Ready or not: Tracking grads’ outcomes

College and career readiness is all the rage, but only 13 percent of high school educators track their graduates’ academic performance in college, notes Education Sector in announcing Data That Matters: Giving High Schools Useful Feedback on Grads’ Outcomes by Anne Hyslop.

Now over 40 states can collect information about college readiness. Yet fewer—only eight—are using that information in ways that can materially improve college preparation.

High schools brag about how many students go on to college. But how many have to take remedial classes? How many give up in the first year?

Kentucky high schools made changes after discovering how many graduates were struggling in college, reports Education Week.

Kyle Fannin thought he was doing a good job as a teacher of U.S. history and AP American government at Woodford County High School in Versailles, Ky. “By all outward appearances, we were a great school,” said Mr. Fannin, as students scored well on tests and AP exams. But the data told a different story.

Some Woodford students who had received state scholarships based on merit had lost their funding because they weren’t maintaining a 3.0 GPA in college. Other data showed more of the students taking remedial math and English in college than the school had expected. When Mr. Fannin would talk to returning students, they would tell him that finals “killed” them. In high school, final exams counted for only 10 percent of their grades.

Armed with that information, the school made changes. More reading was assigned, including primary sources, and longer periods of sustained reading were included in classes. Finals counted for a bigger part of their grades.

Eastern Kentucky University is working with high school teachers to reduce the number of students needing remedial classes.


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  1. MagisterGreen says:

    I myself would kill for information like this, but our school (private) seems oddly unconcerned with trying to gather anything like this. It would be fascinating to know.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    There’d never be any point in doing this other than personal curiousity.

    You can’t demand that everyone respond, and the response biases would be HEAVILY in favor of the people who are doing well.

    This is a non-starter unless you start gathering the information without the students’ permission, which also seems like a non-starter.

  3. Some schools, like Yale, don’t use GPA. What’s more, grades in college can be deceptive, as those who take the most challenging courses they can handle may receive lower grades than those who take easier courses. And there are many highly capable and well-prepared students who struggle financially or emotionally in college, and their grades may suffer temporarily as a result. And then there are students who fall in love with a subject and don’t mind letting their other grades suffer a little. That’s a choice that college students are allowed to make.

    I can see the usefulness of remediation rates. If students are entering college unprepared, schools should know this. Beyond that, the measuring of outcomes in college is imprecise and tricky. The data would favor those who pursue a straight course, take classes that aren’t too difficult, and focus on getting good grades across the board.

  4. There are studies I have read where states have been able to tie public graduation records to earnings outcomes- there was one about kindergarten teachers and lifetime earnings in Tennessee, I believe. I think that earnings is a measure that educators sometimes forget as a very important indicator that one had a good education.