Code Language: AP & SAT Re-think Knowledge

Thomas Friedman: “A few years ago, the leaders of the College Board, the folks who administer the SAT college entrance exam, asked themselves a radical question: Of all the skills and knowledge that we test young people for that we know are correlated with success in college and in life, which is the most important? Their answer: the ability to master ‘two codes’ — computer science and the U.S. Constitution. Since then they’ve been adapting the SATs and the College Board’s Advanced Placement program to inspire and measure knowledge of both.”

“So rather than have SAT exams and Advanced Placement courses based on things that you cram for and forget, they are shifting them, where they can, to promote the ‘two codes.’ In 2016, the College Board completely revamped its approach to A.P. computer science courses and exams … starting with the question: What is it that you’d like to do in the world? Music? Art? Science? Business? Great! Then come build an app in the furtherance of that interest and learn the principles of computer science, not just coding … The new course debuted in 2016. Enrollment was the largest for a new course in the history of Advanced Placement, with just over 44,000 students nationwide.”

“The A.P. U.S. Government and Politics course also was reworked” based on the premise that “it was essential that every student entering college actually have command of the First Amendment, which enshrines five freedoms, not just freedom of speech” but also of “assembly, petition, press and religion … So the new A.P. government course is built on an in-depth look at 15 Supreme Court cases as well as nine foundational documents that every young American should know. It shows how the words of the Constitution give rise to the structures of our government … That said to students and teachers something the SAT had never dared say before: Some content is disproportionately more powerful and important, and if you prepare for it you will be rewarded on the SAT.”

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Vanderbilt: Where Disabilities Are Not Disadvantages

Forbes: “According to Think College, a national organization dedicated to developing college opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, more than 260 colleges across the nation now offer on-campus transition programs for this population. transition programs immerse the students, many of whom have Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, or cerebral palsy, in campus life. They live in the residence halls, eat in campus dining facilities and navigate the typical demands of college students.”

“Their curriculum mixes courses on socialization, self-help, and independence skills with individualized training in employment competencies. In most programs, the students also audit one or more regular college courses each semester, selected and sometimes modified with their needs in mind. Another standard component is a practicum, job shadowing, or internship in the community or on campus where students hone practical work skills.”

“Typically, the programs are four to five semesters in length, although more mature programs, like Vanderbilt’s Next Steps and George Mason University’s LIFE have expanded to four years. After completing the program, students are awarded a graduation certificate that officially recognizes their achievement. Some may transfer to a traditional baccalaureate program.”

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Alt-SAT/ACT: The CLT (Classic Learning Test)

Real Clear Education: “Starting a company from scratch that’s able to compete with the long-entrenched SAT and ACT in the college-entrance testing business sounds like an impossible dream. However, a pair of Annapolis-based entrepreneurs, philosopher Jeremy Tate and businessman David Wagner, have proven with the Classic Learning Test (CLT) that a market does exist for an SAT/ACT alternative that is based on the works of the greatest minds of Western civilization … the CLT had won approval from 145 colleges and universities as a legitimate indicator of an applicant’s readiness for college-level studies.”

“The test calls on aspiring collegians to show they recognize ideas advanced by such thinkers as C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, and Socrates, as well as that they understand the applicability of timeless lessons concerning truth, ethics, and morality. The CLT tests knowledge coupled with an unabashed devotion to values that have shaped culture and individual lives.”

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College Board Changes AP Offering

USA Today: “The College Board will soon offer AP teachers new practice questions, instructional videos and automated assessments that can give students feedback online. The testing and college-prep giant has invested $80 million into helping more students successfully prepare for the annual May exams, leaders said. But the changes coming Aug. 1 include a controversial exam registration deadline in November instead of March, and new $40 penalties for each late registrant or canceled exam.”

“Some skeptics say the new deadline could actually deter skittish students — especially those already overwhelmed in the fall by college applications or by the rigor of AP material … More than 2,700 people have signed an online petition asking the company to drop the earlier exam registration deadline and fees. They also want students to access the new exam-prep materials without having to share their personal data.”

“Trevor Packer, a former English major who’s led the AP program at the College Board since 2003, said … the fees are designed as an incentive for students to commit to taking the exams earlier in the year. Data from schools trying out the early deadline do not suggest many will sign up late and incur fees, he said. He also stressed that the company would not gain any marketable student data from the 2019 fall AP exam registration or generate any revenue from it.”

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Duke Forest: Tree Campus USA

Duke Today: “Duke has earned the distinction of being one of the friendliest campuses for trees in the country. The Arbor Day Foundation named Duke a 2018 Tree Campus USA site, an honor for colleges and universities that promote healthy trees and engage the community in conservation efforts. There are 364 campuses across the United States with the ‘Tree Campus USA’ recognition.”

“The Arbor Day Foundation selects Tree Campus USA schools by examining five core standards. Duke has a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated spending on a campus tree-care plan, involvement in an Arbor Day observance, and a student service-learning project. Duke has roughly 15,000 trees, as well as about 7,060 acres of land as part of Duke Forest. ”

“The Arbor Day Foundation launched Tree Campus USA in 2008 by planting trees at nine college campuses throughout the United States.”

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St. Olaf College: A Holistic Health Curriculum

St. Olaf Magazine: “From 2011 to 2016, 75 percent of St. Olaf students who applied to medical school with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.60 were accepted, compared to the overall national average acceptance rate of 47 percent among students with comparable grade point averages during the same time period … Students interested in the health professions earn majors across the liberal arts, including science and non-science disciplines. Those who are considering medical school can pursue pre-med (or pre-health) studies in tandem with their major.”

