College and Career Readiness A Systemic P-20 Response - Todd Bloom, Ph.D. Chief Academic Officer March 2010 C

College and Career Readiness A Systemic P-20 Response - Todd Bloom, Ph.D. Chief Academic Officer March 2010 C

College and Career Readiness
   A Systemic P-20 Response
                 Todd Bloom, Ph.D.
             Chief Academic Officer
                          March 2010


              Table of Contents
         Introduction............................................................................................................... 3	

         Current National Context.......................................................................................... 4	

         Responsibility for College and Career Readiness: A Multi-Level P-20 Approach.. 7	

         A Review of the Literature on College and Career Readiness ................................. 8	

         Critical Points: Where and When Students Fall Off Course .................................... 9	

         The Limitations of the Traditional System ............................................................. 10	

         Interventions that Work for Students...................................................................... 12	

         A Systems Perspective for School/District Responses to College and Career
         Readiness Best Practices......................................................................................... 16	

         References............................................................................................................... 18	

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         Nearly three decades ago, A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983)
         served as a clarion call for education reform in America. The report linked education outcomes with the
         economic, civic, and social future of the country. In the years that followed, Americans have observed an
         increasingly globalized economy and a dwindling number of the domestic manufacturing jobs that in the
         past had sustained the country’s working class. According to recent projections, occupations requiring
         post-secondary education are expected to grow at significantly higher rates than jobs requiring less
         educational preparation over the next decade (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009; Georgetown University
         Center on Education and the Workforce, 2010).
         Recent assessment data have resulted in a heightened awareness of the decline of America’s standing in
         international comparisons of educational achievement and attainment. According to the most recent data
         from the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the US ranks just 21st out of
         the 30 countries compared with regard to science performance (Organization for Economic and
         Cooperative Development, 2007). Longitudinal data also show that the United States has declined in its
         relative position of percentage of college graduates as compared to other industrialized countries
         (Schleicher, 2007). In addition, according to recent data from ACT (2009), only 23 percent of students
         graduating in 2009 met ACT’s college readiness benchmarks for the four core subject areas (English,
         math, reading, and science).
         Another critical driver for education reform has been closing achievement and opportunity gaps. The
         concern for equity coupled with the drive for economic stability and international competitiveness has
         resulted in an intensified agenda for the American education system. The primary concern is no longer
         high school completion, but increasing the number and percentage of students—across all subgroups—
         who graduate from high school prepared for post-secondary education and employment.
         This shift from secondary to post-secondary outcomes is reflected in the theme of the 2009 edition of the
         annual “Diplomas Count” report from Education Week’s Editorial Projects in Education; instead of
         focusing on high school graduation outcomes as in prior years, the report centered around the theme of
         “College Readiness for All Students” (Editorial Projects in Education, 2009).
         The focus on college and career readiness is reflected in federal, state, and local policy and practice. At
         the national level, it is manifested in the federal accountability movement, the Common Core Standards
         initiative, and the priorities of recent federal competitive grant programs. At the local level, districts and
         schools are working within and outside of the federal framework to implement strategies that improve
         post-secondary outcomes for all students.
         Federal, state, and local strategies often require alignment across multiple levels of schooling, from
         elementary to secondary education, as well as coordination with stakeholders outside of the traditional K-
         12 system.
         This report will view the college and career readiness challenge through a multi-level “P-20” lens. It will
         begin with a description of the current national policy context for the college and career readiness
         movement and set out a rationale for the P-20 perspective. It will then review the growing body of
         literature on the issue. The literature review will focus first on the problems—the critical transition points
         where students fall off track, as well as the barriers that permeate the current system. It will then move to
         a discussion of solutions, with a review of evidence-based strategies for preparing students for post-
         secondary education and employment. It will conclude with a description of a framework for assessing
         the extent to which a district’s policies and practices promote college and career readiness outcomes.

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              Current National Context
         Two key drivers—economic competitiveness and social equity—have resulted in a focused agenda for the
         American education system: college and career readiness for all students. Several recent federal policy
         changes reflect this goal, many of which stem from the education components of the federal economic
         recovery legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as well as increased
         funding of the existing College Access Challenge Grant. The new federal policy framework favors a more
         efficient and aligned system in which actors across the educational continuum coordinate supports.

