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ON COURSE FOR SUCCESS: Report Examines Successful High Schools, Reports on Necessary Components That Help Prepare Students for College and the Workplace

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"Our previous research has shown how important it is for students to take not only the right number but also the right kind of courses in high school," said Cynthia B. Schmeiser

High schools that provide all students with high-level college-oriented content, well-qualified teachers, flexible teaching styles, and extra tutorial support are more successful in preparing their students for college and the workplace, according to a new study by ACT, an independent, not-for-profit organization, and the Education Trust. The report, On Course for Success, also defines the “specific rigorous academic skills,” as well as complete, detailed descriptions of courses in English, math, and science, that students need to be ready for college and work.

“Our previous research has shown how important it is for students to take not only the right number but also the right kind of courses in high school,” said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, ACT’s senior vice president for research and development. “With this study, we take the next step forward by specifying what these courses need to look like to successfully prepare students for college-level work.”

In completing the report, researchers and content experts from ACT and the Education Trust examined nine high schools with significant minority (40 percent or more) and low-income student (50 percent or more) populations from across the country. The schools they studied have been successful in producing a higher than average proportion of graduates who are college ready according to ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks.1 They observed classes, met with and surveyed teachers, reviewed instructional materials and course syllabi, and studied course procedures to determine the major characteristics shared by these high-performing high schools:

  • High-level, college-oriented content in core courses. Researchers found that each school offered “coherent sequences of courses focused on college-readiness content at a level beyond most state and district standards.”
  • Qualified and experienced teachers. All teachers were certified in their subject area and nearly all had a master’s degree or higher. The report also noted that three-quarters of teachers had been teaching for ten or more years, with an overall average of nineteen years.
  • Teaching that is flexible and responsive to students. Teachers frequently asked and answered questions and used real-world examples to help students make connections to the content.
  • Out-of-classroom support for students. Students received extra, non-classroom-based support from tutors, teachers, and others, including peers and adults from the community.

“The national conversation about high school reform has come not a moment too soon,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust. “In this economy, the skills and knowledge needed for college are the very same as those that young people need to find and hold a decent job. Yet, too many high school courses leave seniors unprepared for the world they will face after graduation.”

The complete report is available at http://www.act.org/path/policy/reports/success.html.

 

Education Still High on the Public’s Mind

According to a Harvard University/Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post survey on Social Security, education remains very high on the public’s mind. The poll was conducted February 4-6, 2005, and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

The question read: “For each issue I name, please tell me what kind of priority you think President Bush and the Congress should give it-the highest priority, a high priority but not the highest, or a lower priority than that?” Percentages listed below represent a combination of the responses indicating that issue should either be the highest priority or a high priority.

The Economy 93%
Health Care 91%
Education 91%
Social Security 87%
The Situation in Iraq 85%
The War on Terror 85%
The Environment 81%
The Federal Budget Deficit 80%
Taxes 77%

 

Complete polling results are available at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/sspoll020905.pdf. The question listed above is available under part II of the poll.

 

1) In a spring 2003 study, ACT was able to identify assessment scores on the ACT test that were associated with successful performance in first-year college courses in English composition, college algebra, and college biology. The results showed that students with an ACT Assessment English score of 18 typically have a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher grade, or an 80 percent chance of a C or higher grade, in standard English composition. In math, an ACT Assessment Mathematics score of 22 typically predicted college success, while an ACT Assessment Science score of 24 served as the benchmark for success in college-level science classes. Thus, students who meet or exceed these college-readiness ACT Assessment benchmarks are likely to be successful in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses, and could be considered to have graduated “college ready.” (Back)

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.