“Among those who do head to medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that, nationally, only 51 percent of medical school enrollees in 2012 majored in biological sciences. The remaining matriculants majored in the humanities, mathematics or statistics, the physical sciences, the social sciences, or specialized health sciences … St. Olaf’s philosophy is to help students think past the title of ‘doctor’ to examine how they can best use their skills to improve the lives of others.”

“While nursing students earn a bachelor of arts degree in nursing, they also partake of St. Olaf’s liberal arts curriculum by completing the general graduation requirements, such as courses in a foreign language, oral and written communication, and abstract and quantitative reasoning …pre-health students can also study abroad … Many choose St. Olaf’s service learning–focused Peruvian Medical Experience, during which students assist alumni health professionals who are serving the dental and medical needs of Andean communities in and around Cusco, Peru.”

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U Hawaii’s Food: From Good to Great

Forbes: “Last semester, University of Hawaii at Manoa students such as Frank Lloyd started to notice a difference in their campus food. It wasn’t just better — it was some of the best college food ever … Did Gordon Ramsay take up residence at this commuter campus in Honolulu? No, something far more interesting, and instructive, happened here. Within a 24-month period, the campus foodservice provider, Sodexo, hatched an ambitious plan to upgrade the campus restaurants. The results seemed to surprise even the managers behind the idea.”

“Sodexo overhauled its menus, adding more vegetarian and vegan options … Sodexo deployed Bite, its smartphone app, to allow students to track their calories and they integrated the Tapingo to enable mobile orders. A visit to one of the cafeterias during the busy lunch hour shows the results. There are no lines. That’s because there are more than 500 daily transactions using Tapingo … Sodexo also phased out a well-known fast-food restaurant that specializes in tacos and added Stir Fresh, a new stir-fry restaurant that served local fare.”

“Before the changes, students would simply go home after class. Now, there’s a sense of community around the coffee shops and restaurants, and people are more likely to hang out … This fall, customer satisfaction reached 94%.” Mark Nakamoto of Sodexo comments: “We learned a lot about student needs. And I think they, in turn, learned how businesses work.”

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Successful Applications Are Matter of Fact

Daily Pennsylvanian: “Like most universities, Penn does not have a standard system for fact-checking applications. Admissions officers perform initial reviews in as little as four minutes, and a call to a high school guidance counselor or an email to an applicant is as thorough as checks get … Given the massive volume of applications the University receives — 44,957 applicants for the Class of 2023 — current and former admissions officers agree that fact-checking applications is not feasible and instances of outright fabrication seem to be rare … Despite the lack of a formal fact-checking system, former admissions officers say they have still caught applicants lying.”

Elizabeth Heaton, a former regional director of admissions for Penn,”recalled an instance when a regular decision applicant plagiarized their essay based on an essay written by another student who had already been admitted early decision. The former Penn regional admissions director said when she noticed the stark similarities between the two essays, she decided to make a call to the student’s high school.” She comments: “We denied the student who had plagiarized and the other kid was able to keep his acceptance.”

Kathryn Bezella, Vice Dean and director of marketing and communications for Penn Admissions, “confirmed that following up with a guidance counselor or applicant is rare.” However: “Bezella said because of the high number of applications she reads and familiarity with her region, she can typically identify false transcripts and essays.” She comments: “After you’ve read several thousand essays by 17-year-olds, you do have some sense of ‘this is not how a 17-year-old writes’.”

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Night of the Living Deadlines

The Wall Street Journal: “The deadline to apply for admission to Oberlin College was Jan. 15. Until it wasn’t. The Ohio liberal-arts college sent an email blast last Tuesday alerting high-school seniors that the deadline had been extended to Feb. 1. Other elite colleges, including the University of Chicago, George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, have also extended their application deadlines this winter.”

“Delayed deadlines are a sign of the growing pressure many schools face to fill their incoming classes. They are receiving more applications than ever in part because stressed high-school seniors see record-low admit rates from some top schools, fret about their own chances and expand their list of targets. The Common Application makes it easy to apply to more schools without much additional work.”

“That all makes it challenging for colleges to predict who wants to actually enroll. Thirty-five percent of seniors applied to at least seven schools in 2016, up from 18% a decade earlier. In that same time span, the yield, or share of admitted students who enrolled at a given four-year college, fell to 34% from 45%.”

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Harvard & Berklee: Dual-Degree Harmony

Harvard Gazette: A “five-year program, launched in 2016, allows students to pursue a bachelor of arts (A.B.) degree at Harvard and a master of music (M.M.) or master of arts (M.A.) at Berklee at the same time. During their first three years, students pursue a degree in the concentration of their choice at Harvard and take private instruction at Berklee. At the end of their third year, students complete an audition and interview to confirm their readiness for the Berklee master’s program. The fourth year focuses on completing all Harvard requirements, and the fifth year on the requirements for the M.M. or M.A.”

“Avanti Nagral, a junior psychology and global health concentrator … is a singer-songwriter whose most recent single, ‘The Other Side,’ draws on her experience of living between two worlds: Boston and her hometown of Mumbai, and now Harvard Square and Back Bay. ‘I remember sitting and reading a neuroscience textbook while I waited for a private lesson at Berklee,’ she says with a laugh. ‘People didn’t know why I was looking at pictures of a brain. But I’m interested in all of it.'”

“Nagral also finds ways to make her Harvard coursework applicable to her music. In the negotiation and conflict-management course she took this fall, she tailored some assignments to deal with contractual and legal issues in the music industry. She also convinced her professor in a gender studies seminar to accept an original song for her final class project.”

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