                    A Federal Priority. In his remarks to the Joint Sessions of Congress in February
                    of 2009, President Obama stated a new goal for America: “by 2020, America will
                    once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” (White
                    House, 2009). The federal emphasis on college and career readiness above and
                    beyond high school completion couldn’t be clearer.
         College and career readiness is emphasized in the application for state and local grant competitions
         authorized under ARRA. These grant competitions have the potential to influence critical state and local
         policy reforms. The second and most recent round of Race to the Top was a competition, which awarded
         $4.35 billion in funds to states. The grant application emphasized four state reform areas, the first of
         which was the adoption of “standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the
         workplace and to compete in the global economy” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010a, p. 3). Another
         reform area was the creation of longitudinal data systems that track multiple elements, including data on
         student’s post-secondary readiness and educational attainment. In the first round of the competitions, 41
         states applied, 16 were finalists, and two won: Delaware and Tennessee. Thirty-five states plus
         Washington, DC applied for round two in June 2010, and nine states and Washington, DC won.
         The Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund is a grant competition for local entities. Funds may be awarded to
         districts, nonprofit organizations in partnership with districts, or consortia of schools. In Fall 2010, 49
         winning proposals were chosen from 1,700 applications. The aim of the program is to provide funds to
         applicants that have a proven track record of improving student outcomes – which could include measures
         of college readiness or attainment—in order to promote the implementation and expansion of innovative
         practices (U.S. Department of Education, 2010b). Applicants were required to apply under one of four
         priority areas, one of which is “innovations that complement the implementation of high standards and
         high-quality assessments” (p. 7) – that is, standards and assessments that are aligned with college and
         career readiness.
         The federal standards and accountability movement—advanced by earlier policies such as Goals 2000
         and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education
         Act (ESEA)—has moved beyond individual state-developed sets of standards with the Common Core
         Standards initiative (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Council of Chief
         State School Officers, n.d.). The initiative is a state-led effort to develop a common set of rigorous,
         internationally benchmarked standards aligned with college and career readiness.
         The Race to the Top application for states prioritized applicants that signed on to the Common Core
         initiative. Currently 48 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories are participating in the
         initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The
         work has been done in consultation with practitioner experts as well as an advisory group made of
         representatives from Achieve, Inc., ACT, the College Board, the National Association of State Boards of
         Education, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Currently, the consortium has released
         standards for mathematics and English language arts. The starting point for the work was the release of

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         college and career readiness expectations. In March of 2010, the group released draft K-12 standards for
         math and English language arts aligned with these expectations. The final version of the standards was
         released in June of 2010. As of the writing of this publication, a total of 41 states, Washington, DC and
         the U.S. Virgin Islands have formally adopted the standards, either in their draft or final form, with other
         states indicating that adoption will take place in the coming months.
         The Race to the Top Assessment grants authorized under ARRA provide $350 million to fund consortia
         of states developing assessments aligned with common standards. (U.S. Department of Education,
         2010c). Two consortia were selected: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
         (PARCC), comprised of 24 states lead by Florida, and SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium
         (SBAC), which has 31 member states. Both groups are developing summative assessments, designing
         those assessments to enable cross-state comparisons, and providing instructional and professional
         development tools to assist with implementation and use. Implementation of the assessments will occur
         during the 2014-2015 school year.
         While the college and career readiness extends beyond goals for high school graduation, high school
         dropout prevention initiatives are also a part of the larger national conversation (White House Office of
         the Press Secretary, 2010). In March of 2010, President Obama announced the Grad Nation initiative, a
         10-year campaign to end dropout launched in collaboration with the America’s Promise Alliance, a
         foundation chaired by Alma Powell (America’s Promise Alliance, n.d.). The initiative has two goals: 1)
         90 percent of students in fourth grade now will graduate high school on time; and 2) in line with the
         administration’s stated goal, America will become first in the world in the proportion of college graduates
         by 2020.
         In March of 2010, the Department of Education released an outline for proposed changes to ESEA. This
         “blueprint” for revising ESEA is organized around five priorities, the first of which is “College and
         Career-Ready Students.” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010d). The blueprint outlines a number of
         strategies to advance this priority. The first is to raise standards for all students. The expectation will be
         that every student graduates “ready for college and career” (p. 3). The document acknowledges the
         Common Core Standards initiative as a piece of this work, but acknowledges that “states may choose to
         upgrade their existing standards or work with other states! ” (p. 3). Another strategy included for
         advancing college and career readiness is better assessments, aligned with college and career-ready
         standards. The blueprint recognizes a variety of types and uses of assessment data, from formative
         assessments used for day-to-day instructional decision-making to interim and summative assessments.
         The blueprint’s discussion of turning around low-performing schools is contained within the larger
         section describing the college and career readiness priority.
         In addition to the ARRA funding, the federal government has recently increased the level of funding of an
         existing grant to states, College Access Challenge Grant Program (CACGP). As stated by the Department
         of Education on its Web site:
                    “The purpose of the College Access Challenge Grant Program (CACGP) is to foster partnerships
                    among federal, state, and local governments and philanthropic organizations through matching
                    challenge grants that are aimed at increasing the number of low-income students who are
                    prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Projects are authorized to: provide
                    information to students and families regarding post-secondary education and career preparation;
                    promote financial literacy and debt management; conduct outreach activities; assist students in
                    completing the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA); provide need-based
                    grant aid; conduct professional development for guidance counselors at middle and secondary
                    schools, financial aid administrators, and college admissions counselors; and offer student loan
                    cancellation or repayment or interest rate reductions for borrowers who are employed in a high-
                    need geographical area or a high need profession.”

