. I feel similarly. It’s rather cynical to accuse students of gaming the system and creating brag lists of activities when they are doing the things they are told they need to be doing. And I agree with those who have reported that it’s either AP or the basic offering that often contains uninterested, uncommitted students.

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      1. I think that you and others who have brought up the way that AP is being misused in schools bring up a good point. If the choice for students is AP or a course that is without challenge, that is a totally different situation than the authors of Turning the Tide and I were imagining.

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      2. I believe AP courses should be open to all who really want to be in them (aside from my reservations about APs themselves) but not just for kids who want to stack the deck for college applications. It’s a mess all around.

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  6. More Liberal mindlessness.. What the US needs is curriculum and an even more important, an environment which provides for and ecnourages American kids to become more internationally competitive. We are far far behind many other nations(many of which who flood our universities with their children).. This unicorns/rainbows approach will do none of that.

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    1. I’m an American. My mom remarried and move me to Germany when I was 14 and I earned an Abitur back when Germany had 13 grades. After I earned my undergraduate and doctoral degrees I moved back to Europe, but not Germany. This new list is much more like what European high schools provide students with: breadth but still depth in a few select areas. We also didn’t have lots of extra curricular activities. Most students did 1-2 activities. Even in the 90s I tried to do much more than that so I could “get in” to an American university.

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  7. This is a great article!! But I am current high school student. I am currently enrolled in three AP classes, and I will enroll in three more next year. I have friends who take four and five courses a year and they can handle it. Most kids I know are in three or four AP’s this year, and they are all fine. Honestly, if someone told me that I could only take two, I would be pissed. Yes it can be stressful, but guess what? When I go to college, I will know how to study and be prepared. I’m not depressed and neither is anyone I know. Just throwing that out there.

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    1. Actually, you likely WON’T be prepared, because what I have seen as the AP curriculi is nothing like my experiences in college. Unless your AP courses are becoming project based instead of test based, they will do nothing for you.

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      1. You may be right. But I will say that I am learning how to balance several AP’s and all the studying that goes with it, as well as extracurriculars, sports, clubs, and social time. I’m learning time management, and I think that’s a vital skill to have when you go to college. My dad tells me all the time that he took no AP’s when he was in high school, and he was not at all prepared for college, because he didn’t know how to study. So yes, I feel like they are helping me.

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  8. This is all just “hunky dory”, unless you have a child attending an International School….for us, it has been in Mainland China. Starting in Middle School (and continuing thru Gr 12 graduation) there are HOURS of homework on weekends and school holidays…HS is a pressure cooker in grades 9 &10 to be prepared for IB courses in 11 & 12 (we only have 2 AP courses offered, but you can earn an IB diploma). My five children have done 4 IB/AP courses in grades 11 & 12…. they worked long and hard for their A’s & B’s….fortunately 3 of 4 graduates got into the their “target school” for Uni….#4 got into her B choice (she was a solid B student with good test scores). We are hoping #5 (class of 2017) makes it into his “target school”…..but very few Admissions offices understand what education is like in Asia……..

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  9. “Even when the SAT was considered a test of aptitude, it didn’t function well. The scores always correlated with the income of the students’ parents. The SAT didn’t measure student aptitude as much as it measured student affluence.”

    This is a bit of bunk. The SAT certainly does measure aptitude. Just because that strongly correlates to affluency doesn’t mean it doesn’t measure aptitude.

    Aptitude correlates to wealth for a lot of reasons. People may not want to acknowledge that, but it is fact.

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      1. I absolutely do NOT agree with that statement. I went to night school for 12 years, while working and raising my daughters and stressing the importance of a good education. However, my salary is NOT six figures and we are far from well off. Both of my daughters scored very well on the SAT’s within the past 7 years; neither of them took a review courses. My youngest has a learning disability but was mainstreamed into regular classes. All she required was extended time on the test to score a 2000. The test truly IS an aptitude test for a lot of students. She didn’t even take trig/calc because she was positive the math teachers at her school didn’t teach in a way she would learn, so she chose to limit her choices for college by only having three years of math – and yet she still scored a 680 on the math portion and earned a college scholarship based on her score. The argument “you buy your score” is not always the case and I for one am sick of hearing it.

