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College- and Career-Ready: Using Outcomes Data to Hold High Schools Accountable for Student Success


"The goal of helping all students become college- and career-ready has become a focal point of American education. ... But most high school accountability systems are lagging behind, failing to recognize college- and career-ready goals. Most high schools are rated on only two measures: graduation rates and student scores on basic skills tests given in a single year (usually ninth or 10th grade). While some states have added end-of-course or graduation exams as accountability measures, those exams have been plagued by lawsuits in some states and devalued by near-universal pass rates, after counting re-takes and alternate routes, in others."

Fortunately, a growing number of states have the tools to do better. Florida, Oregon, and Ohio are among states that have built powerful new data systems that track student progress after high school into the work force and college, allowing vital information to flow between K-12, higher education, and work-force information systems.

States can use these new data systems to create richer, more accurate, more multi-dimensional measures of high school success. Congress has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in state data systems in recent years--$245 million in federal 2009 stimulus funds were set aside for this purpose alone. Now, as federal lawmakers consider reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, they have the opportunity to use the dividends of that investment to solve one of the most vexing problems in K-12 policy: how to hold high schools accountable for preparing students to succeed in college and careers."

Watch accompanying video:

In this video presentation, Policy Analyst Chad Aldeman explains the limitations of current accountability measures and discusses specific examples of schools whose NCLB performance does not reflect their students' post-high-school performance.