College-career readiness can include remediation rates, diploma quality

College-career readiness can include remediation rates, diploma quality

In the search to define and measure college and career readiness, state and local officials throughout the U.S. are looking at university remediation rates and early performance indicators of middle school students, according to a new study.

Pressed by the Obama administration to evaluate how schools prepare students for life beyond the K-12 system, educators and state policy makers are exploring other indicators beyond graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment. As a result, 43 states now link student data from K-12 to the postsecondary system while 17 take it a step beyond to include workforce data, according to a new study from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The report analyzed 25 rating systems used by school districts, states and even news organizations to evaluate national trends in measuring school performance. Only those systems that resulted in a single, overall rating were included in the review and only those that were also publicly available.

“Before we can ensure all children have access to a high-quality public school, we have to know which schools are high quality,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance, said in a statement. “This report helps us understand how state governments and private organizations, like the annual U.S. News & World Report ‘Best High Schools in America’ list, determine which schools are high quality. It also gives us an important foundation from which to build future quality rating systems so parents, educators, and policymakers are given the information they need.”

Among the highlights:

• Measuring student achievement growth. Evaluating student achievement growth, not just proficiency, has become the new standard for school quality rating systems. This shift means school quality is being based on the academic progress of all students, whether or not they entered the school or grade performing at grade level.

• Expansion of college- and career-readiness measures. Rating systems have moved beyond high school graduation rates to include more meaningful indicators of post-secondary student attainment and readiness.

• Finding new ways to focus attention on lowest-performing students. The latest generation of school quality measures continues to identify and include new metrics to evaluate how well schools are preparing their most-challenged students.

• Interest in valid measures of student engagement. Some rating systems have started to add qualitative measurements of school culture.

• Increase in data transparency and public accessibility. School quality ratings are no longer judged just by their reliability and accuracy, but also by how well they make data available to key stakeholders, such as parents and policymakers.

One system widely embraced was first developed by Florida more than a decade ago – giving schools an A-to-F grade. At least 17 states have followed, although the underlying methodologies for calculating the school grade vary.

Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona use the results of three growth models (value table, value-added, and student growth percentiles) and assign different weights to these growth results, while South Carolina does not use a student growth model in school evaluation, the study’s authors said.

Louisiana applies a range of postsecondary measures to evaluate high schools (graduation rate, diploma quality, completion of advanced coursework, performance on college readiness exams, industry certifications, and dual credit) while Arizona and South Carolina include only graduation rate.

On college readiness, several states and large school districts have looked at how to better evaluate schools based on the quality of their diplomas. Louisiana, for example, awards more points in the state rating system for higher-quality diplomas and fewer points for students earning a GED. Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New York City also give more credit in ratings to schools with higher rates of advanced diplomas, the report said.

College remediation gets a lot of attention as evidence that the K-12 system is not succeeding – but just one jurisdiction, Denver city schools, includes college remediation rates as part of its school rating system.

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