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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 the District of Columbia, 76 percent of jobs will require some postsecondary education by 2020. This report is the first in a planned series and provides a first look at citywide college readiness and access outcomes for Washington, DC students.

For the first time in spring of 2015, District of Columbia students took the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. 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 will be released in August of 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.

This 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 this 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? This report is the first in a series on postsecondary readiness, access, and completion data to be released over the next several months of 2016. In part two, OSSE will examine 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 will provide 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.

In the third installment of the series, OSSE will examine college enrollment, persistence, and graduation trends for students enrolled in postsecondary institutions employing both the point in time and adjusted cohort methodologies. OSSE will also release information about programmatic efforts in the District of Columbia to support college readiness for students from middle school through postsecondary completion. The final report will examine outcomes for District of Columbia students at select postsecondary institutions.