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         The funding level for the CACGP increased dramatically from fiscal year 2008 ($66 million) to fiscal
         year 2010 ($150 million), representing the greater emphasis the federal government has placed on
         increasing the number of high school graduates who continue on to post-secondary education.

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              Responsibility for College and Career
              Readiness: A Multi-Level P-20 Approach
         A P-20 orientation has been advanced by the developing college and career readiness movement. Such an
         outlook forces policymakers and practitioners out of the traditional, compartmentalized view of the
         education system. This is critical for a system that aims to prepare students for college and career for a
         number of reasons:
                 By definition, the P-20 approach acknowledges that the responsibility for preparing students for post-
                 secondary success does not reside solely in the late high school years, and does not fall on high school staff
                 such as counselors. The responsibility is shared by multiple stages in the education continuum, at multiple
                 levels of the system.
                 A P-20 perspective enables coordination across the bridge between high school and post-secondary education.
                 Institutions of higher education can be vital partners in helping districts to prepare college and career-ready
                 students. Colleges and universities may provide input on what students need to be successful. In addition,
                 colleges and universities may partner in with schools and districts in order to familiarize students with college
                 campuses and the college experience, as well as to earn college credit.
                 Transitions between parts of the system (e.g., elementary to middle, middle to secondary) are critical points
                 on the education continuum. Students often fall off course at these junctures, and coordinated supports are
                 necessary to keep them moving forward and on track for high school completion and post-secondary success.
                 The P-20 orientation acknowledges the importance of high school as well as every prior stage of a child’s
                 educational career in preparing students for college and career. High quality early educational experiences—
                 beginning with pre-kindergarten—provide students with the foundation for success.
                 A P-20 approach promotes alignment of curriculum, assessments, and instruction with the college and career-
                 ready outcome. The current work around common state standards and assessments is one piece of the
                 curriculum, assessments, and instruction framework.
         While a P-20 orientation may be grounded in state-level agency coordination, it must be carried out at
         multiple levels of the system–from the state- to the local-level. The prior review of the policy landscape
         suggests a trend toward mobilizing college and career readiness supports at the federal and state levels,
         with states working to develop common standards and assessments and building longitudinal data systems
         in response to the priorities advanced by federal funding opportunities. States have also invested in and
         promoted programs and technology platforms, encouraging or even mandating district buy-in.
         A multi-level P-20 approach, however, takes into account the capacity of local entities to bridge critical
         transition points, to build partnerships with institutes of higher education, businesses, community leaders,
         and families, and to develop and implement strategies that work for the students they serve.

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              A Review of the Literature on College and
              Career Readiness
         The literature base on college and career readiness spans multiple domains. The following review
         examines the challenges associated with educating students to be prepared for post-secondary success, as
         well as evidence-based solutions.
         An important preliminary concern is what is meant by college and career readiness. States have sought to
         define college and career readiness through a variety of approaches including standards, course
         requirements, assessments, descriptions of required skills, or a combination of these approaches (Lloyd,
         2009). While data suggest that an increasing percentage of available jobs will require some college
         education, is career readiness synonymous with college readiness? In a recent research report, ACT
         concluded that both paths – higher education or career training programs require similar levels of
                    whether planning to enter college or workforce training programs after graduation, high school
                    students need to be educated to a comparable level of readiness in reading and mathematics.
                    Graduates need this level of readiness if they are to succeed in college-level courses without
                    remediation and to enter workforce training programs ready to learn job-specific skills.that high
                    school graduate are required to achieve comparable levels of proficiency in reading and math, in
                    order “to succeed in college-level courses without remediation and to enter workforce training
                    programs ready to learn job-specific skills. (ACT, Inc., 2006, p.1).
         Achieve, a nonprofit education reform organization focused on state policy around college and career
         readiness, offers the following definition of college-readiness: “Being ready for college means that a high
         school graduate has the English and mathematics knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for and
         succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses without the need for remedial coursework (Achieve,
         Inc., n.d.). Like ACT, Achieve equates college readiness with career readiness, citing a “convergence of
         expectations” of employers and colleges on what students need to know and be able to do in order to

