Scientific Education


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2015-06-21 post date.

Is undermatching really a problem for students?

Some say the idea doesn't give enough credit to public colleges trying to enroll top pupils

What if every student went to a school that was perfectly aligned with his or her academic achievement? The high-performing students would go to highly selective institutions and the hierarchy would work its way down from there. If that were the case, access-focused public schools with missions encouraging acceptance of a full range of students — therefore less selective — would lose much of their diversity. They would only enroll students in the academic middle or below.
But many such institutions are frustrated by the idea of undermatching, said David Attis, senior director of academic research at educational consulting firm Education Advisory Board. “I work with a lot of institutions that are access-focused,” Attis said. “They feel they can offer a great education.” 
Undermatching as a problem, a crisis even, in higher education largely took flight in just the last few years. Caroline Hoxby, an economics professor at Stanford, is one of the key authors of studies showing that high-achieving, low-income students rarely even apply to highly selective colleges, let alone enroll in them. Educational support organizations nationwide have taken up the cause, working to support this subset of the low-income population throughout high school and make sure they attend elite colleges.
In part, a key cause of undermatching is simply that low-income students don’t know their options. Research has shown concerted outreach to this group increases the chances that low-income students will apply to selective schools, where the cost of attendance is often lower than at state schools that have fewer financial aid resources.
In many cases, elite institutions have responded to research about undermatching in recent years and conducted aggressive recruitment campaigns, particularly for the highest-achieving low-income students. Government officials as high as the White House have encouraged such activities in the quest to reduce the phenomenon of undermatching and its related consequences on economic inequality. 
But maybe the focus is too much. 
“The question is, then, if I am an institution that is really good at serving low-income students, should I give up recruiting these students … or make the case that I’m one of the options they should consider?” Attis said.  
Some of these cases of so-called undermatching aren’t all that bad for the student, according to Attis. Those who find greater success by being able to study closer to home, for example, or those who want to be on a campus with students from similar backgrounds can still find engaging and challenging experiences at less selective institutions. 
Plenty of high-achieving, low-income students go home over winter break after their first semester at a selective school and decide not to return for the spring term. Many find the culture shock of elite institutions to be too much. Others feel the pulls from home to be too strong to stay in school rather than find full-time employment. 
Certainly there are supports highly selective schools can — and should — implement to make this minority population feel comfortable and welcomed on campus. But for access-focused public schools trying to stay competitive, the best-case scenario would be getting more funding to offer the programs and benefits their target population leaves for.
That, of course, would take significant investment in higher education at a time when most states are doing all they can just to make incremental gains. It's all about priorities, in the end.


Just how widespread are digital state testing issues?
FairTest's data shows 27 states reporting hiccups with digital exams since 2013

Since 2013, FairTest, the national center for fair and open testing, has been documenting examples of computer malfunctions, concluding that legislation— specifically that which centered around the Common Core State Standards — pushed tech into the the marketplace far to quickly, and that the companies being paid to create digital tests just aren't ready for the platform. "It makes no sense to attach high-stakes consequences to such deeply flawed tools," reads  a poston the FairTest website.
So what trends has the organization documented over the past three years? Let's take a look at some graphs. 

This first graph shows that there has been a surge in testing glitches, while one may think the number of glitches would be going down as companies learn from mistakes, that isn't quite true yet. It would appear that test companies have not quite hit the "apex of error." This increase also supports FairTest's argument that digital tests have been pushed into schools by states, even if not all districts are prepared to handle the sudden surge in tech. To be fair, many schools lack the adequate broadband infrastructure to support testing on that scale, so the blame can't be placed entirely on the companies behind the exams.

According to FairTest's documentation, there are 27 states (over half of the nation) that have reported testing glitches since 2013. In that group, several have struggled with repeated issues, such as Indiana. The state experienced issues in all three years it contracted CTB/McGraw-Hill for its exams. Earlier this month, WISH 8 reported on five Indiana schools where students were unable to take practice exams because they were either kicked off the server or because the exam was moving slowly. Indiana has 4 reported test malfunctions, but the data has only been collected for three years. That's because in 2015, there were two sets of reporting on issues: some in January and again this spring. 
Ultimately, the data shows an imperfect system, which is particularly troubling given how much is tied to these tests. Also worth consideration is the mental toll computer malfunctions play on students. Will students be as sharp on their third or fourth go-around with a test? Chances are, probably not. 

Source: by Allie Gross