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New Tool to Assess College Readiness in High Schools

So you think your school is doing a good job of preparing students for life beyond high school? How about getting an outsider's take?

The CollegeCareerReady School Diagnostic is a one new tool to help schools get a better handle on their college readiness programs. Data from the school are reviewed and surveys given to students, teachers, counselors, and administrators. The information collected is used to develop a report for districts to use in evaluating and upgrading their programs.

The new assessment was developed by David Conley and the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) in Eugene, Ore. It cover four areas critical to college readiness: cognitive strategies, content knowledge, academic behaviors, and contextual skills.

"Some schools seem to vastly overstate how well-equipped their programs are, leading to actual results," says Conley. "Sometimes you need a reality check."

The EPIC assessment system involves a data profile of the school, including test scores. There is also a self report by students about their goals and aspirations that is used to measure against programs in the school.

The resulting diagnostic blueprint gives the school a checklist and allows schools to compare themselves with other, similar schools and review their practices. Ideally, says Conley, the findings will result in both some quick changes to improve programs and a long-term plan to modify policies and procedures.

For example, in the short term, schools can do more to celebrate students achievement by posting their letters of acceptance to colleges. In the long-run, curriculum may need to be aligned toward college readiness and deeper learning strategies emphasized.

The tool has been piloted in a handful of districts surveying 6,000 students and 800 teachers. It is expected to be fully operational in the fall of 2011.

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