Higher Ed Cop Out #5: Cheerleading

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sitting at my desk preparing for tomorrow's class, and then just like a little ray of sunshine the Chronicle's afternoon update arrives. Hope springs eternal. To wit:

"College-Preparedness Campaign Shows Good Results"

The news? Kids across the country reported on a survey that they've seen the KnowHow2Go ad campaign, and those kids also report that they've talked to adults about attending college.

According to the president of the American Council of Education this means, "The campaign message is taking hold and students are taking action.”

Ok, then. Um, where to start?

How about:

1. All empirical evidence indicates that ambitions for college are rising.
2. There's little empirical evidence to suggest that failing to talk to adults is part of the reason why more poor kids don't attend college.
3. The survey didn't ask kids if talking to adults was the DIRECT result of seeing a KnowHow2Go ad.
4. The survey was only taken by kids who like to take surveys about college-going.

In a nutshell, while it's clear that several organizations are spending loads of money on KnowHow2Go, this hardly constitutes evidence of "success" or "impact."

If we really want to make sure that our efforts add value by truly helping kids, we must let go of such cheerleading and instead commission rigorous evaluations designed to help us ensure our programs have genuine impact, dollar for dollar.