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Defining What's Required for Each College Degree

If you read this space regularly, you know that we talk a lot about the tricky process of defining what college readiness means. A new tool created by the Lumina Foundation can shed light on what high school students have to be ready for.

The foundation's "Degree Qualifications Profile"attempts to define what is required in order to earn an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree. It's an attempt to create a shared understanding about what is required for each type of college degree, instead of basing those judgments on seat time and credit hours.

The profile certainly has much to say to a postsecondary audience, but it also has valuable insights for the K-12 crowd. We're painfully aware now that a high school diploma doesn't necessarily equal college readiness. So any articulation of what is expected in college can help inform the K-12 pipeline. And even the process of articulating the skills and knowledge required at successive levels of achievement can inform K-12 as it does the same.

The document was drafted by five college-readiness experts such as Clifford Adelman, whose "toolbox" work for the U.S. Department of Education in the late 1990s was influential in shaping educators' thinking about the issue. (details about the authors here) Nonetheless, the foundation considers the document a first try, to be shaped in the next few years by research testing out its initial conclusions.

This isn't a detailed guide that specifies what students must know about cell structure or Spanish literature; it's a set of "reference points" that students should be able to reach in five areas, including "applied learning" and "intellectual skills."

Check here for the Lumina Foundation's Q and A about the degree profile. The Washington Post's higher ed blogger Daniel de Vise explores some interesting aspects of the new profile, such as how the skills would be assessed at the higher ed level (and Adelman offers some interesting detail on his thoughts on assessment there, too). The Chronicle of Higher Education's take on it is here, and Inside Higher Education takes a look here.

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