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OSSE Postsecondary Access and Readiness Series


Across the United States, there is an increasing recognition that earning a high school diploma alone is not enough for a successful future, and that states, cities and school districts must prepare their students for postsecondary education. In DC’s recent job outlook through 2028, only five of the top 50 high-demand, high-wage careers of tomorrow require less than an associate degree level of education or training. This series provides several ways to view citywide college readiness and access outcomes for Washington, DC students in addition to those available on the DC School Report Card under Academic Performance.

District of Columbia students took the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams for the first time in the spring of 2015. These new, more rigorous assessments for grades 3 through 8 and high school provide robust information about student development toward college and career ready academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. For high school subjects, 10 percent of students tested at the college and career ready level on the mathematics exam, and 25 percent of students met this benchmark for the English language arts exam. PARCC results for the 2015-16 school year were released in fall 2016. In addition to the rich information on students’ college and career readiness which can be gleaned from the PARCC assessments, analysis of additional metrics of college and career readiness allows for a better understanding of how to best support the success of DC students and build pathways to the middle class.

Part 1: 2014-15 School Year Point-in-Time Report

The first report includes measures related to both college access and college readiness for students attending District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter high schools in the 2014-15 school year. College access indictors include student participation in the SAT and ACT and Advanced Placement (AP) exams, and completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) application. College readiness measures include student performance on SAT, ACT, and AP exams.

The college readiness and access metrics explored in the first report constitute important milestones for college-bound students. Along with grade point average (GPA), performance on SAT and ACT corresponds to success in first-year college courses. Strong performance in AP and other rigorous courses is a powerful indicator of a student’s ability to successfully demonstrate the complex writing, analysis, and critical thinking skills required to succeed in college as well as many high-growth and high-wage career pathways.

The report aims to answer the question: How were students performing on college readiness and access metrics during a particular point in time, in this case, the 2014-15 school year?

Part 2: Cohort Report

In part two, OSSE examines the same college readiness and access metrics for the cohort of students who were anticipated to graduate in the 2014-15 school year. These students began ninth grade for the first time in the fall of the 2011-12 school year and are assigned cohort membership based on the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate methodology. While the methodological approach in the current report allows for a “point in time” snapshot of college readiness for students in a particular school year, the forthcoming second report provides a slightly different perspective: to what extent did one group of ninth grade students realize college readiness and access as they moved toward high school graduation.