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              Critical Points: Where and When Students Fall
              Off Course
         Research suggests that the major transition points in the educational continuum present students with
         particular social and academic challenges that can throw students off course.
         The literature on dropout prevention focuses on the middle to high school transition (Kenelly & Monrad,
         2007; Neild, 2009; Dynarski, Clarke, Cobb, Finn, Rumberger, & Smink, 2009). This transition may be
         particularly challenging for students for a number of reasons. For most ninth graders, the transition from
         middle school involves an actual change in physical location of schooling (Nield, 2009). In addition,
         ninth grade often signals the beginning of more intense academic expectations as well as new social
         expectations and liberties. Incoming ninth grade students may be adequately prepared to face these new
         expectations. Perhaps as a result of the convergence of theses multiple factors, students are more likely to
         fail ninth grade than any other grade (Kenelly & Monrad, 2007).
         The elementary to middle school transition can also be challenging for students, especially with regard to
         behavior expectations. Recent research conducted in Philadelphia schools suggests that student
         achievement and behavior in the middle grades may be predictive of late high school outcomes including
         graduation (Balfanz, 2009). The research also suggests that the first year of middle school may be a
         critical turning point for many students: “The first year of the middle grades (typically the sixth grade
         year), much like the ninth grade, appears to be a make or break year” (p. 5). Students that fall off track in
         middle school tend to show signs of falling off track in the first year of middle school. One recent study
         suggests that a student’s achievement and progress toward college and career readiness as measured in
         eighth is more advantageous for students than any measure of high school achievement (ACT, Inc.,
         The transition from high school to college may also be a stumbling block for many students, though the
         college and career readiness movement is built around a need to better prepare students so that they may
         successfully navigate this transition. A recent policy brief by Learning Point Associates (Rodriguez &
         Wan, 2010) recommends that policymakers and practitioners consider ways to improve the transition to
         college. Specific strategies relate to P-20 alignment the provision of learning experience during the high
         school years that integrate post-secondary (e.g., early college and dual enrollment programs).

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              The Limitations of the Traditional System
         Before examining the research on practices for improving college and career readiness, it is important to
         examine some of the barriers and limitations of the traditional system.
         The goals and expectations embedded in the system can be a huge barrier. Several critical components of
         the system may not have adjusted to the new expectations for college and career readiness. An
         expectation of college and career readiness for all students may not be reflected in the school and district
         vision and mission, and, perhaps more importantly, may not be held by school and district leaders and
         A related issue in traditional systems is that the curriculum in place may not be aligned with the college
         and career readiness expectation. If state and/or local standards are not aligned with the knowledge and
         skills required for college and career success, it is unlikely that the curriculum will be sufficiently
         rigorous. In addition, once a curriculum that is based on college and career readiness standards is in place,
         instruction and assessments must also be aligned in order to impact student learning and outcomes.
         Another barrier may be the absence of programs that effectively remediate students who lack the
         necessary skills and knowledge required for success at a particular stage of the P-20 continuum.
         Theoretically, an aligned, college and career-focused system will require far less remediation than that
         required by a traditional system, but even in the most effective and efficient system, some students will
         require additional supports along the way.
         Traditional systems often lack the adequate policies and procedures for identifying struggling students as
         early as possible and providing targeted, research-based interventions. Traditional systems may not have
         the appropriate human capital resources in place to provide students with necessary support and guidance.
         Traditionally, the responsibility for college and career advising is held by the school counselor. However,
         staffing shortages, competing demands, and limited resources can seriously hinder counselors’ abilities to
         carry out this critical responsibility (Corwin & Tierney, 2007). Nationally, the counselor to student ratio
         was 1:460 for the 2007-08 school year (American School Counselor Association, n.d.). In large urban
         areas, the ratio is even more alarming. On top of the sheer number of students for which counselors are
         responsible, counselors have a range of responsibilities unrelated to college and career advising, including
         coordinating the administration of assessments, developing course schedules, and handling student
         discipline issues. Finally, counselors often lack the training and resources necessary to provide college
         and career advising. In addition to challenges with counselor shortages and workloads, districts may also
         lack teachers with the necessary content expertise to provide a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum
         (Education Trust, 2008).
         Even when schools are able to maintain a more desirable counselor to student ratio, the burden of college
         and career readiness supports cannot be borne by counselors alone. Research suggests that teachers,
         parents, and peers play critical roles in supporting a student’s college and career aspirations (Corwin &
         Tierney, 2007). A series of reports from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) examined
         roadblocks faced by the Chicago Public Schools in the course of to improve post-secondary outcomes for
         its students. One study found that many high achieving students were not college-ready, mainly because
         they did not receive critical information and support from adults (Roderick, Nagaoka, Coca, Moeller,
         Roddie, Gilliam, & Patton, 2008). Many of these students matriculated into less-rigorous post-secondary
         education institutions, even though they were qualified to attend stronger schools. Allensworth, Correa,
         and Ponisciak (2008) found that aggressive ACT preparation in the junior year took away from
         instruction and ultimately had a negative impact on students’ scores. The culminating report in this series
         emphasized the magnitude of the challenge of improving college and career readiness in the system: “we
         need to acknowledge that there are no simple answers about how best to create a strong academic climate

