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For Release: Giving High Schools Useful Feedback on Grad's Outcomes
Washington D.C. — Today, there is a growing agreement that students should leave high school "college- and career-ready." But what does that mean? And how can high schools tell if they are meeting the goal?
It's not easy, says Policy Analyst Anne Hyslop, in Data That Matters: Giving High Schools Useful Feedback on Grads' Outcomes, the latest in Education Sector's Charts You Can Trust series. In it, Hyslop lays out the benefits of a unified data system that could provide high schools with timely information about their graduates.
Hyslop recounts the story of Angelique Simpson Marcus, the principal of Largo High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Marcus knew that most of her graduates went on to college. But what happened then?
Simpson Marcus consulted a University of Maryland database that provided information on students enrolling in the state’s higher education system and the rates at which they needed to take remedial (or “developmental”) classes before moving on to credit-bearing work. She learned that her students were going to college. But she also learned that too many Largo students needed remedial classes when they got there.
Armed with that information, Simpson Marcus and her staff began to make changes at their school. They encouraged more students to take Advanced Placement courses. They partnered with College Summit. But, Hyslop notes, Simpson Marcus' ability to use college data to make these data-driven changes in instruction is the exception, not the rule.
According to a 2010 Deloitte educational survey, only 13 percent of high school educators receive reports of their graduates' academic performance in college. Most frequently, principals receive college readiness information the way Simpson Marcus used to, through occasional anecdotes from former students and their families. Worse, 8 percent of educators reported they receive no information at all.
Today, thanks to significant investments in K-12 and higher education data systems, there is progress on developing a system that will give high schools the information they need. A growing number of states are collecting information about college readiness. Yet fewer are using that information in ways that can materially improve college preparation.
Hyslop identifies four characteristics—the 4Ts—of the most successful college readiness reports. They must be:
- Transparent. When data is open and accessible, Hyslop says, "school officials can use it to build internal pressure, and parents, legislators, and others can use it to generate external pressure on high schools to improve."
- Thorough. Reports should include multiple measures from all high schools in the state, and from all graduating classes.
- Timely. Information needs to be received quickly enough for schools to make needed changes.
- Tailored. "The more user-friendly the data is, the more likely it is to be tapped to improve instruction," Hyslop points out.
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