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  10. As a parent, I have to comment to say that my child and her peers do not take AP classes to “stack their resumes” but to get an education. In our community, the regular classes are so full of behavior problems and remedial students that learning and teaching is sparse. For students who are not in the ivy league east coast area, basic education in the public school system isn’t the same. I am thrilled with these changes. However, I remain skeptical about their implementation and know that until public education is improved across the nation (through something better than Common Core), gaps will remain between students.

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    1. You bring up a good point and one worth exploring. A vital ingredient to the discussion of how many AP courses students should take is how schools structure their course offerings. If AP, as you describe, is the only course offering in a grade other than a course filled with struggling students with behavior problems, than taking only two AP courses does not make sense. In my experience, high schools offer an honors level course, a college bound course, and a general course as well as an AP course to juniors and seniors. You remind me that there is a wide range of what schools offer by way of courses,ranging from the structure that is familiar to me, upon which I based my article, to one that is “AP for all” because every junior and senior takes AP in every subject. Thank you for reminding me of the differences in school structures regarding academic leveling.

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      1. Another option, which would actually give the student a taste of college and what college courses expect much more accurately than an AP course is the local community college. Many students in our area do that because there is no guarantee that the AP test grade will actually translate into college credit.

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  11. Terrific news for the college bound. And for the other 70%? How does high school prepare them to successfully transition to work? 40% of today’s jobs need some higher education; 20% of jobs need bachelors (or higher) degrees. 5.6 million jobs in this country are not filled. We have no system that lets teens know what these jobs are and skills needed to do them. But we’ve got highly educated baristas and working as fast food servers (in 2013, there were 400,000 recent college grads working the front line in fast food franchises). We throw our young adults at academia like so much spaghetti, hoping that some will stick. Just about half do and just about half of them get jobs that need academic degrees. And then there’s the student loan debt. It’s time to stop pretending that every high school grad goes to university. Imagine how much better choices teens could make if they knew career planning and were financially literate.
    Carol Christen, author What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens

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    1. In our county, we have almost the opposite issue. In fact, at most of the high schools students are automatically put on what used to be called the Voc Ed track. We have a tech center that does a very good job at training students for computer certs and several technician careers. However, if I hear one more parent from another school ask if my daughter has gone to explore the cosmetology program I may pull someone’s hair out. My husband and I are retired Navy Sailors; my son wishes to be a musician, but realizes that he needs advanced degrees to do what he wishes; my daughter wants to be a Navy pilot – a job that does, indeed, require a college degree… and yes, girls CAN fly military airplanes. Sorry, but I grew up in a very different area and we spent the majority of our adulthoods in a totally different culture than the rural one where we now reside and girls still go for pink collar jobs.

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      1. I’m glad to hear that your daughter is thinking outside the box and GOING BIG! I say go for it and good luck! Go for your dreams.

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  12. Well, to help keep our kids healthy, we need to let them choose their interested subjects, cannot have any tests and no grades needed to get admitted to college…Wow, american education will be…

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  13. This Is really interesting. Another huge problem with college is the cost. Pretty soon kids won’t be able to afford to attend or they will be paying off their debt the rest of their life assuming they would even be able to get the financial assistance to attend. I know lots of parents are paying for their kids to go to college. I believe this is the student’s responsibility. Also as a middle class family, we do not have the extra income to cover this expense.

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    1. As a middle class family, we have been saving for our children’s education since before they were born. We also paid for some of our own undergrad degrees with the help of the GI Bill (my husband also had some tuition assistance). We have footed the bill for my entire graduate degree. Since my husband’s parents weren’t able to pay for his further education, he enlisted in the Navy as a job, only later deciding that he needed a degree to reach his goals. My parents were able to help with the beginning of my education. From that, we learned that help at the beginning makes the middle and end much easier – and that is something we have chosen to do for our children and their futures.

      Because we drive inexpensive cars until they die and don’t live ‘high on the hog’ (we’ve only had a game console for a year and have maybe a half dozen games for it), so that we could fund their educations, they/we don’t qualify for financial aid – and we won’t consider loans, they have become a racquet for bleeding the government, taxpayers and students. Yet we know grasshoppers (as opposed to ants) who didn’t plan, although in similar financial shape who do qualify. It’s all in priorities.