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         under difficult conditions where failure has been the historic norm” (Easton, Ponisciak, & Luppescu,
         2008, p. 21).

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              Interventions that Work for Students
         While the literature on effective strategies for improving college and career readiness is still developing,
         there are several themes that may be derived from the existing research base. In 2009, the Institute of
         Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, published a “Practice
         Guide” on what high schools can do to support students in navigating the path to college (Tierney, Bailey,
         Constantine, Finkelstein, & Hurd, 2009). Part of a larger series of publications aimed at distilling the best
         available research into practical recommendations, the Practice Guide contains five research-based
         recommendations for high schools. Each recommendation is accompanied by suggested strategies for
         carrying out the recommendation. The Practice Guide recommendations— many of which are referenced
         in the following section—along with the underlying research base illustrate a range of interventions and
         supports that may be implemented at the local level in furtherance of preparing all students for post-
         secondary success.
         A growing number of districts are taking a systemic approach to preparing students for post-secondary
         success. Following are a few examples of districts that have garnered recognitions for their college
         readiness initiatives. This list will likely expand in the coming years as federal programs and foundations
         continue to promote the development and implementation of strategies that impact college and career
         readiness outcomes.
                 Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore Maryland. Through a partnership with the CollegeBound
                 Foundation, Baltimore is implementing college specialists in the majority of the district’s high schools. The
                 schools support the specialist’s salary, and the foundation provides a range of supports including ”college
                 fairs, local and overnight college trips, a 13-module college-advising curriculum, and a project that tracks and
                 supports some CollegeBound-advised students into college” (Gewertz, 2009). The district is observing
                 increases in the number of students completing college applications in those schools that offer these supports
                 as compared to the application numbers in these schools prior to the implementation of the program. The
                 percentage of students in the district taking college entrance exams is also increasing at rates that far exceed
                 the state average.
                 Burleson Independent School District, Burleson, Texas. Burleson has created a one-stop-shop website with
                 resources and tools for parents and students to help them navigate the path to post-secondary education
                 (Burleson Independent School District, n.d.). The site organizes information and resources around the themes
                 of Academic Readiness, Career Readiness (featuring career interest surveys), Admissions Readiness,
                 Financial Readiness, and Habits of Mind (emphasizing the differences between high school and college and
                 the skills, attitudes, and behaviors associated with success in college).
                 District 509, Elgin, Illinois. The Elgin Community College and the district’s high schools have partnered to
                 form the Alliance for College Readiness (Elgin Community College, n.d.). Driven by the Community
                 College’s desire for students to be successful in their higher education pursuits, the Alliance is organized
                 around several cross-sector committees focused on various content areas and career paths. One committee is
                 devoted to parent communication and student supports.
                 Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Maryland. Montgomery County Public Schools has
                 developed a curricular framework aligned with college readiness expectations. The “Seven Keys to College
                 Readiness” outlines key academic benchmarks for college readiness spanning the primary grades through late
                 high school (Montgomery County Public Schools, n.d.).
         Research suggests that the following components should be considered when developing a district
         strategy for college and career readiness.
                 Rigorous, College-Preparatory Curriculum and Aligned Instruction and Assessments. The foundation for
                 college and career readiness is an aligned, rigorous curriculum. Research shows that the rigor of a student’s
                 high school coursework is a key predictor of college enrollment and completion. The IES Practice Guide
                 recommends that secondary schools “offer courses and curricula that prepare students for college-level work”

