Today’s post is the practitioner perspective on Monday’s post: Learning About Post-High School Pathways of Baltimore Youths.
The Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) has partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools for over ten years and through multiple staffing changes. Together, we have learned about our graduates’ college access and pathways after graduation, and continue to learn more. The research has helped us think about opportunities in high school, specifically senior year and what options our seniors were being guided to. In 2014, we established the Office of College and Career Readiness to better organize resources to provide support to students as they consider their post-secondary options.
One trend BERC had found in its earliest college report was that graduates were increasingly enrolling at two-year colleges. While community colleges are certainly beneficial and well-fitting for some of those who start college in Baltimore, less than 10% complete degrees after six years of starting a community college. This led to concern about whether some students were ‘under-matching,’ whereby they were enrolling in two-year colleges even though they were eligible for admission at 4-year schools. However, for the most recent two graduating cohorts, the trend has reversed with more graduates enrolling in 4-year colleges. We hope this trend will lead to larger percentages of our graduates earning degrees, and eventually, livable wages.
BERC’s most recent work with the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) has opened our eyes to the challenges our graduates face in the working world (see Monday’s post for more). Baltimore as a city has struggled with declining population, high rates of violence, and loss of gainful employment to the suburbs. At the district, we see our role as improving outcomes for the city, but to do that we need new partners in the business community, local civic leaders, our community colleges, and postsecondary training programs to help Baltimore City youth launch into adulthood with a higher success rate. Yet to start these partnerships on the right foot, we need data, such as that provided by BERC, to understand where we are. Our work with BERC provides the baseline information that helps set the vision for these partnerships.
BERC has now also begun to provide information on ‘summer melt,’ which relates to students who are accepted to college but do not make the proper plans to attend as college approaches. Summer melt is a difficult phenomenon to measure—we use the number of students with reported acceptances who do not enroll the following fall. While crude, it does capture some of the actual melt of students who may need more support over the summer. Although these students have graduated, principals and school staff are trying to determine if there are ways to help proactively.
In addition to learning from BERC’s findings internally at the district, we also place great importance on sharing BERC’s research findings with students and families. Specifically, as our district is a universal choice district for secondary students, up-to-date information about graduates’ success after high school are important pieces of context. Our online high school profile sheets include trends regarding graduates’ enrollment and degree attainment.
Additionally, we share the data at an annual high school principal retreat hosted by our external service provider around college access, College Bound. The event offers the opportunity to dig into the latest BERC report on college enrollment and completion and to provide trend data so principals can examine changes over time. This year marked the seventh consecutive year of BERC’s participation in the retreat. Also, following the retreat in 2017, principals followed up individually with BERC and requested special presentations of college enrollment data for their school during a dedicated day of teacher and counselor PD.
Our partnership with BERC has helped us think differently about our work and ultimately, to see the long-term outcomes of our graduates. While sobering, BERC’s work sets the baseline for the College and Career Readiness Office’s ongoing work.
The opinions expressed in Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.