Resource Library: College Access & Success

College Access

Presents student data  including ACT scores, career aspirations, access to college prep courses and assessments disaggregated by state, and overall academic performance and provides broad policy suggestions to improve college and career readiness in high schools.

A System in Need of Repair: An Examination of Federal Student Aid for Postsecondary Education: Alliance for Excellent Education,2012

This report outlines serious problems with the current federal student financial aid system and calls on policymakers to simplify both the process and the programs and shift the system’s emphasis from simply access to providing the overall support resulting in postsecondary completion. It provides a brief overview of legislative changes that have altered the structure and focus of the system and turned them into a complicated web of Pell Grants, federal student loans, tuition tax credits, and campus-based aid programs that is unnecessarily convoluted and daunting for parents and students to navigate.



College and Career Readiness


The Condition of College & Career Readiness: ACT, 2014

Presents student data  including ACT scores, career aspirations, access to college prep courses and assessments disaggregated by state, and overall academic performance and provides broad policy suggestions to improve college and career readiness in high schools.




Closing the Expectation Gap: Achieve, 2014

Achieve, Inc. reports on the yearly progress of states on indicators for graduation requirements, assessment and P-20 data systems, and accountability developed at the 2005 National Education Summit. Compared to the previous year, each indicator has seen improvement or stagnation. 




College-Going Diagnostic: The School District of Philadelphia: Strategic Data Project, 2013

The School District of Philadelphia partnered with SDP to produce the SDP College-Going Diagnostic. The diagnostic analyses summarized in this report focus on 1) student performance in the district during high school and into college, 2) critical junctures along the way that affect student success, and 3) student characteristics and other factors that are most strongly related to college enrollment and persistence.



College Readiness Indicator Systems Framework: Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2013

A new framework from the CRIS initiative provides guidance for schools and districts to implement a system of indicators and supports for students who are off track for post-secondary success.





Readiness for College: The Role of Noncognitive Factors and Context: Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2013

Research has shown that in addition to academic knowledge, a variety of noncognitive skills are essential to students' post -secondary success.





Catching up to College and Career Readiness: National Center for Educational Achievement, 2012

The report Catching Up to College and Career Readiness examines how many “far off track” fourth and eighth graders catch up to college and career readiness before they graduate. Using information on the percentage of students reaching college and career readiness targets over a four-year period as an indicator of the difficulty of doing so, the report focused on students who start out far off track—well below the achievement level that those with average growth trajectories need to reach college and career readiness targets in a specified later grade. The findings indicate that it is exceptionally difficult to close academic preparation gaps.


The Role of Language and Literacy in College- and Career-Ready Standards: Rethinking Policy and Practice in Support of English Language Learners: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2012

The Common Core State Standards spell out the sophisticated language competencies that students will need to perform in academic and technical subject areas. English language learners (ELLs) face a double challenge—they must learn grade-level content while simultaneously building their language proficiency. This policy brief discusses these challenges, highlights initiatives and strategies to advance ELLs’ language and content learning, and outlines how policy and practice must change to help ELLs graduate ready for college and a career.


Creating a College-Going Culture Guide: College Board, 2009

Creating a college going culture in high school has been identified as a key component of increasing the graduation and college enrollment rates for schools. In this report, CollegeBoard presents ideas about how to create such a culture including suggestions for outreach activities and parent involvement strategies. They also identify an assessment mechanism that can be used to measure the college going culture of a school once it has been formulated.



Race to the Top: Accelerating College and Career Readiness in States: Standards and Assessments: Achieve, 2009

Provides states and districts with ways in which they can develop college and career readiness curriculums and assessments. One of the most promising ways to make these improvements is through collaboration across states. This type of collaboration would also help the nation move toward consensus about what each course entails and what proficiency in each course would look like. 





College Success

SDP Summer Melt Handbook: A Guide to Investigating and Responding to Summer Melt: Strategic Data Project, 2013

Across the country, 10–40% of seemingly college-intending students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, fail to enroll in college the fall after graduation. This phenomenon is known as summer melt. The SDP Summer Melt Handbook is a resource for education leaders interested in examining whether summer melt is occurring in their agency. The handbook not only serves to diagnose the phenomenon, but also helps leaders understand what they can do to address it.



