What a pleasant surprise to see President Tilghman becoming involved in such mundane education topics (“Tilghman to lead a study of barriers faced by low-income students,” Campus Notebook, and President’s Page, Feb. 6). For Princeton has ignored the 2002–12 K–12 education-reform movement even though Old Nassau, year after year, cherry-picks the majorities of her freshman classes from America’s public high schools.
Similarly, Princeton has not warmed to proposals for the use of standardized tests to determine student-achievement accountability at colleges and universities. The nexus of several arguments against such testing becomes entangled with the University’s senior-thesis requirement that certainly has stood the test of time in New Jersey. Many of the suggestions for post-secondary education reform were not made with Princeton in mind. The greatest problem facing higher education (but not Princeton) is public resistance to ever-increasing college costs, combined with a growing awareness that four-year graduating students too often lack the knowledge and academic skills to satisfy the needs of the professional job market. Some standardized tests should help less-selective institutions.
President Tilghman mentions “culturally constrained aspirations” as one of the powerful “barriers to access” for low-income students. That brings to mind Daniel P. Moynihan’s 1965 research report emphasizing that educational achievement correlates with the presence of both a mother and an employed father in the child’s household.
I welcome the news about Princeton’s redemptive plans to explore ways to assist gifted, economically disadvantaged students achieve admission and, importantly, an eventual degree. I look forward to the recommendations of the committee.