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  14. I graduated from high school 22 years ago. There were about 200 students in the National Honor Society in my graduating class. Most of them took at least 5 AP classes every day, some 6 or 7. Most of the “regular” classes were pretty easy. In the 11th grade, they miscalculated and appointed a teacher to teach the AP English class. By the second semester, 17 kids tranferred out of her class into regular English and only 12 students stayed in – not because she was necessarily too difficult, but because she was a bit crazy and her grading style was all over the place. Anyway, for the first time in years, I was in a regular English class – we spent 6 weeks on Huck Finn! (in Honors, a novel would have been thoroughly covered in about 8 days). It was ridiculous. And we watched the movie for Grapes of Wrath. Several students were asleep in the back of the class for almost every class. For me, it was an interesting social experiment, and I enjoyed making 99/100 every six weeks for a grade, but I didn’t learn much and was a bit bored overall. So, NO, not every student needs to only take 2 AP classes. It really depends on the student.

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    1. You bring up a real issue that another reader has also mentioned: the structure of academic courses in a high school. I wrote from the perspective that there are honors level high school courses in addition to the AP college courses. It is a totally different situation if the choice is AP or a course without challenge. I appreciate your bringing this to my attention. I intend to write a future article about the situation you mention. It would be good to bring it to the attention of the authors of Turning the Tide as well. AP itself needs to be defined more clearly and high schools need to schedule course to address the needs of all learners. I know from programs that I have created and supervised that there are students who benefit from an honors level English course and for whom AP would not be good choice.

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      1. When you look into this, please check the websites of a variety of high schools. For instance, I just checked one in Florida, one in NJ, and one in CT. The program offerings were vastly different! Honestly, at least with AP, there is some standardization of curriculum — if the student gets a “5” on the AP Test, clearly they have mastered the AP-level material. Honors are not created equally across schools = In New Jersey, with every school district run differently, the course tracks are also very different from town to town (local BOEs in each town decide curriculum, not counties like in other states).

        Finally, grade inflation should be considered. An A in one school does not equal an A in another school. Frankly, this is where the SAT and ACT are meaningful, as are AP Tests.

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  15. Most jobs require some type of training – college or technical. I think if parents have kids then they should be prepared to help with that. Colleges expect parents to contribute something. The time is long passed when a kid could “work his way through college.” Few parents can pay the full boat or should, but having kids and expecting them to assume the full burden at 18 seems absurd.

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  16. I really enjoyed your article and found it very informative, plus the thought of doing away with testing that supports Common Core makes me more than happy. My husband and I both couldn’t help but be concerned about two things up front, and hope those will be addressed somehow in this shift. My husband noted that colleges relying only on students’ HS grades for indication of readiness for college seems a bit flawed – as a former HS athlete, he observed that there were many teachers who ‘pass’ Johnny in classes where he isn’t performing well, because “we wouldn’t want him to be benched during a big game, or during his senior year…we wouldn’t want him to not get into a good college where he can play ball, or lose his big scholarship, etc.” I agree with him on this, as I know for a fact there were both athletes and cheerleaders in my school whom the teachers unfairly gave unearned grades to – sometimes it was just a matter of not marking off missed test questions, other times it was giving a better grade on a term paper than what it was worth, where grading is subjective. The second concern is that our oldest is a 9th grader, so we’ve been hearing a lot now that he’s in high school about colleges using SAT scores to determine scholarship amounts and eligibility. What will happen to that practice – how will colleges decide scholarship recipients and levels? It’s particularly concerning because we opted our boys out of PARCC testing last year and plan to do the same this year and until we no longer have a choice. But now hearing that SATs are assessing how well they’ve mastered this curriculum worries me a bit because they don’t have experience with the testing style of this curriculum. What do you think about this? I look forward to reading more articles from you in the future. Thank you.

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    1. I have never heard of colleges using SAT scores to determine scholarships. College admissions officers and presidents know that the SAT, taken in isolation from high school grades and other data, is a zero predictor of success in college. It is high school grades that predict success in college. The new SAT is even less reliable because it is untested. No one knows at all how scores on the new SAT or PARCC correlate with college success. On my blog, I have written several articles about SBAC. You might want to check them out. What I wrote about SBAC applies equally to PARCC.

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      1. Yes, it is very common. As it should be. The SAT measures more than income level and levels the playing ground. A’s in one high school do not correlate to A’s in another high school, or even within a school due to varying teacher grading practices.
        There are other reasons students score highly. Good school districts provide good education. Also, if kids in poor districts want to study for the SAT/ACT, there are plenty of free online resources.

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      2. Many colleges actually do use SAT as criteria for scholarships, specifically larger colleges with significant numbers of applicants. As someone else said, it is very common.

