This guest blog post is written by Jordan Horowitz, Vice President, Foundation Relations and Project Development at the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) – a California-based initiative that collects, analyzes, and shares student data in order to track performance and improve success from elementary school through university.
In Ready by Design, Bill Tucker and Anne Hyslop provide a compelling case for assessing college readiness by using actual postsecondary measures. In other words, the best way to assess college readiness is with college metrics, not with high school predictor metrics that have little evidence of validity. Calling for change, however, is different from creating change. It is time to start using intersegmental data – student data that span K-12 and higher education – for more than merely assessing how well high schools are preparing students for college. We must use these data to guide efforts to improve college readiness and to spur changes in practice and policy to improve student outcomes.
Our experiences at IEBC working across the educational segments provide valuable lessons that move beyond the recommendations of Ready by Design. They demonstrate how postsecondary metrics are being used to improve college-going rates, reduce the number of students needing remediation in college, and increase persistence beyond the first term.
Over the past decade, in California, Texas, Hawaii and elsewhere, our work developing and facilitating intersegmental, discipline-specific faculty councils has demonstrated that engaging in courageous conversations about student transitions helps educators on both sides of the matriculation divide understand what it now means to teach and to be a student. These faculty groups rely on student transition data to identify issues and assess the impact of interventions they design and implement. Faculty accept that responsibility for developing college-ready graduates is shared; it is not only a high school obligation. Before high schools can align their exit expectations successfully, postsecondary institutions need to clearly articulate their entrance expectations.
The faculty involved in our councils are conversant in the data discussion. IEBC provides considerable professional development about how to read data reports, understand tables and figures, and perhaps most importantly, how to request the information they need to engage in their work. In May 2011 the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Board of Directors approved Information Literacy Standards for Teacher Education. These standards are a natural starting point for teacher preparation programs, administrator degree programs, professional development, and other training efforts to improve education stakeholders’ understanding of, and ability to use and make sense of, data.
The results of our work are clear. Ready by Design opens with a description of our English Curriculum Alignment Project (ECAP). As a result of these efforts, enrollment in college-level English courses increased from 36 to 57 percent, and the proportion of students successfully completing English composition in college increased from 44 to 74 percent. Based on this success, ECAP graduates were admitted into the college-level composition course regardless of their college placement scores. 86 percent of the group passed, compared to 66 percent of the general community college student population. This data led to scaling up ECAP to all high schools in the region.
We have had similar success with our Mathematics of Chemistry Applications (MoCHA), which contextualizes Algebra for Chemistry in a summer bridge course. This resulted in higher rates of Chemistry course completion, improved grades, and increased likelihood that students would go on to take additional science courses. The Enhanced Concurrent Enrollment Model (ECEM) takes concurrent enrollment to a new level. Designed to reach high school students not typically enrolled in courses at local colleges, ECEM provides additional student supports beyond concurrent enrollment, links data between participating institutions to improve understanding of the impact of the effort, and brings academic counselors and faculty across the segments together within disciplines to examine data, identify issues, and implement interventions.
Tucker and Hyslop make a compelling case. However, we must turn these recommendations into action. Simply changing the way we assess or report high school success will not be enough. For effective change to take place, high schools, colleges, and universities must collaboratively partner at the local level, colleague to colleague, to use intersegmental data in their combined efforts to improve college readiness among our students. It is highly unlikely we will graduate college-ready students until colleges and universities move beyond complaining about the problem and get involved in the solution.