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State Standards Are Lower, College Enrollment Is Higher

An interesting combination of reports tumbled out this week, with implications for the college- and career-readiness agenda. One finds that college enrollment is at an all-time high—driven mostly by growth at the community-college level—and the other finds that states are lowering their academic standards.

The first study is from the the Pew Research Center. (See the AP story about it on our Web site, and the The New York Times story.)

The second report is from the National Center for Education Statistics (EdWeek story here, AP here, New York Times here.)

Few are surprised by the finding that states lowered their standards to avoid the hand-slaps of No Child Left Behind (see, for instance, Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge blog: "I'm shocked, shocked!!"). That's been anticipated, studied and reported on before.

Unfortunately, it's just more fodder for pessimism that schools are not up to the job of holding all students to high expectations at a time when they risk some pretty scary life outcomes without solid postsecondary education.

And while one can cheer that community-college enrollments are up, the other Pew finding that four-year college enrollments are flat offers some cause for concern, since outcomes for those with bachelor's degrees tend to be better than for those with certificates or two-year degrees.

One bright spot in the Pew report: the share of young adults graduating from high school is at an all-time high, a full percentage point higher in 2008 than it was in 2007.

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