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                 (Tierney et al., p. 12). Depending on the quality of state standards, districts may need to work outside of the
                 existing regulatory framework to develop local standards aligned with college and career readiness.
         The specific progression of coursework that positions students for success in college has not been settled,
         and what is best for students may vary with specific local contexts. Montgomery County Public Schools’s
         “Seven Keys to College Readiness” outline seven academic benchmarks including foundation in reading
         in the early elementary grades, eighth grade Algebra 1, and target scores on college placement exams
         (Montgomery County Public Schools, n.d.). The Academic Readiness section of Burleson site includes
         guidelines for students’ four-year academic plans including a link to a planning worksheet (Burleson
         Independent School District, n.d.). While the site advises that students work with counselors, teachers,
         and parents to develop a plan, it is not clear what kinds of structures are in place to assist students with
         doing this (e.g., in-school advising time and resources).
                 A College Going Culture. Research suggests that fostering a culture of college-going can influence students
                 post-secondary aspirations (Corwin & Tierney, 2007; Ramsey, 2008). A number of stakeholders participate in
                 a school’s college-going culture including school leaders, faculty, and staff, students, parents, and community
                 members (Corwin & Tierney, 2007). Much of the programming offered in Baltimore City Public Schools
                 through the partnership with the CollegeBound foundation is designed to develop a college-going culture
                 (Gerwitz, 2009). In particular, the college specialist, charged only with providing college preparation
                 supports, helped to build a college-going culture through persistent outreach efforts school-wide and to
                 individual students.
         A clearly communicated mission and vision of college and career readiness may help to promote a
         college-going culture at the school and district level, and involving stakeholders in the development and
         promotion of the vision and mission may increase the impact on culture (Corwin & Tierney, 2007). Clear
         and consistent messaging outside of the stated mission and vision can also help to develop a college-
         going culture. In addition to providing a clear curricular framework for college readiness, Montgomery
         County’s “Seven Keys to College Readiness” also helps to promote a college-going culture. Burleson’s
         online College Readiness Tools also help to convey the message that students are expected to be prepared
         for post-secondary success.
         Part of a establishing a college-going culture is helping students understand that higher education is a
         realistic option. Financing higher education is a major perceived barrier. A recent study by Destin and
         Oyserman (2009) found that students who were provided information about college affordability options
         had higher expectation for their own future achievement and effort than students who were not provided
         with this information. The researchers noted: “We demonstrated effects on expectations and plans to
         show that just hearing about financial aid opportunities for college creates an immediate effect on current
         intentions” (p. 418).
         Peers—students in school or recent high school graduates—can play a critical role in helping to develop a
         college-going culture. The IES Practice Guide recommends that schools “surround students with adults
         and peers who build and support their college-going aspirations” (Tierney et al., p. 26).
         In addition, parent engagement may contribute to the development of a systemwide college-going culture
         (Cunningham, Erisman, & Looney, 2007; Fann, Jarsky, & McDonouh, 2009). The IES Practice Guide
         recommends that schools “increase families’ financial awareness, and help students apply for financial
         aid” (Tierney et al., p. 38). Specific strategies for carrying out this recommendation include holding
         parent workshops and providing hands-on assistance with completing financial aid forms. The Burleson
         and Montgomery County sites contain information about college readiness planning targeted towards
         parents. Montgomery County offers workshops to parents organized around the “Seven Keys.”
                 Targeted Supports, Particularly at Critical Transition Points. The research on high school transitions offers
                 some strategies for providing supports to students who may struggle at these critical points. A recent report
                 from the National High School Center summarizes research-based strategies for supporting ninth grade
                 students (Kenelly & Monrad, 2007). In addition to general strategies related to creating a relevant, engaging
                 learning environment, targeted supports include programs that separate ninth grade students from the rest of

