College and Career Readiness: Secondary and Postsecondary Research Perspectives
|August 30, 2012|
REL Northeast and Islands’ Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance hosted this Bridge Event with experts on secondary and postsecondary research. More than 130 educators, policymakers, and researchers across the Northeast and Islands Region and the country participated in the two-hour presentation and discussion, which included a response from REL-NEI Governing Board member and Malden, Mass., High School Principal Dana Brown. “The webinar will inform the NCCRA’s developing research agenda to support several Northeast states in their efforts to increase graduation rates and ensure students’ readiness for college-level work and the work force,” said NCCRA Facilitator Leslie Hergert.
Dr. Joseph Harris, director of the National High School Center, said that in the United States a quarter of all students do not graduate high school in four years, only one-third of high school seniors are proficient in reading, and employers find that many job candidates lack basic skills for entering the work force. This poor preparation for college or careers comes at a time when the changing economy demands higher skills of its workers. “Within the next decade, 90 percent of high-wage jobs will require some postsecondary training,” Harris said.
Researchers are working to define “college and career readiness” and what is working in schools to achieve it. Studies show that students who set goals for attending college are more likely to apply to college, students with higher self-determination skills have more positive adult outcomes such as holding a job, and students exposed to a challenging high school curriculum have a greater chance of succeeding in college or the work place.
“Growing expert opinion and consensus is that all students need access to rigorous instruction and core content regardless of postsecondary goals,” Harris said.
Dr. Elisabeth Barnett, Senior Research Associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, brought a postsecondary perspective to the discussion. Colleges are concerned about incoming students’ “readiness,” she said, because new students placed into remediation classes are considerably less likely to graduate, which lowers the colleges’ student completion rates.
High School, Postsecondary Collaboration Required
The challenge for postsecondary institutions is to work collaboratively with high schools to raise students’ classroom skills and college or career ambitions. Among the types of programs that have shown evidence of effectiveness in improving students’ college achievement are dual enrollment, early college high schools, summer bridge programs, CTE (career and technical education) pathways, and early assessment programs, Barnett said.
Barnett said the research also shows that students who quickly select a major or program of study upon entering community college are more likely to graduate, and that student performance on college placement exams is only weakly correlated with course success.
“High school GPA is a better placement device than standardized placement exams,” she said. “What’s even better, though, is the use of multiple measures.”
Malden High School Principal Dana Brown reviewed several programs offered at his diverse urban high school to develop students’ college and career readiness, including senior internships, transition programs for eighth- and ninth-grade students, a dual enrollment program with a local community college, and a “National Get Ahead Day” in early October, where every freshman visits a college, every sophomore and junior takes the PSAT (paid for by the school), and every senior participates in a college and career fair.
“We try to make the foundation here at Malden High School for all our students a solid academic one,” Brown said. “We’re increasing the number of students reading and writing at grade level, increasing our graduation rate, offering Advanced Placement courses and increasing the number of students taking AP courses, and really addressing underserved students.”
Participants asked many questions on the webinar. Here is a sample:
- Should college readiness be measured by the ability to take college-credit course or something broader?
- If we value more project-based learning, is there research showing the ability of students to do well on standardized testing?
- Because colleges have a wide range of standards, expectations, and levels of rigor, what level do we use—the minimum, the median, the maximum? Community college courses are often seen as less rigorous than high school courses.
- If you could totally redesign formal schooling, how would you do that? What exactly should formal schooling offer people? In what ways can “lifelong learning” be fully supported and reinforced?