Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unintended Consequences of College "Promise" Policies

The Quick and the Ed had a good piece today on the emerging research on the college "promise" policies enacted by various districts around the country (I believe Kalamazoo was the first and Pittsburgh is the largest, but I might be mistaken).  They're all a little different, but they essentially guarantee to pay for some portion of college for all students in the district who meet a certain benchmark.

The piece notes research indicating that more students in some of these districts are enrolling, and remaining, in college.  That's likely a good thing.  But what I don't see mentioned is one of the potential unintended consequences of the policy -- grade inflation.  If kids have to meet a certain GPA standard to receive the funds, it's likely that teachers will hesitate before giving a student a 'C' or below knowing that they could be costing the kid the opportunity to attend college -- and that districts that want to be a success story would likely pressure teachers not to give kids low grades in order to bump up their college attendance rates.  I don't know in how many places this is happening, but I know it's not zero -- so keep your eyes open for this when more reports on the effectiveness of these promise policies roll in.

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