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                 the high school population such as ninth grade academies, early warning systems that help to identify
                 struggling students, the provision of academic supports for students who are not prepared for the rigors of
                 high school coursework.
         The middle school research conducted in Philadelphia that found that many students fall off track during
         the middle grades also suggests that middle school students are resilient and often remain in school for a
         number of years after first exhibiting signs of falling off track (Balfanz, 2009). These additional years in
         the system provide multiple opportunities for practitioners to intervene and get students back on course.
         Key indicators in the middle grades include course failures, overall GPA, attendance, behavior, and effort.
         In addition, a recent study suggests that helping students develop and demonstrate academic discipline in
         the middle grades may have tremendous benefits with regard to late high school outcomes (ACT, Inc.,
         In addition to supports during key transition years, students may benefit from ongoing scaffolding. A
         recent report by Savitz-Romer, Jager-Hyman, and Coles (2009) outlines several types of academic and
         social supports that may help students navigate the expectations of the college and career readiness:
         emotional support; instrumental support; informational support; appraisal support (the other feedback to
         help students understand their progress); and structural support.
                 Tools to Measure Student Progress. Subsequent to the release of its blueprint for revising ESEA, the U.S.
                 Department of Education issued documents outlining the research base for the blueprint, including the college
                 and career readiness priority (U.S. Department of Education, 2010e). The report included a discussion of
                 measures of college and career readiness success. The following were included as examples of measures
                 implemented collected and reported at the state level across the country.
                  Ÿ    AP course-taking
                  Ÿ    Dual credit courses
                  Ÿ    Percentage of high school graduates who go to college
                  Ÿ    College remediation rates of public high school graduates
                  Ÿ    College GPA, credit attainment, or other academic indicators for students from individual high schools
                  Ÿ    SAT, ACT, or AP scores
                  Ÿ    One year college retention rates
                  (U.S. Department of Education, 2010e)
         State policy as well as state capacity with regard to longitudinal data systems can impact the types of data
         that districts collect, report, and analyze. Several states are using federal funding to build data systems
         that have the potential to track students over time through multiple stages of the education and career
         continuum (Aarons, 2009).
         Such systems can afford districts the opportunity to examine a range of questions with regard to college
         and career readiness. They could potentially identify struggling students, know more about how well they
         are preparing students for college and career, and learn about the impact of particular programs and
         Regardless of state requirements and state data systems, districts can collect data on these and other
         measures in order to assess the progress of individual students as well as the effectiveness of school and
         district practices.
         There is also a growing body of literature around predicting the extent that students are “on track” for
         graduation and other late high school outcomes. Research in Philadelphia (Neild & Balfanz, 2007) and
         Chicago (Allensworth & Easton, 2007) found that course failures, GPA, and attendance are key predictors
         of graduation. The literature on preparation for college success emphasizes the importance of course rigor
         in high school. In a longitudinal study examining student progress toward college attainment Adelman

© 2012 Hobsons, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

         (2006) found that a number of factors contribute to college completion but that “the academic intensity of
         the student’s high school curriculum still counts more than anything” (p. xviii).
         While the existing literature base has established some general benchmarks for predictors of graduation
         and post-secondary outcomes, local systems can develop on-track indicator systems that are more
         sensitive to local factors. Locally developed indicator systems can help districts more accurately identify
         students who are off track and target resources appropriately.
         In connection with its recommendation around course rigor, the IES Practice Guide suggests that high
         schools work with individual freshman to develop a “course trajectory” that leads to college-readiness
         (Tierney et al., p. 12). The Practice Guide also recommends that high schools “utilize assessment
         measures throughout high school so that students are aware of how prepared they are for college, and
         assist them in overcoming deficiencies as they are identified” (p. 20). While assessments can be used to
         guide practitioners, they are often overlooked for their potential to help students understand their own
         progress and engage them in planning for success.
         Both of these recommendations may be implemented through the use of individualized learning plans.
         Such plans can help students set goals for learning and course taking that are aligned with their post-
         secondary aspirations. Individualized learning plans are often used for students at-risk of falling off
         course or who otherwise require specialized supports (Robinson, Stempel, & McCree, 2005). Some
         districts require plans for all students, and emphasize an alignment of plans with post-secondary goals.
                 Effective Educators. Research supports a clear link between the quality of instruction and student learning
                 (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Research further suggests that students’ post-secondary aspirations and
                 outcomes may be influenced by their teachers’ attitudes and perceptions (Achieve, Inc., 2010). The
                 Philadelphia research on the middle grades found that teachers “had the strongest impact on whether or not a
                 student would close or wide achievement gaps during the middle grades” (Balfanz, 2009, p. 7). Local systems
                 may impact teacher practice and attitudes through quality professional development (Quint, Thompson, &
                 Bald, 2008) and through strategic staffing decisions (Education Trust, 2008). Elgin’s Alliance for College
                 Readiness coordinates professional development for teachers and school leaders. The professional
                 development is designed to improve instruction in core subject areas as well as to help practitioners advance a
                 college going culture in the school.

