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Parents and Teachers Need to Know Whether Students are Ready for College

August 24, 2017 4 minute Read by Anne Wicks
Understanding college and career readiness has been a recurring theme in interviews the Bush Institute has conducted this year with education leaders on the subject of school accountability. It's one thing to tout improved high school graduation rates, but are those students equipped to engage in post-secondary content and higher-order thinking?

A new survey reports that only half of American high school students believe they are ready for college. As The 74 highlighted last week, the nonprofit YouthTruth found that just half of high school students feel they have the skills and knowledge for a university education. That may be one reason 84 percent of respondents said they want to attend college but only 68 percent said that they expect to attend. 

Understanding college and career readiness has been a recurring theme in interviews the Bush Institute has conducted this year with education leaders on the subject of school accountability. It's one thing to tout improved high school graduation rates, but are those students equipped to engage in post-secondary content and higher order thinking? 

The answer is an important one. Strong accountability in education is defined as setting high standards for what students should learn at each level, measuring student progress to those standards, and using that information to intervene quickly with appropriate supports and consequences to ensure that all students are given the chance to learn and succeed. Strong accountability policy also helps us identify and learn from the schools with high student outcomes, particularly those schools largely serving students living in poverty and students of color.  

Students who fall behind are unprepared for their next step in life even if they graduate from high school: remediation is often need to be successful in college, technical training, work, or the military. This leaves an ever-growing number of students across the country in rural, suburban, and urban settings with fewer and fewer options for economic independence and full participation in America’s democratic society.   

Several participants in the Bush Institute interviews emphasized that school accountability must focus even more in the future on whether students are prepared for college. One Texas superintendent said he wants to next track how many of his high school students complete some form of college – accountability in his district means more fully understanding if the district’s graduates are prepared to both access and complete college. 

A state education chief had a similar point of view, arguing that high school accountability systems should start including remediation rates. Parents, educators, and administrators need to know how many of their students are required to enroll in classes designed to catch them up for college-level learning once they enter a university, community college, or technical school. 

As educators and state leaders consider how to strengthen school accountability, it would make sense to have a more detailed understanding of whether students are ready to continue their education beyond high school. Indicators like Advanced Placement Course access and pass rates, ACT and SAT performance, and FAFSA completion rates should be considered along with high school graduation rates. That way we can better understand how well students have been prepared for their next step (something we have done with our State of Our Cities tool).  Tracking remediation data could be another meaningful measure of how a district’s graduates fare in their next step. 

Once we get better at measuring student success in college, high schools can get better at helping more students take that next step. Most important, students will start progressing into economic independence.


Author

Anne Wicks
Anne Wicks

Anne Wicks serves as the Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute.  In this role, she develops and oversees the policy, research, and engagement work of the Education Reform team.  She also serves the Director of Leadership Programs, which includes coordinating strategy and support for the Bush Institute’s four cohort-based leadership programs.

Before joining the Bush Institute, Wicks served for five years as Associate Dean for External Relations at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education.  In addition to leading a team with revenue, communications, and engagement goals, she supported Dean Karen Symms Gallagher on a variety of special projects including the launch and early growth of Ednovate Charter Schools.  She currently serves as the chair of PMC Support, a supporting organization for Ednovate Schools.  Over her career, she has held management and resource development roles at organizations including Teach for America, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, and Stanford University. Anne holds a B.A in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University (during which she taught 8th grade social studies), as well as a M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. A former captain of Stanford's women's volleyball team, Anne was part of three national championship teams, two as a player and one as an assistant coach. 

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