Working together, high school and college instructors can improve student success rates, writes Jordan E. Horowitz of the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success, or Cal-PASS, in Education Week.
First, postsecondary institutions must be able to clearly state and explain what is expected of entering students. It is not enough, for example, to require a certain number of years of math, English, and other subjects; nor is it enough to require a passing grade in Algebra II. We must identify the specific knowledge students need to succeed in college-level math.
Second, we must develop longitudinal student-data systems that allow us to track students from year to year, school to school, and educational segment to segment.
Community college instructors should work with teachers from feeder high schools to analyze remediation and course failure rates, align curricula and tests and develop solutions, Horowitz writes.
In California, Cal-PASS lets all 112 community colleges and nearly all public universities share transcript and test data with more than two-thirds of K–12 districts.
The database currently holds more than 415 million records representing approximately 25 million students, with the ability to track back as far as 15 years. Without divulging student identities, Cal-PASS enables practitioners to track cohorts’ progress from kindergarten through middle school and on to college.
Teachers and college faculty from the same disciplines meet monthly in professional learning councils to diagnose strengths and weaknesses and align school and college curricula.
For example, one English council was disturbed by transition data indicating extremely high rates of their high school students were being placed into remedial postsecondary English courses that were below college level. Upon comparing curricula, faculty across the different levels of education noted that high school English is literature-based, while postsecondary English focuses on rhetoric and demands greater expository reading and writing skills. Faculty members worked across the secondary and postsecondary segments of education to infuse more nonfiction reading and writing into the high school curriculum. Standardized-test scores improved, school adequate yearly progress improved, and upon placement in college-level English when they matriculated to the local postsecondary institutions, these students passed with a C or better at a higher rate than their non-program peers.
Postsecondary institutions must “define what it means to be college-ready in a way that is actionable,” Horowitz writes.