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NSF Leader to Researchers: Explore Post-High School Transitions

A top National Science Foundation official believes researchers should be doing more to help educators trying to align their curricula to the requirements of college and the workforce.

Progressive states and district can partner with local business groups and universities to get feedback on how well their programs fit with students' responsibilities after high school, but Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who directs NSF's Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings division, said researchers should get into the alignment game, too.

"If college entry requirements don't line up with the way in which content and standards are organized, it becomes a challenge [for educators] to figure out where do you go with that," she told me. "We need researchers who are really interested in that critical juncture, who would really try to understand how you would map college courses in math backward, and perhaps some of the innovative high school courses and map forward."

As part of its research on science, technology, engineering and math education, Ms. Ferrini-Mundy said NSF is interested not just in high school course rigor, such as the effectiveness of Advanced Placement courses, but also in how education institutions at different levels work together to create a smooth academic track for students to careers. She's interested in "efforts that look at the articulation agreements between two- and four-year colleges or between two-year colleges and high schools, really understanding what issues come up when you bring together two rather different types of institutions."

In the process, federal researchers hope to find ways to reduce the remediation many students face when they get to college, which in math and sciences can discourage students from continuing in the field, she said. "If we could solve the problem in mathematics of having students be ready for [college], rather than needing to go back and do developmental mathematics, it would just be a huge step forward," she said.

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