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Educators Join Forces to Double the Numbers for College Success

Thursday, October 19, 2006
New report presents plan of action for improving high schools, college access, and support

(Washington, DC) Working to transform the District of Columbia's high schools and help more students graduate from high school and achieve their dreams of a college education, a new coalition of education and community leaders, including Mayor Anthony Williams and Superintendent Clifford Janey, issued an agenda for action today to double the number of DC public school students who successfully complete college. The coalition began its efforts by releasing a report, Double the Numbers for College Success: A Call to Action for the District of Columbia. The study underscores the urgent problem of low graduation and college success rates for DC public school students, and provides an action plan to increase community support to help keep more students on track for success in and beyond high school. Select the link below to view the report:

The five-month study of the high school and college attainment of DC students was based on research conducted by The Bridgespan Group, a Boston nonprofit organization that provides management consulting and research services to help bring about social change. It was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the Double the Numbers coalition, which includes the DC State Education Office (SEO), the DCPS, the DC Education Compact (DCEC) and the DC College Access Program (DC-CAP).

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said, "DC students have not yet fully realized their education potential. I am encouraged by the fact that the District has assembled school, program, District, business, and community leaders who have begun to address the challenge."

The research revealed some startling findings about DC public and charter school 9th grade students:

  • 29 percent enrolled in college within 18 months of graduation
  • Only nine percent are projected to attain a postsecondary degree within five years of enrollment

Nationally, 23 percent of ninth graders graduate from postsecondary education within five years of their high school graduation, according to research from The Bridgespan Group.

Deborah A. Gist, DC State Education Officer says, "We have all heard the sobering numbers about DC students before. What is different and inspiring about this initiative is that there is a clear goal - double the numbers of high school graduates who are on track to successfully complete college - and, you have the commitment of four of the top education stakeholders to bring this goal to realization through work currently being done and work to come."

The report also provides a set of recommended solutions to help double the number - from nine to 18 percent - of students in the high school class of 2010 who successfully complete college within five years, and to triple that number for those in the class of 2013.

In recent years, initiatives like the DC Tuition Assistance Grant program (DC-TAG) and the DC-CAP, have helped to significantly increase the number of DC high school seniors who go on to enroll in college in the District with the help of counseling and financial assistance. The DCPS Master Education Plan will continue to build on that success with strategies to strengthen the academic programs in DC high schools. Local colleges, including the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and Trinity University, have made a similar commitment to improve the postsecondary experience for DC public school students. The coalition and its partners in the District share the same vision for improving high schools and college success and support for DC students, and are committed to working together to ensure success for all DC high school graduates.

"This joint effort will play an important role in helping us to increase the number of DCPS students going to college. Already we have partnered with the College Board to make sure our students are being offered all the academic experiences and course requirements that will make them eligible for college acceptance and to score competitively on college entrance exams," said Superintendent Clifford B. Janey. "And we are steadily increasing the number of DCPS students taking Advanced Placement courses, and encouraging all students to take the PSAT as early in their high school careers as possible, because we know that students who take the PSAT score higher on the SAT than those who do not. This new partnership fits perfectly with the goals of our Master Education Plan."

With increasing attention on the struggling DC school system and the growing momentum to develop community-based solutions, this new coalition will work to bring city, community, business, and education leaders together to help more DC families see the connection between college and career success.

"Through its shared mission of doubling the number of college-ready and work-ready graduates, this coalition of business and political leaders, educators and residents, is committed to ensuring the academic success of our students in high school and beyond," said Juanita Wade, Executive Director of the DC Education Compact. "Rarely do we see such a cohesive group of stakeholders who truly understand the importance of working together."

But the sobering results in the Double the Numbers report indicate that there is much more work to be done to improve educational opportunities for all DC school students. In DC, high school graduation, college attendance and college success rates fall far below the national average. These stark figures have severe economic consequences in the District, where more than two-thirds of new jobs require some kind of postsecondary education and the average college graduate earns about 75 percent more than a high school graduate.

"This concerted effort to help our students is being made on a level that has never been seen before in this city," said Argelia Rodriguez, President and CEO, DC-CAP." We aren't starting from scratch; in fact, we have already made great strides toward doubling the numbers, and the difference now, is that all these groups are focusing on one problem, together."

The Double the Numbers effort will help put more DC high school students on a path for college success. The action plan includes:

  • Putting resources and systems in place to measure student progress and ensure accountability, engage the community, ensure the alignment of school-based and citywide efforts, and establish a culture of success for all students
  • Increasing the number of graduates ready for college and postsecondary success by supporting the implementation of the DCPS Master Education Plan, including a college-ready curriculum, improved college access efforts, stronger career and technical offerings, alternative education and dropout prevention programs, and ninth-grade academies
  • Helping students transition to postsecondary education by teaching parents and students about the valuable link between high school and college success, providing better information on college requirements and the preparation process, and walking through financial aid options that can make college more affordable
  • Helping college students succeed in post secondary education by ensuring that the colleges with the highest DC enrollment are providing students with the academic assistance and other supports they need to succeed, and strengthening the pathways from two-year community colleges to four-year degrees

The report and recommended action steps were presented at a policy forum hosted by the SEO and attended by nearly 200 education and community leaders including the mayor and superintendent, DCEC executive director Juanita Wade, and DC-CAP president and CEO Argelia Rodriguez. Other key panelists included Kathy Patterson, DC Councilmember and chair of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation; Stacey Stewart, president and CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation and chair of the DCEC; Dr. Ramona Edelin, executive director of the Public Charter School Association; and John Childers, president and CEO of the DC Consortium of Universities.

DC State Education Office (SEO)
The mission of the DC State Education Office (SEO) is to promote learning for District residents of all ages by providing access to educational information, resources and services for a higher quality of life. The SEO provides access to information through policy analysis, research, and community outreach, as well as resources, such as postsecondary grants and other educational support services that help residents make informed decisions about learning opportunities. The SEO's work is organized into four major functions: services, resources, policy and oversight. These functions span a P - 16 continuum (pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education). The SEO addresses learning at every life phase for District residents.
Contact: John Stokes, phone: (202) 724-2010, email: [email protected].

DC Public Schools
DC Public Schools (DCPS) enrolls approximately 58,000 students (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) in more than 160 schools. DCPS provides high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom and every school, ensures management and operations support high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom and every school, and creates a culture of transparency, open communication and collaboration to support high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom and every school.
Contact: Patricia Alford Williams, phone: (202) 442-7699, email: patric[email protected].

DC Education Compact
DC Education Compact (DCEC) is a broad-based coalition whose mission is to institutionalize the civic engagement needed to ensure that every public school student in the District of Columbia obtains the education needed to succeed in college, the workplace and the community. Its strategic goal for FY2007 through FY 2010 is to dramatically increase the number of graduates from DC Public Schools with academic, social, and civic proficiency.
Contact: Lydia Pelliccia, phone: (202) 667-0901, email: [email protected].

DC-College Access Program
DC College Access Program (DC-CAP) is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and enabling DC public high school students to enroll and graduate from college. In partnership with the DC Public High School System, DC-CAP provides direct counseling and financial assistance to more than 12,000 high school students. The overwhelming majority of students served by DC-CAP in its 17 College Information Resource Centers (CIRCs) are from low-income; minority, single-parent households and many are the first in their families to attend college. DC-CAP has awarded approximately $10,000,000 in Last Dollar Award scholarships since its inception, and in fall of 2006, will be tracking and counseling nearly 5,300 college students.
Contact: Julie Rosenthal, phone: (202) 248-8449, email: [email protected].