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College-Going Rates Gauge Schools' Health

"Strategic Performance Indicators"

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Just as price-to-earnings ratios show the financial health of a business, researchers at Harvard University are developing common indicators that will help determine the health and performance of school systems.

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard last week released three measures that schools can use to get a better sense of college-going patterns among their students. These new Strategic Performance Indicators were tested using 10 years of historical data in five districts: Boston; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Fulton and Gwinnett counties in Georgia.

Together, the districts serve 500,000 students and provide a snapshot of high-school-to-college trends, said Sarah Glover, the executive director of the Strategic Data Project at the center.

The researchers found that gaps in college-enrollment rates do exist between white and racial and ethnic minority students. But when considering students with similar achievement and socioeconomic backgrounds, the gaps were reduced—and even reversed. By taking into account similarly situated Latinos and whites, the gap is cut in half. This gap means Latinos may face additional barriers that require a deeper analysis, and different groups may require different interventions, suggests Ms. Glover.

By the same token, the indicators show that college-enrollment rates for students with similar academic qualifications can vary dramatically among high schools within a district.

The indicators also point to many academically prepared students who don't stretch themselves to attend a selective college or attend any college at all. The message to schools that find this situation is to reach out to good students to ask about their college plans, Ms. Glover said.

Educators can access the researchers' tool kit free.

Vol. 31, Issue 29, Page 5

Published in Print: April 25, 2012, as College-Going Rates Gauge Schools' Health
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