Taking a Holistic Look at Higher Ed Admissions

December 13, 2018
Art Coleman

I’m very pleased to share that the College Board’s Access and Diversity Collaborative today released “Understanding Holistic Review in Higher Education Admissions: Guiding Principles and Model Illustrations.” The guide provides insights into the logic, rigor, and fairness behind effective holistic review–a practice that is under attack in a growing number of court and agency actions. My co-author and EducationCounsel colleague Jamie Lewis Keith and I hope that we’ve helped open the “black box” of admissions decision-making, with an overview of the key features and elements of well-designed holistic review policy and practice. We include institutional examples and promising models that illustrate effective and sustainable practices. We also argue for more transparency on these issues. Over time, our challenges are not only in the courts of law, where we’ve won more than we’ve lost. We’ve got to do a better job in the court of public opinion–explaining the compelling case of what admissions officials do, and why, every day. #diversity #affirmativeaction #admissions


OPINION: Is this the way to transform struggling rural schools?

Originally posted May 24, 2018 at The Hechinger Report.
When students understand what and why they are learning
While serving as U.S. Secretary of Education in the 1990s and early 2000s, and previously as Governor of South Carolina for eight years, I saw the devastating impact of under-funded and under-resourced rural schools, especially in high-poverty communities.
Unfortunately, at least for some children in the South, those conditions haven’t changed much.
That’s one of the reasons a different approach to teaching and learning caught my attention several years ago. My visit to New Tech High School in Napa County, California, during the 2008-09 academic year was the start of an important journey for me that eventually would have an impact on students in my home state and beyond.
Read the full post at The Hechinger Report.


Are we EQUIPped to spend billions on (yet) unproven programs?

April 17, 2018
Nathan Arnold
In the 1940s, Russia developed a prototype of a new military advancement called the Antonov A-40. It was an ambitious, seemingly innovative leap forward that would provide battlefield support and overwhelming, agile deployment. It was also, quite literally, a flying tank. For reasons that seem obvious in retrospect—weight and inefficient transportation chief among them—it was not functional in practice and thankfully never produced at wide scale. However, the lessons learned regarding its design ultimately provided beneficial advances to future military developments.
Federal lawmakers would be wise to heed the lesson that all ideas—particularly those with billions of dollars at stake—should not be rushed into wide-scale production. Many of them seem eager to open the $130 billion per year of taxpayer funding to new ways of providing higher education instruction without any assurance that these programs provide quality outcomes to their students. It’s still too early to tell if these innovative models will turn out to be the Antonov A-40 or the (significantly more effective) Chinook helicopter of higher education, but it’s not hard to see the potential […]


Using ESSA to Improve School Climate and Social and Emotional Development

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which passed in December 2015, laid the groundwork for two significant shifts in education reform in that it (1) shifted significant authority and responsibility for designing key education systems from the federal level to states and districts; and (2) prioritized college and career ready outcomes for all students – allowing for a broader focus than the strictly academic nature of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) – and required that all systems be aligned toward those outcomes.


Colleges must protect free speech, but not when students feel unsafe

The new academic year is now well upon us with the return of hundreds of thousands of students to college this fall. And it’s a time unlike any in recent memory. The nation’s political divide is stark and conspicuous on campuses across the country where protests centering on issues of race, religion and free speech are rampant.


The Magic of College and Career Ready Approaches for Greater Equity, and 20 Ways to Advance Them through ESSA

Does the state set a clear “North Star” of the full array of college and career ready knowledge and skills through rigorous standards, goals, and high quality assessments? Does the state have multiple accountability measures, data reporting, and deeper diagnostic review processes that surface fuller college and career ready knowledge and skills, informed by things like performance assessments and portfolios across many subject areas, school climate measures, and accelerated coursework? Do the state’s school improvement strategies and direct student services priorities foster, for each and every student, the full range of college and career readiness and opportunities for them to direct and personalize their own learning?


Reflecting on What We Know About Diversity in Higher Education and the Consideration of Race in Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court’s near 40-year history on the consideration of race- and ethnicity in higher education admissions (going all the way back to the landmark Bakke case in 1978) has shaped action by the U.S. Department of Justice and Education for decades–including in federal regulations, policy guidance, and enforcement resolutions (from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights).


Making the Most of the Opportunity to Engage

One of the most common criticisms and downfalls of education reforms is that they feel like they are “done to” rather than “created by” the very communities they are intended to support.  Yet, at this very moment, we have a golden opportunity to raise the voices of teachers, leaders, parents, students, and their communities and meaningfully include their priorities in state and local planning for reform through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


Want Your ESSA Plan To Ensure Equal Access to Effective Teachers? Targeted Strategies Are Your Best Bet!

Want Your ESSA Plan To Ensure Equal Access to Effective Teachers? Targeted Strategies Are Your Best Bet!
By Sandi Jacobs
One perspective on teacher quality and the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) holds that ESSA marks an end to the federal focus on teacher effectiveness strategies that developed and grew over the last decade. With no explicit requirements in Title II and released from the conditions of their NCLB waivers, this argument holds, states will hastily retreat from new teacher evaluation systems and reforms in other related areas such as teacher preparation, tenure, licensure, and compensation.

Rather than targeted strategies specifically designed to aid recruitment and retention in high-needs districts and schools, the Equity Plans most often speak to “rising tide” approaches intended to increase teacher quality generally in all schools.

But whether or not you believe that federal policy has been the major driver of states’ teacher efforts over the last decade, this point of view undersells a very significant point in ESSA, one that potentially makes teacher quality an even more important topic going forward.  ESSA doesn’t roll back at […]