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New Tool Aims to Help High Schools Raise Students' College-Going Rates

If high schools are going to get more underserved students to enroll and complete college, administrators need to know what programs are working and what needs to change. 

A new online resource for educators to use in assessing their school's college- and career-readiness efforts was released Tuesday by the nonprofit human development organization FHI 360, based in Durham, N.C.

The Postsecondary Success Asset Mapping tool—or PSAM—was piloted in 10 high schools in Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco with 4,500 students over the past five years.

The tool gets administrators, teachers, and students to review policies related to four areas: building knowledge for the transition to college and career, , acquiring core academic content, taking ownership of learning skills and techniques, and developing critical thinking skills. After getting feedback, schools can identify gaps in services and add supports where needed.

When used in the pilot high schools, the tool helped to raise college enrollment rates by 39 percent among African American and Latino students compared with an overall increase of 4 percent among those minority groups in the three school districts. The approach also helped raise college-persistence rates by nearly one-third for those underserved groups.

The tool was created as part of the Postsecondary Success Collaborative, funded by a $5.1 million grant from the Citi Foundation. The collaborative just posted a report that includes an evaluation of its work on the FHI360 website. Also posted is a video on how high school teachers and college faculty in Philadelphia visited each others' classrooms to improve writing instruction to better prepare students for college. Another video shows how Miami-Dade developed a college-ready math curriculum after discovering a need through the PSAM tool.

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