High Schools Flying Blind Without College Data, Report Says

By Catherine Gewertz — December 03, 2009 1 min read
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A new report from College Summit and the Center for American Progress urges the federal government to help high schools get access to college data that will help them provide the best possible college preparation for students. Without knowing how young people are faring in their first year of college (“Year 13"), it says, high schools are forced to guesstimate what works.

“After all, we wouldn’t ask air traffic controllers to land planes with radars that shut down at 10,000 feet. We wouldn’t let surgeons operate if they could only guess at how previous patients had done,” the report said. “And yet at the moment we are asking high schools to deliver students who can perform in college without giving schools the tools to know whether or how their current efforts are paying off.”

What should the feds do? According to the CAP and College Summit, they should support the gathering of college-proficiency data by school, disseminate the data, help educators learn to interpret and lead change based on it, and reward high schools for making progress in college-proficiency rates.

The most important data high schools need—both in the aggregate and on an anonymous, student level—are the rates at which their students enroll in postsecondary study within a semester of graduation, and the rate at which they complete at least one year of college credit within two years, the report said.

The report includes some intriguing anecdotes from schools that have worked hard to reshape their offerings based on the glimpses they managed to get into their students’ college performance. But it makes the point that these efforts were possible only because of lucky breaks, such as a principal receiving a letter from a former student’s mother, who described how her daughter was struggling in her freshman year of college. High schools shouldn’t have to rely, the report argues, on chance tidbits; they need systematic, comprehensive information on how well their students were prepared to succeed in college.

The report was released today at a panel discussion with some really smart, informed people on this issue; video of the discussion is available on the Center for American Progress’ Web site.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.