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Call for More Accountability in College-Readiness

If states want to get serious about college and career readiness, they need to track student completion of college-level coursework in high school. A policy brief by Jobs for the Future, a national Boston-based nonprofit, advocates better accountability and incentives for schools to prepare students for college success.

Most states provide opportunities for high school students to take college courses for credit through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual enrollment, but few states have instituted reporting requirements on the progress of students who take advantage of these options, according to What Gets Measured Gets Done: Adding College Completion to K-12 Accountability Systems, by Diane Ward and Joel Vargas.

Requiring this reporting in states could motivate more schools to offer such courses and boost the readiness of students, the authors note. These pathways not only prepare students academically, they also expose them to expectations of college-level work and help develop time-management skills early.

In the paper, the authors note the success students experience in the early-college high school model that is now in 230 schools in 28 state. It is particularly aimed at low-income, first-generation college-goers to give them extra supports and a head start in accruing college credits.

The JFF brief suggests that states should require high schools to break down data by income and race/ethnicity when tracking the students who earn college credit in high school. Setting high expectations for schools serving these populations could underscore the importance of college readiness for all students, not just those who are accelerated or gifted.

Finally, schools and districts where students are improving their college readiness—especially for at-risk students—should be rewarded to encourage them to continue in their efforts, the authors recommend.

JFF is not alone in its call for enhanced accountability and tracking on this front. Today in Washington, politicians, educators, and representatives from the nonprofit community are gathering for a meeting to push for better data collection of student performance in college. The hope is to discover how high schools can target improvements by tracking how many graduates enrolled in postsecondary education and how well they do in their coursework. Look for news from this event hosted by the Data Quality Counts campaign later today.


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