College Readiness: The Keys
In a recent post, we pointed out that our job is to prepare our students to succeed in and graduate from college. Given the fact that only half of all students who enter college graduate in six years, our vision for our students must go beyond admission to graduation.
The Washington Post reports that Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools is “one of the few systems in the country that tracks its students all the way through college graduation.” Tracking graduates is an expensive proposition. So, hats off to Superintendent Jerry Weast and MCPS for making the commitment.
Montgomery County, located outside of Washington, D.C. is a large, diverse, suburban and inner-ring suburban school system. MCPS data offer principals and school leaders valuable insights into what it takes for a student to succeed in college.
MCPS has indentified “7 Keys to College Readiness.” These are milestones that, if met, indicate that students will not only attend college, but that they will graduate.
The 7 Keys to College Readiness are as follows:
- Advanced Reading in Grades K-2
- Advanced Reading on state assessments in Grades 3-8
- Advanced Math in Grade 5
- Algebra I by Grade 8 with “C” or higher
- Algebra II by Grade 11 with a “C” or higher
- Score of 3 on an AP exam, Score of 4 on an IB exam
- SAT score of 1650, ACT score of 24
- College admission does not mean that a student will succeed or graduate.
- Meeting state graduation requirements does not necessarily indicate college readiness.
- Reading is the best indicator of academic success.
- Reading is the best predictor of math success.
- Math success is the best predictor of college success.
- A rigorous course of study counts most to college graduation.
- Taking an AP course or an IB course only helps if the students take the exam and achieves a passing mark.
- Rigorous course work means hard work and deliberate practice. There is no easy way out. There are no quick fixes.
A Case Study
39% of Montgomery County students take Algebra I in the eighth grade, which translates into 37% graduating from college eight years later. I can’t help but be reminded of a school system that systematically excludes large numbers of students from taking Algebra I in the eighth grade. This school system, also located in the Washington, D.C. area, has half the percentage of students taking Algebra I in eighth grade as compared to Montgomery County and other neighboring school systems. When I asked them why, they indicated that they had tested and screened the students and only 20% were ready to take Algebra. In this school system students must prove to officials that they are ready to take Algebra I in the eighth grade. This might be acceptable if the math curriculum was aligned and structured to prepare students for Algebra. However, a closer inspection reveals that only students labeled as “talented and gifted” are exposed to a math sequence that prepares them for Algebra I in the eighth grade. So, unless students are in the 5% identified as gifted they are not being prepared for a more rigorous math curriculum. To me this looks a lot like tracking.
Not only are the students in this school system being victimized by low adult expectations, but they are systematically being prevented from taking a more challenging course of study in high school. Some parents refuse to allow their children to be subjected to low expectations. Those who can afford to do so remove their children from the school system and put them into private schools. The rest have no choice. Ironically, the same adults who were entrusted with their care are those who forced these capable children off-target for college readiness.
Something to think about
Our job is not to screen out students. Anyone can screen people. It takes a true professional to raise up all students. Our job is to align our curriculum so that we prepare students to take and succeed in challenging courses.