© 2012 Hobsons, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

              A Systems Perspective for School/District
              Responses to College and Career Readiness
              Best Practices
         As stated previously, with the increasing national focus on college and career readiness, federal policies
         of both the carrot and stick varieties will encourage local education agencies to implement practices
         aimed at better preparing students for post-secondary success. While the national college readiness
         conversation is currently focused on federal- and state-level policy solutions for college readiness, the
         strategies with demonstrated effectiveness are, for the most part, within the purview of schools and
         districts. The district is in a strong position to coordinate and align supports for students, and to build the
         requisite buy-in from the individuals and entities that implement the programs and policies that impact
         The on-the-ground work takes place at the district and school level. The knowledge of the particular
         needs of the student population is housed by the local practitioners. It is up to these individuals to work
         across the system to craft and implement strategies that work for their students.
         Districts working towards college and career readiness for all students may assess the extent that they
         have met this objective by examining student post-secondary outcomes. While this type of summative
         evaluation is important, it does not provide districts with the vital feedback that can be used to help
         improve post-secondary outcomes for future students. Districts can assess their progress towards meeting
         college and career readiness goals by examining the extent to which district practices align with what are
         known to be effective practices. The results of this inquiry can provide a district with feedback on how to
         allocate existing resources in furtherance of college and career readiness goals.
         Hobsons has developed a tool for districts to examine their progress in improving student college and
         career readiness along four key dimensions: 1) information and knowledge management; 2) student
         engagement and support; 3) curriculum, assessment, and instruction; and 4) teacher knowledge and
         professional development. Each dimension is comprised of several components. Districts rate the extent
         to which each component is in place, and these ratings are combined to form a composite score, which
         can be used as an indicator of district progress.
         Following is a more detailed examination of each of the four dimensions.
                 Information and Knowledge Management. This domain includes practices for collecting and using data in
                 furtherance of college and career readiness objectives. This domain contains indicators for what data should
                 be collected, when it should be collected, with whom it should be shared, and how it should be used. Districts
                 can collect data on measures that are predictive of post-secondary success beginning in the middle grades or
                 earlier. Indicators include college and financial aid awareness, student engagement, and course taking. Data
                 on the post-secondary outcomes of graduates is also vital for measuring the overall performance of the
                 system. Data can be shared with stakeholders cross the system including teachers, school and district leaders,
                 and the community.
                 Student Engagement and Support. This domain contains interventions and supports delivered directly to
                 students to help prepare them for college and career. Some supports are general in nature, such as the
                 implementation of a college awareness curriculum and the provision of a high school “advisory” period.
                 Programs designed to engage parents in college and career planning are also part of this domain. Also
                 included are targeted supports for students at critical transition points such as elementary to middle school
                 and middle school to high school.
                 Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. This domain contains the large-scale, system-wide work around
                 curriculum, assessment, and instruction. The national work around common standards and assessments will

© 2012 Hobsons, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

                 eventually impact district policies, districts can and should develop their own curriculum, assessments, and
                 instructional practices designed to prepare students for college and career success. As a part of this work,
                 districts can design guidelines for individual learning plans that are customized, updated, and aligned with
                 college and career readiness.
                 Teacher Knowledge and Professional Development. This domain includes measures related to teacher
                 training, skills, knowledge, and perceptions. Because of the critical role that teachers play in student
                 outcomes, districts must ensure that the faculty is equipped with the tools needed to create a college-going
                 culture, provide instruction that is aligned with a college and career-ready curriculum, and use appropriate,
                 aligned assessments to measure student progress and guide instructional practice.
         As districts move forward with the critical work of preparing students for post-secondary success, the
         Hobsons college and career readiness district assessment can help districts evaluate current practices to
         ensure that they are aligned with research-based best practices.

© 2012 Hobsons, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

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         Destin, M., & Oyserman, D. (2009). From assets to school outcomes: How finances shape children’s perceived
         possibilities and intentions. Psychological Science, 20 (4), 414-418. Retrieved May 16, 2010, from
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         poverty schools. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved May 30, 2010 from
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         Fann, A., Jarsky, K. M., & McDonough, P. M. (2009). Parent involvement in the college planning
         process: A case study of P-20 collaboration. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 8 (4), 374-393.
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