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Illinois Students' College Grades Lag Behind High School

Many students graduating from public high schools in Illinois—even students with good grades from top schools —are not prepared for the rigor of college, according to an analysis of state education data by the Chicago Tribune published Wednesday.

Public school graduates at 10 of the state's 11 four-year universities averaged less than a 3.0 grade point average their freshman year, raising questions about college-readiness efforts.

"The High School-to-College Success Report" tracked more than 90,000 high school students who had at least a B average and graduated between 2006 and 2008. Of that group, the average freshman GPA was 2.52 across all state universities and community colleges, roughly C+ work.

Graduates who enrolled in Illinois' four-year public universities during that time frame averaged a 2.78 GPA as freshmen, compared with 3.37 in public high schools.

For each high school, families can look up average high school GPAs and grade point averages earned at each public university and community college that students attended. The data are searchable on the Tribune website. Wide disparities between high schools were evident.

Of the more than 600 public high schools in Illinois, just 29 had graduates whose average GPA at the state's public universities and community colleges was at least 3.0.

Why the dip in performance?

The newspaper quotes officials as placing blame on factors ranging from inadequate high school preparation to high school grade inflation, newfound independence, and increased partying away from home.

As educators and policymakers work to unlock the secret to improving college performance, stories like these may fuel support for increased rigor and better alignment between K-12 and higher education,

One college official in the Tribune article planned to have more contact with high school instructors and guidance counselors to explain the university's expectations.

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