2022 Should colleges worry about lower high school standards?


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It’s no shock at this level that the pandemic had a adverse impact on present school enrollment ranges. However a recent study from the Brookings Establishment examined how the previous few years affected highschool commencement and scholar entry into school — the tip of the pipeline between Okay-12 and school.

Increased Ed Dive talked to Douglas Harris, a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings and one of many report’s authors. Harris can be an economics professor and chair of public schooling at Tulane College, a non-public nonprofit establishment in New Orleans. He mentioned the findings and what clues they may supply for faculty leaders seeking to reverse enrollment declines.

This interview has been edited for readability and brevity.

HIGHER ED DIVE: You checked out how the pandemic affected highschool commencement and school entry. What did you discover?

Douglas Harris Headshot

Douglas Harris

Courtesy of Tulane College


DOUGLAS HARRIS: We discovered that prime faculty commencement charges didn’t decline and truly picked up barely within the spring of 2020 — simply after the pandemic began to take maintain — after which picked up a little bit bit within the spring of ‘21. And that was a little bit bit shocking. When you consider the opposite academic outcomes, there was a number of concern about college students dropping out and it simply did not present up within the commencement charges.

We checked out whether or not that was an artifact of reporting. A variety of information, particularly on highschool commencement, is all public faculty information. So we had been a little bit bit apprehensive perhaps that is reflecting transfers out of public to personal colleges and homeschooling, and so perhaps it was deceptive. However we additionally checked out that, and that wasn’t what was driving it both.

Then we began to consider, “Why would possibly that be,” and outlined some theories, not all of that are testable, however a few of them are. One of many greatest explanations is that requirements had been diminished. Within the spring of 2020, excessive colleges principally stated, “Simply present up and you may move your courses.” You did not actually must do something to move I believe in most locations, so they simply made it simpler. And that is what stored the commencement fee excessive and truly in all probability helped some college students who wouldn’t have graduated in any other case.

Associated to that’s dishonest. We’re contemplating all this to be a part of the decreasing of requirements. Largely right here I am referring to an intensive set of anecdotes from my very own children, and from different children, that this was taking place. Nevertheless it grew to become simpler to graduate, and that is why graduations elevated.

Have been commencement charges completely different for various subgroups of scholars?

Sure. And that was the opposite fascinating half. Often, with academic outcomes, we see that low-income college students, college students with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, have bigger adverse results. And we do not see that right here. Really, the scholars with disabilities, English language learners, African American college students, all noticed will increase in that spring of 2020 and smaller declines within the spring of ‘21. You see the identical basic sample with all these years, it is just a bit bit extra pronounced with these subgroups.

What did you discover associated to school entry and this elevated highschool grad fee?

A part of what we had been attempting to determine was whether or not that decline in school enrollment — which had been partially documented elsewhere from the Nationwide Student Clearinghouse particularly — whether or not a part of it might need been as a consequence of a drop within the variety of potential college-goers. The primary a part of the research says, “Properly, that is not what’s taking place as a result of highschool commencement did not decline.” 

After which with school entry, we discovered declines of 16% in two-year faculties and 6% in four-year faculties. And the two-year sector outcomes are pushed virtually solely by public, two-year faculties. So the privates, and for-profits particularly, had been fairly secure of their enrollments.

And we expect a part of what was happening there — and this reveals up in a few of the regression evaluation — is that these faculties had been much less more likely to go distant. They stayed in-person, partly as a result of they’re so tuition-dependent that that was the one manner they may survive. Whereas the neighborhood faculties might extra simply survive with the drop in enrollment and had been additionally extra more likely to observe what the federal government guidelines had been with social distancing and to be a little bit bit extra conservative in these selections.

And what are the implications of your findings for faculties?

The very last thing we did on this research was to speak about kindergarten right through 16, all the best way up via four-year school commencement and take a look at the patterns, combining what we discovered with what different research had discovered. One of many fascinating patterns right here was that any entry into an academic establishment dropped — so kindergarten dropped, ninth grade dropped, two-year school entry dropped. In fact, four-year school entry dropped. These are the areas the place you see the most important drops relative to persistence or completion. 


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