Anne Hyslop :Education Sector
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? Data That Matters: Giving High Schools Useful Feedback on Grads’ Outcomes offers new research on states’ efforts to use career and college outcomes data.
First, the paper makes an important distinction between indicators of college readiness and actual evidence of readiness. High school data should include both. Indicators of college readiness are things that are measured while students are in high school, such as ACT or SAT scores, completion of AP or International Baccalaureate programs, completion of dual enrollment courses, graduation rates, and the like. These indicators are the ones most often reported as measures of college readiness because they are generally controlled by high schools and don’t require linking to postsecondary data. Evidence of college readiness, on the other hand, is taken from data collected after the student has left secondary education; it covers things like college enrollment, remediation, and persistence into a second year of college.
While states are getting better at collecting this vital information, they are not yet using the information in ways that could materially improve college preparation. Although 44 states report having systems with the potential to produce outcomes data from post-secondary, only 8 (Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wyoming) have taken the next step to provide high schools with feedback that allows them to make meaningful interventions.
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.
Finally, career-related outcomes are even harder to track. Only 10 states report participation in career or technical education on their high school feedback reports—even though participation does not directly capture career readiness. High schools can get more meaningful and measurable information by collecting data on completion of vocational training, participation in apprenticeship programs, military enlistment, attainment of professional licenses or certifications, and future earnings by occupation. But only 10 states publicly report any of these outcomes at the school level, and just half of them report the outcomes directly on high school feedback reports.