1. Minimum standards for entrance.
According to Tepe, states that have implemented the CCSS will soon be determining what specific test score students will need to meet in order to demonstrate “college readiness.” However, most colleges and universities have not yet planned to include these scores as part of their minimum standards for student entrance.
Tepe explains that “less selective universities like Alabama State” use test scores primarily to establish minimum eligibility standards to avoid enrolling students likely to fail. Yet, many states are not considering integrating Common Core assessments with its admission criteria.
“For institutions that currently use ACT and SAT scores to establish minimum standards, expanding those standards to include Common Core assessment scores would provide an additional opportunity to demonstrate student readiness,” she writes. “A college-ready designation on the state-adopted, Common Core standards-aligned PARCC assessment should be sufficient to meet state minimum eligibility criteria for unconditional admission to the state’s public universities.”
Selective colleges like Harvard, who use test scores for sorting as a means to identify the best students among a much larger pool of students, should also use comparable scores on PARCC or Smarter Balanced as a sufficient substitute.
“If these assessments do not serve as a means for determining college readiness in minimum admissions policies, it will undermine the standards as a true proxy for college readiness,” she says.
2. Test scores for financial aid.
Some states’ postsecondary financial aid is need-based, but many states award aid based on academic merit, and many factors considered by colleges and universities in the admissions process are weighed for financial aid considerations, including high school, GPA, adherence to a “college preparatory” course load, and ACT and SAT scores, notes Tepe.
Therefore, where test scores are used as a proxy for college readiness to award financial aid, colleges and universities—as well as state governing boards—must allow students to demonstrate proficiency with the Common Core standards.
“However, as with admissions policies, few states have determined if, or how, they will integrate the new college-ready assessments into this critical area of higher education policy,” explains Tepe. “And for those states developing or using their own high school assessments, most remain separate and distinct from financial aid eligibility.”
3. Align college curriculum with Common Core.
According to Tepe, many of those within higher education were not involved in developing or endorsing the Common Core, and as a result, have not only not considered how they might change their own practices to better align, “many are not even aware of the Common Core.”
“While states have continued to take on increasingly greater roles in shaping K-12 education throughout the country, for a variety of reasons (including deep-seated principles of shared governance and academic freedom) public institutions of higher education have carried on, largely insulated from change,” says Tepe.
She notes that this is due in part to higher education not being based on scaffolded concepts of learning, like with K-12, and very often the content of college courses is developed with no awareness of K-12 expectations, or even those of other college-level courses.
“Thus, the Common Core standards appear at the moment to end at the college gate, representing the completion of an indistinct goal—‘college readiness’—rather than as another deliberate step on a student’s journey toward a college degree,” Tepe emphasizes.
(Next page: Ways 4-5)