Advancing By Degrees--A Framework for Increasing College Completion: The Education Trust, 2010

Offenstien,Moore and Shulock examine milestone achievement data, geared towards measuring identified milestones, such as certain course taking behaviors, towards college preparation. In their findings they stress the importance of remediation, gateway courses and course-taking behaviors as predictors to whether or not a student is on track to graduate. Furthermore, measuring these indicators can be used to identify where interventions are needed and how to best develop them. 




Community College

The Completion Arch: College Board, 2012

This report compiles a set of common metrics to assist community colleges and states in evaluating when students make progress, falter, and achieve interim milestones. It also provides in-depth information concerning important parameters of each metric.





The Road Ahead: Mullin, 2011

From 1990 to 2010, those completing either a certificate or degree program at community colleges increased by 127%, with the biggest gains occurring for Black and Hispanic students. Nearly 50% of students enrolled in community college between 2004 and 2009 transferred to a four year school within 6 years. Some ways that community college can continue to improve these numbers is by engaging students, leveraging knowledge through private sector partners and national resources, and emphasizing data informed decision making. 


Unlocking the Gate: Rutschow and Schneider, 2011

This report draws from existing literature to help improve the curriculum, delivery and structure of remedial programs in community colleges. The four strategies considered are 1) shoring up student skills in high school, 2) implementing interventions geared towards shortening students time or content studied in specific courses, 3) programs geared toward developing basic skills alongside occupational or college-prep coursework, and 4) support programs to assist slower learners such as advising and tutoring. 




Lessons from Other Cities

College Prep For All? What We've Learned From Chicago's Efforts: Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2010

As a way of improving college going rates of graduates, the Chicago Public School District initiated major curriculum reform. After the curriculum reforms were introduced, more students enrolled in college-prep classes, but low performing students struggled to succeed in these classroom settings. While curriculum reform was also successful at reducing tracking in school, high school graduation and college attendance rates declined overall. 


Winning by Degrees: the Strategies of Highly Productive IHEs: McKinsey&Company, 2010

Researchers set out to determine how colleges can reduce costs while increasing degree completion rates in order to meet national goals and economic demands. Their findings identify four practices to achieve degree productivity including: 1) increasing degree completion, 2) reducing the number of credits exceeding degree requirements, 3) redesigning delivery of instruction (e.g., reorganizing academic calendars or changing staff composition) and, 4) optimizing core and non-core services.


Graduates of Denver Public Schools: College Access and Success: Denver Public Schools, 2009

Buckley and Maraskin present a case study of the Denver Public Schools that focuses on college going rates of graduates and analyzes the factors that may contribute to college admissions and persistence. Researchers identify both individual and institutional risk factors for college attrition. 





Multiple Pathways

Pathway to Recovery: Jobs for the Future, 2012

High school dropouts can be successful in re-entry and even in completing college coursework, especially when communities, school districts and post-secondary institutions all work together. Provided in this report are examples of such partnerships that have been successful in easing the transition from high school dropout to college graduate. Jobs for the Future also provide the reader with some policy proposals that could help create an environment that would foster such partnerships.



From Remediation to Acceleration: Jobs for the Future, 2011

In this report, Le and Allen track the progress two alternative schools in Philadelphia have made towards improving educational outcomes of disengaged students and their institutional success at implementing the Back on Track model. Within the first year of implementing the back on track model, two thirds of students progressed by two or more grade levels and one fourth to one third of students advanced four grades or more. Through implementing this model, teachers and administrators found that it was well suited for meeting the diverse needs of students and increased student engagement and the focus on teaching.  


Pathways to Prosperity: Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2011

Briefly outlines the causes and effects of the drop-out crisis in America. The authors assert that the United States needs to recommit itself to helping students to stay the track to graduation and enter into pathways towards successful adult lives. To accomplish this, the authors encourage policy makers to develop a multifaceted approach drawing from international models that blend college preparation and vocational education tracks. Also necessary to the success of this new model is the involvement of community colleges and employers.