Center for American Progress

Create Data Systems that Track College Readiness and Attainment and Build Accountability
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Create Data Systems that Track College Readiness and Attainment and Build Accountability

A first key step in increasing college readiness and attainment is for the federal government, states, and districts to work together to build data reporting and accountability systems that link school and college outcomes and can track these outcomes over time and across schools and institutions.

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For high schools to become more accountable for their graduates’ college outcomes, those schools must first know where they currently stand. Therefore, a first key step in increasing college readiness and attainment is for the federal government, states, and districts to work together to build data reporting and accountability systems that link school and college outcomes and can track these outcomes over time and across schools and institutions. While several states have begun to link high school and college data sets together for tracking purposes, few states and localities have made postsecondary outcomes a core component of their accountability systems. Chicago Public Schools has taken the lead in these efforts. It has built a tracking system and developed reports that provide high schools with detailed information about their students’ participation in the college application process and their college enrollment patterns. These public reports give guidance to schools about how to target their efforts. CPS has also made college readiness indicators and college enrollment a central part of their high school accountability scorecard.

But  few districts and states currently have the capacity to track college outcomes as Chicago does. For example, no state uses existing measures to benchmark college readiness and attainment, and only a few have linked these indicators to actual college performance. One potential role for federal policy is to help states and districts develop a set of college readiness and attainment indicators based on readily available data such as student coursework, grades, and test scores. To do so, states and districts will also require data feedback systems like that of Chicago—systems that provide schools fine-grained information on the college outcomes of their graduates and the levels of performance that shape those outcomes. We simply cannot ask high schools to focus on the college readiness and postsecondary outcomes of their graduates if they do not know what happens to their students after they graduate and do not have measurable indicators of what determines college access and performance.

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