After high school, what happens?

High schools can’t improve unless they track what happens to their graduates, concludes The Promise of Proficiency by College Summit and the Center for American Progress.

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. 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.

The report urges the federal government to support the gathering of data on how recent graduates are faring in four-year colleges, two-year colleges, vocational programs or apprenticeships.

Via Ed Week, which recommends a panel discussion on the report.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Until colleges start charging the cost of remedial education to the high school from which the graduate came we will not see a true improvement in the quality of the high school graduate. Gathering data is great but without a financial penalty attached to the results there is nothing to get government schools moving and make real change.

  2. Looks like someone else has come to the conclusion, albeit somewhat unwillingly, that education isn’t an important consideration institutionally in the K-12 system.

  3. We gather tons of data on this as a building. We send out surveys, etc. to alumn a year out, four years out, and ten years out. We also have an alumni relations person who is very active in keeping in touch with our graduates and organizing lunches, etc. (he also uses this position to do quite a bit of fundraising).

    I do informal data gathering. When I see alumn or their parents (I get lots of siblings and cousins, etc.) how English went, was there anything they struggled with. I skip doing a research paper with my AP seniors since they do two junior year and have been doing them every year since 7th grade, so I ask them specifically to tell me if that was a problem when they got to freshman comp (if they didn’t test out of it — most of them do) or their first year courses — were they as solid as I thought they were.

    tim: personally, I’m pretty OK with the kids paying for their own remedial classes. They’ve spent 12 solid years sucking up public resources and screwing around not doing their homework, disrupting class, and generally making everyone around them miserable. They cost MORE than their peers who put in some sort of effort. Time to pony up if they really want to learn something. I’m looking at the D’s and F’s on my roster right now and you know what? They just didn’t care.

  4. tim: Quite the opposite – universities should offer those courses gratis (or at least at reduced cost) to students that THEY CHOSE TO ADMIT. If they don’t want to offer as many remedial courses, they need to stop enrolling those students.

  5. Don Bemont says:

    Seems like a move in the right direction. Measuring how students do with the education received is a significant step up from the data being collected now.

    Current accountability schemes push schools towards make believe diplomas, teaching to the standardized tests, and grade inflation. Very rarely are these practices motivated by a concern over the students’ futures.

    Of course, measurement remains devilishly tricky, especially when people are actually looking for a very small set of numbers (preferably one) that serves as a score for a school district. How do you score one student earning Cs at a prestigious college versus one student earning As at a community college? How do you score military service or starting a business or flipping burgers? Even if not done in an official manner, someone (like Newsweek rating colleges) will come up with a ridiculous formula, and pretty soon that formula will take on a life of its own… such that high schools are directing students to “try a year of” whatever activity most benefits the high school score — and pretty soon we are back where we started, worrying more about the PR of the high school than the good of the student (or the nation which needs well educated students).

    Further, many of our most problematic students bounce around from school to school before either quitting or finishing. Either the evaluation ties the student to a particular high school — in which case schools will work hard to game their way out of being connected to such students… Or such students will not be connected to a particular school — in which case many of our most troubled students will remain the responsibility of no one.

    My most serious objection, however, is that the 13th year is far too soon to evaluate, for the simple reason that it is not the actual goal. Although we should be interested in the success rate of college freshmen, we should be a lot more interested in their success rates many years down the road. That is, after all, the true objective.

  6. Margo/Mom says:

    LS–I have to respond again out of my sense that your experience does not generalize well to mine in an urban district. Not only is there a pretty profound tendency to lose touch once kids have graduated, but many get lost even before. Each high school in our district has a far smaller senior than freshman class–even to the extent of one-fourth the size. Many of these disappearing students are accounted for as continuing their education somewhere else, in some way (moved out of district, dropped out to seek a GED, went to a charter, attending school in prison) that doesn’t amount to having officially dropped out–thus the reported graduation rate is something above 70%–not stellar by any means, but also not the 40-50% that other counting methodologies come up with.

    Even without these strong motivations to lose touch (oops–well they said they were going to get a GED), the logistics of keeping touch as a district with over a dozen high schools, require a more formal effort. The state has developed a universal student identifier system–and I believe that ultimately this will link to colleges in the state–providing far more information, but surely not comprehensive. But, I understand that even this has some problems–when school systems register new students, they are not always diligent in finding out their already assigned number and may assign a new one–thus defeating the purpose of the system.

    I would also suggest that your allegation that students who need remedial college work do so because they have been slacking might be refuted it it were to be found that there are pockets of such slackers in particular schools or districts–another benefit of doing such tracking at a high enough level to be able to foster some across the board looks at the data.


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