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  17. Why shouldn’t the ambious, hard working, goal oriented students in HS have a better opportunity to gain entrance into the best Universities? We can’t make everything even for all. Anxiety and stress are vitamins for the body, they push us to prepare, perform and succeed. I am opposed to having academia tell us what is best for society. As a retired Army officer and current hiring manager for a large defense contracting firm, I look for people who can build and lead teams. Success is normally defined by GPA, field of study (sciences are better than atrs) and level of education. As we continue to redefine success and water down real achievement, the US will continue to spiral downwards into a second rate nation.

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  18. This conversation shouldn’t continue as if education is unrelated to the rest of American life. As long as Americans rightly perceive that there are decreasing numbers of spots in the comfortable, dependable, middle class, they will push their kids into more of what they perceive as a “sure thing.” An Ivy League degree, –or close to it. And a resume that will float to the top of the pile. This is the arms race motivator — the perception that there are fewer spots in the middle class.

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  19. Building a world of sissies. Life is about competing, whether that be for a job, a raise, a promotion, or staring a business. No employer cares how you feel. They want the most competent people. This article highlights what is wrong with this country and why Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton would even be considered presidential material. This country is screwed.

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  20. The reason the new SAT focuses on Common Core is simple: the SAT contract is now held by the same company that wrote the shared foundation for the two major tests of the Common Core. Pearson wrote all of PARCC, most of SBAC, all of the SAT, most related textbooks, most tutorials for most tests, all of the tutorials for ACT, all of NAEP’s current contract, the recent PISA, the GED, teachers’ qualification tests, credentialing for doctors, and most test scoring contracts. This creates a huge conflict of interest whereby the more students that fail, the more tutorials Pearson can sell. This gigantic British corporation now controls the goals, methods and outcomes of the US education system.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I find it hard to believe that any test, old SAT, SBAC, or the new SAT will be anything other a measure of affluence. Schools will simply teach to the new test, particularly now that teacher evaluation is tied to this test. Schools are ranked according to how many AP classes they offer as well as student scores on the AP, SAT and ACT tests. More students will take PSAT tests and will see “AP potential results.” This will encourage parents, guidance counselors and students to request more AP classes.

    Due to the ranking system, schools are dropping honors classes to encourage more students to take more AP courses. Parents with money will pay for SAT prep classes and tutors for AP tests. In the end, students from the most affluent families will have better scores on standardized tests. We will be in the same situation than we are now. The students from the most affluent families will score better on the standardized test. Schools with the most affluent students will have the best scores in the state.

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  22. As a School Counselor, I really appreciate this article. It was especially interesting to read the pre-1994 throwback phrase “guidance counselor.” Ha! That was soooooo long ago, but it brought back memories of the days before we had school counselors. So glad we no longer have Guidance Counselors and so happy that colleges are more mindful of the import of true community service, and above all, healthy balance. As a counselor, I don’t think I ever have a session where I don’t discuss both rigor and balance in the same sentence.

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  23. I think this is fantastic. I absolutely applaud their efforts to make these changes; however, I will point out that the biggest roadblock to success in college and beyond is a matter of income. If a student has to work 40+ hours just to make ends meet, college will suffer or take a complete backseat. Suppose they make it through college at some point, their loan repayment will be so high compared to their entry-level salary and living expenses that again they can barely make ends meet, won’t have the debt-to-credit ratio required to buy a house, etc.

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  24. It’s awfully nice of them to try to fix a problem they created. What, did the college and high school leaders think that families generated this issue? Some of us have been fighting against this nonsense for years and, like Mr. Dix, are dubious as to how well the well-meaning creators of this initiative actually connected with and understand the problem.

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  25. Isn’t a little cynical to state that students take AP course in an effort to impress colleges and somehow game the system? We never pushed out kids to take any AP courses, but told them instead to get a wide variety of the most challenging classes available–a strategy more important now than ever, since the dumbing down of classes, the end of leveled sections in favor of curricula designed to the lift students who need a little bit of help to past the precious tests, while letting the higher achievers fend for themselves. For a lot of lower middle class families, those AP credits, and the savings they provide when translated to college credits,represent a not insignificant leg up on expenses or, finances aside, a little bit of room at the university level to sample classes outside mandatory coursework.

