- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nineteen states have worked with colleges and businesses to align their high school standards with skills expected in college and in the work force, but only a few have built high school exams that measure such skills to help colleges place students in appropriate courses, a report shows.

The report was released yesterday by Achieve Inc., a nonprofit created by governors and business leaders to push states to improve education systems so high school graduates will be better prepared for college and their careers.

Three years ago, Achieve compiled specific recommendations and challenged states to change. The group tracks the progress annually and this year’s report shows slow advancement, said Matt Gandal, executive vice president of Achieve.

“We still think there’s a long way to go but … we’re very pleased,” he said. “Nearly every state is taking it seriously, with some moving faster than others.”

So far, 19 states have aligned their high school academic expectations with those of colleges and businesses. States that joined the effort this year were Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Achieve leaders highlighted Tennessee’s efforts. Margaret Horn, an aide to Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, said a survey of state business and college leaders found certain areas for improvement, including more emphasis on math, more focus on problem-solving and teamwork, more group projects and improved verbal-communication skills.

The state considered those responses when crafting its new K-12 academic standards and course requirements, which include a fourth year of math required in high school. The standards were approved last month.

Twenty-five states and the District are “working to align standards, and this wasn’t the case a few years ago,” Mr. Gandal said yesterday.

Eighteen states and the District updated their high school graduation requirements to be in line with college and work force needs. The latest additions are Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and the District. Twelve more plan to join the effort.

Achieve recommends four years of math up to at least Algebra 2 and four years of rigorous English courses as basic core requirements for every high school student.

Mr. Gandal said states have shown less progress in creating high school completion exams that colleges can use to place students into credit-bearing courses instead of remedial courses.

Colleges and universities nationwide provided remedial courses for nearly 30 percent of entering freshmen in the fall of 2000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Nine states, including Tennessee, have improved high school assessments in place, and 23 states are working to join that effort, the report said.

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