Education Week released it’s annual Diploma’s Count report this week, which contains tons of data, including national, state, and district-level data on high school graduation rates and trends over time. For those of you following this sort of thing – the national high school graduation rate for the class of 2006 is 69.2%, which is an increase since 1996, but is lower than the 2005 graduation rate (these graduation rates are calculated using the Cumulative Promotion Index).
The report also focuses on the challenges states and districts face in gettting their students college-ready. There is a growing policy push towards college readiness, as well as a growing recognition that high school completion does not guarantee college readiness (as evidenced by the fact that, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 42% of students entering two year colleges enroll in remedial courses.) One of the major challenges in ensuring students are prepared for college (aside from the belief that college isn’t necessary for some students) is that there is not yet a consensus on how to define or assess ”college readiness.”
All agree that rigorous academic preparation in high school is key, but is that determined through course requirements? academic content standards? scores on tests like the ACT or SAT? How do skills unrelated to content, skills like problem-solving or time management, fit in?
An increasing number of states are grappling with these questions as they develop their own college readiness standards. Some states, such as Texas, Washington and California, have brought together educators and policymakers from the K-12 sector and the higher education sector to collaborate in developing college readiness standards. This kind of K-16 alignment will become increasingly more important if high schools are to become more accountable for student outcomes beyond high school graduation. Some advocates are already looking to strengthen high school accountability measures in the reauthorized No Child Left Behind legislation so that high school success is determined, in part at least, by how many students enroll in, stay enrolled and graduate from college.
And speaking of success rate in college, another interesting report, Diplomas & Dropouts: Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t), was released last week that shows that the graduation rates of colleges vary widely, even when comparing colleges with similar students and similar admissions criteria. The report’s authors found that these disparities in graduation rates decrease for more selective colleges and that the average graduation rate is significantly higher for more selective colleges (the average graduation rate at the ”less selective” colleges is 39.6%, while the average graduation rate at the “most selective” colleges is 87.8%.) These data highlight how far we still have to go to adequately prepare all students for college and ensure they graduate once they get there.