Posts published in February, 2010

Seven Key Actions For Students To Be Admitted To Selective Colleges

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 86 percent of high school graduates in Montgomery County went on to college in 2009.

Jerry Weast, the superintendent, and Carole Working, principal of Quince Orchard High School, shared some of the key components of the district’s college readiness successes at the recent AASA convention.

The initiative began in 1999 when the school district’s population began to dramatically shift. Between 1998 and 2009, the number of students participating in English for Speakers of Other Languages programs increased by 103 percent and the eligibility for free and reduced-price meals increased by 44.1 percent.

In order to increase student achievement, Weast said he realized “if we could differentiate on the inputs, we could change the outputs.”

The district first set what he calls a “clear and compelling goal” to have 80 percent of students in the district become college ready by the year 2014. Weast and his team went to colleges directly and researched what it takes to be prepared for college. They used this information to carefully frame and define the seven keys.

A district-produced brochure on the initiative states: “The 7 Keys provide a pathway for students to follow from kindergarten through graduation to prepare them for rigorous academic work at competitive colleges after twelfth grade.”

The seven keys to college success are listed as:

1. Read at advanced levels in grades K-2.

2. Score at the advanced level on the Maryland School Assessment in grades 3-8.

3. Complete the 6th-grade math curriculum by grade 5.

4. Complete Algebra I with a grade of C or better by grade 8.

5. Complete Algebra II with a grade of C or better by grade 11.

6. Pass at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam.

7. Score at least a 1650 on the SAT or a 24 on the ACT.

The next step was to determine the district’s “blind spots.” Student-teacher ratios were the highest in the poorest areas of their district and teacher quality was the lowest in these areas. Weast and his team then went to work to change the systems and structures within the district that were hindering student achievement. They collaborated with unions to increase teacher performance and retention. They gave the teachers new technology to use in the classroom, created parent education programs and produced marketing plans to get their message out to students and families.

College preparation begins early in the Montgomery County schools. The district instituted an early success performance plan for Pre-K-3 students in low-income areas. They have full-day kindergarten and have aligned reading, math and language instruction into preschool, summer and after-school programs. Students start visiting colleges in grade 3. Elementary school teachers wear gear from their alma maters to help instigate classroom discussions about what college is like.

Parent buy-in is crucial to the initiative, Weast said. Workshops are held to teach parents how to help their students become college ready. Child care and interpretation services are provided at all the workshops. In addition to the workshops, television shows are broadcast weekly in five different languages to help educate parents.

Marketing is also very important. Working, a veteran principal, said, “The more we get the message out, the better we do.”

Students help create the messaging and it can be found nearly everywhere, from the sign in the lobby at Quince Orchard High School that states this is “where Cougars are creating a culture of college readiness” to the bookmarks with information about the seven keys to college readiness that are distributed to the students.

Weast and Working emphasized that the process has taken an immense amount of time, patience and persistence. Weast and his team have done a tremendous amount of work with the school board, teachers, administrators, staff members, unions and other stakeholders to ensure that students become college ready.

At the end of the session, Weast and Working encouraged school administrators in attendance to set goals to increase student success in their districts and to be willing to put forth the planning and work necessary to reach those goals.

More information on Montgomery County Public Schools and the Seven Keys to College Readiness can be found at

Kentucky Moves Quickly To Adopt National Common Core K-12 Standards

Kentucky schoolchildren in grades K-12 will see new standards for math and English next year, as part of a collaborative effort among 48 states to more clearly specify what knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and in the workforce. The state will become the first in the nation to endorse the so-called “Common Core State Standards Initiative.” New tests also will be developed, based on the common standards, which will eventually allow state-by-state comparisons. The initiative also requires more consistent teacher training and professional development. The new common core standards will be aligned to college readiness, but are still in draft form. A new draft is expected in mid february.

Colorado Study Provides Precise Detail On Remediation For Each High School And College

Colorado knows the variation by institution concerning remediation. Four year remdiation ranges from less than 1% at Boulder to 48% at Adams State. Each state should provide this data to its citizens and policymakers for deliberation.

College Remediation
Nearly One in Three Colo. Graduates Needs Remedial Courses in College, Study Finds
About one in three first-year college students in Colorado needs remedial help in at least one core subject, according to an annual report. Officials are confident that a new system in place to align Colorado’s K-12 schools with higher education will begin to reverse this trend. Overall, 52.7% of recent Colorado high school graduates who enrolled in two-year colleges in 2008 needed remedial help, while 19% of students attending four-year colleges needed remedial courses. The report also shows how well high schools are preparing students for college-level work (source ECS).

AP Course Taking And Failure Rates Increase

As more students take a national test with high standards usually the failure rate goes up as well. This is an indicator of higher ambition and a weaker academic pool seeking better qualifications.

The number of students taking Advanced Placement tests hit a record high last year, but the portion who fail the exams is rising as well, a USA TODAY analysis finds. The findings raise questions about whether schools are pushing millions of students into AP courses without adequate preparation and whether schools are not training enough teachers to deliver the high-level material. The analysis finds that 41.5% of students earned a failing score of 1 or 2, up from 36.5% in 1999. In the South, 48.4% of students earned a 1 or 2. (USA Today, 02/04

Rated 3.0 out of 5.0

State Data Progressing But Lags in K-16 Linkages

  Less than 10 states have adequate linkage of data for students as they progress from high school to college, but more states are working on the problem. We need this data to measure remediation incidence, college persistence and completion. States have made progress in building data systems that track student performance over time, but are not sharing the information in a way that leads to meaningful decisionmaking, according to a Data Quality Campaign survey. The report specifies 10 state actions necessary for effective data use. But 43 states have taken three or fewer of the actions, which call for states to expand their data systems to include higher education and workforce information; ensure that the data can be accessed, analyzed and used; and build the capacity of stakeholders to use the data.

ACT Finds Mismatch Between College And Secondary School Curriculum

 What high schools teach is not aligned with what colleges want. ACT has been doing these studies for years and here is the latest. High schools should focus on providing in-depth instruction of fundamental knowledge and essential skills, rather than covering a larger number of skills in less depth, to better prepare students for college and career. That is one conclusion of the latest ACT National Curriculum Survey® findings, released today by ACT, Inc. Read more

Inadequate Minority Male College Readiness Addressed In New Report

Black males complete college at less than half the rates of black females, and their college readiness is very low overall. A College Board report highlights the “overwhelming barriers” minority males confront in becoming educated and productive citizens and recommends national strategies aimed at erasing “the disparities in educational attainment.” Among the recommendations: convene a national policy discussion on the issue of minority male achievement; fund research to clarify issues that could impact minority male achievement; pursue P-16 partnerships to help minority males gain preparation and succeed in college; and identify and scale up funding for successful programs