Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How well are Metro Schools doing in preparing students for college? We don't know.

From TN Edu-Independent:

As we close out the school year, we've seen some great stories about the next step for many Nashville high school seniors. We've seen LEAD Academy's 100% college acceptance rate and also a story on Glencliff High School celebrating its inaugural college signing day. It's really a great thing to celebrate these important milestones, and we absolutely need to recognize and celebrate the hard work of students, teachers, and school leaders as they transition to postsecondary.

This season has also made me realize that we need much better data collection around college going efforts across MNPS in district, magnet or charter schools.

I recently emailed the district central office, and received an ambiguous and skeptical response.  I had asked if they could share data on the college acceptance rates for each MNPS high school, broken down by how many students had 2 year vs. 4 year college degree plans.  I was told the data was not available.

I was a bit shocked frankly, given the millions of dollars they have invested in the data warehouse system, their emphasis on data driven cultures, and purchases of different technology applications.  I went to high school in the 90s, and the school newspaper printed the name of every college bound senior and where they were planning to attend, 2 year or 4 year.  This info was available in the 90s at my public high school, but not with MNPS in 2014 with the supposed progress we've made in data systems and data driven policies and instruction?  Maybe the district does have the data and didn't want to be transparent, but I'm still very surprised it wasn't readily available.

It's important to have this data. If we say one of the primary goals of our K-12 public education systems is to prepare students for postsecondary, then we really need to do a better job with longitudinal "P-20" data systems and measuring postsecondary outcomes.

What is measured matters.

If we are going to more accurately measure "to and through college" success rates, I think we need to regularly track:
  • in middle school, how students are progressing to demonstrate readiness to attend college or graduate (PLAN or EXPLORE)
  • in high school, how many students have the skills and knowledge that is considered "college ready" (ACT test, scores by high schlooking at college ready benchmarks)
  • in high school, college acceptance rates of the senior class, by 2 year degree programs, 4 year degree programs, technical training programs or military service
  • graduation rates
  • in college, fall enrollment the immediate fall after high school graduation (also by 2 year, 4 year, tech program or military service)
  • in college, persistence rates (1 year, 2 year, etc, again for the same 2 year, 4 year, tech or military service)
  • in college, graduation rates
There is a whole continuum of "getting to" and "through" college (or postsecondary as the better word choice).  There are many important data points on that continuum that we need to be collecting and analyzing at the individual student level and at the school level.  I think every district, including MNPS, ought to publish a College Completion Report every year that analyzes how its K-12 students have done in postsecondary.

More consistent and accurate data in this area can help better inform education policy and practice.  For example, if we had baseline data from last year on every MNPS high school, and we could look at students who planned to attend 2 year degree programs vs. how many actually attended, and then compare that to this year, and next year...it would help give some good data around the tnAchieves and TN Promise program, and how it is impacting students.

We could look at specific high schools and how well they are doing in preparing students or sub-groups of students for college, actually getting them there, and actually seeing if they graduate or not.  Better data around college indicators and outcomes can be used to better inform the culture and practices of high schools.

What is measured matters.

This article was reposted from TN Edu-Independent.

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