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  26. While it may not seem relevant at first, I’d say that working to lower college tuition costs would also go a long way toward helping students. I mean, we should remember that having a good resume for college is about more than just acceptance- it’s about scholarships, too. Tuition prices are crazy these days, and for a lot of students, they’re depending on schools giving them financial aid. A student may get accepted into a really good school, but if the school doesn’t also offer them any scholarships, that student will likely have to pick another school or just not go at all.

    Personally, I think the whole FAFSA needs to be redone, or colleges need to simply cut down tuition prices, or just anything. I’m a college student right now, and because I don’t have a “normal” family situation, I don’t fit into the FAFSA form, and I can’t complete it. Because of this, I can’t even apply for most scholarships or forms of aid, and I’m having to consider dropping out of school altogether because it’s simply too much money.

    If you want students to be successful, take out the extra burden of affording college. Take out the burden of needing a million extra-curricular activities that you’re not REALLY involved in, just so you can get scholarships so that you can afford school. Take out the burden of needing to take every single AP class, not only for college credit, but so that you can stand out enough to get scholarships. Because I mean really, there are tons of schools out there and the real trick isn’t just getting accepted- it’s getting accepted AND getting financial aid.

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  27. Thanks for bringing this report to our attention. It’s very important to remember, however, that the report gives recommendations, and even the signatories are not bound to follow all of the recommendations. For instance, Bill Fitzsimmons, a signer of the document and Harvard’s Dean of Admissions, offers reservations regarding some recommendations (like AP and SAT/ACT limits). http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2016/2/11/fitzsimmons-supports-admissions-report/

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  28. I’ve read this story and all the comments and am really torn. On the one hand, I agree with the premise that many HS students today have WAY too much stress and too many demands on their time. BUT, there is no doubt that this country has been spiraling down intellectually over the last decade or two. We are no longer on top academically, and have been steadily deteriorating for years.

    Also, since when is the SAT not an accurate predictor of college success? Last I heard, the reason it is used is because it is the single best predictor of how the student will do in college. If this is no longer true, why is it being used? It may correlate to income, race, region or height for all I know (kidding!), but if a high SAT score indicates a student is more likely to excel in college, wouldn’t the schools be stupid not to use it? And if there is little or no correlation, why on earth are they still using it?

    So, I have no answers, but I’m glad the issue is being looked into by those who matter. I just hope we don’t coddle our young people so much that they aren’t up for the big challenges the world is facing. We need more tough, smart, hard working college graduates, not fewer.

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  29. Reblogged this on National Mobilization For Equity and commented:
    This did not get the attention or traction it should have. The higher ed media coverage gap seems significant, especially considering the report’s source. Surely this gap speaks to the vested interests of college prep, testing and admissions industry that advertise in higher ed media.

    More Links: http://www.one-tab.com/page/fY5hOIlDSRqGlD0QMwgV-A

    Executive Summary:   20160120_mcc_ttt_execsummary_interactive.pdf 

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  30. Two concepts seem relevant to explore (1) symptom v disease. & (1) privilege; The symptom is HS overload – SAT, outside activities, etc. The disease is the pressure – either internal by the student, or external from parents and others – to get into a top school: Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, Duke, UC-Berkeley, Michigan, etc. But the reality is that these tops schools are likely to lead to a privileged life. It can’t be coincidence that every current member of the Supreme Court went to Harvard or Yale law school. 60-100 years ago, if Dad went to Harvard, Junior was likely to go to Harvard; the SAT was developed to broaden that process. The current university admissions committee process is completely opaque. The issue isn’t HS student overload, but what is a better way to manage this most difficult admissions process. It was once legacy, then by SAT test, now by HS overload. What is a better process, keeping in mind that “fair” is often only in the eye of the beholder?

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  31. I wish that colleges would stop emphasizing the importance of dual credit courses. I work at a charter school and I see the pressure that taking dual credit course causes our students. The students get double the stress when they take dual credit courses. This article doesn’t mention the fact that many students take dual credit courses to lower the overall cost of college. College has gotten so expensive so taking as many dual credit courses as possible in high school. High school has become junior college.

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  32. For a comprehensive, commonsense plan to “turn the tide” in high schools in every sense, visit the website for Save the 2,008, a community coalition in Palo Alto, California, to build happier, healthier high schools.

    If, at “ground zero” of our national epidemic of stressed and depressed high-schoolers, we can create change, then we can do it everywhere.

    Please do go to: savethe2008.com

    Sincerely,
    Marc Vincenti
    Gunn High School Faculty, Palo Alto (1995-2010)
    Campaign Coordinator, Save the 2,008

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