Blog: Collaboration & Partnerships

Nashville and Cleveland Demonstrate Reporting District Outcomes at Scale

Thursday, June 20, 2019  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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That NCAN members across the country are making a difference in students’ lives every day as these students work to access and complete a postsecondary education is clear. What’s also clear is that NCAN members alone can’t change the trajectory of all of the students whose lives could improve with a postsecondary education. That scale is difficult to achieve, and increasingly, NCAN members of all shapes and sizes are partnering with other entities like school districts, charter networks, colleges and universities, businesses, state-level CANs, and others in order to amplify their work.

Beyond these stakeholders, cities themselves can be another partner for this work, as illustrated by two recent city- and district-level reports.

Last month, the Nashville Public Education Foundation and NCAN member the Tennessee College Access & Success Network (TCASN) released “Bridge to Completion: The First Year of Nashville’s Campaign for College Success.” The report focuses on Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and builds from a similar report last year that established baseline college access and success rates for MNPS high school graduates (both districtwide and by high school) for the first time. This year’s report goes further and reports outcomes by race/ethnicity and examines Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSOs), a state priority that includes strategies like dual enrollment, Advanced Placement coursework, and industry certifications (see the report’s Figure 19 for the full slate).

The report is dense but undeniably valuable for stakeholders in and around Nashville. NCAN has a deep belief that examining postsecondary outcomes is a significant step forward for most school districts, who may overestimate their students’ postsecondary outcomes because of an all-too-frequent reliance on senior exit surveys as an indicator of postsecondary intentions.

Recommendations abound in the report, whose focuses include:

  1. Focusing on equitable college outcomes and in particular understanding the unique needs of Black and Latino students.

  2. Developing a more comprehensive strategic plan for EPSOs that will:
    1. “Focus on maximizing early college credit to reduce college affordability barriers” and develop connections between K-12 and higher ed to “ensure articulation is seamless at the institutions MNPS graduates most commonly attend."
    2. Ensure equitable opportunities for low-income and Black students to participate in EPSOs (this is an inequity the report identifies).
    3. Better educate families as advocates for their students’ postsecondary pathways (incidentally, student- and family-focused graduation, college, and career guides like the one launched by DC Public Schools can be helpful here).

The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland releases a similar, “Report to the Community” that coincides with implementation of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools. The Compact’s report details longitudinal progress on key performance indicators like four-year high school graduation rate and other leading indicators (many of which appear in NCAN’s Common Measures) like GPA 3.0 or higher, ACT scores, participating in dual enrollment opportunities, and many more.

The "Report to the Community" also examines districtwide postsecondary outcomes like first-year college enrollment and six-year completion, credit accumulation, and remedial course passage rate.

The Cleveland report does not break outcomes out by high school or student characteristics like the Nashville report does, but much of this school-level information is available through the Ohio School Report Card.

Ultimately, these two reports demonstrate what it looks like when cities and large districts are serious about bending the curve of their students’ postsecondary trajectories. These efforts are illustrative because they acknowledge the following things:

  1. It does take a village to prepare students for success in college and career. In both cases, we see philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector working together to use evidence to understand where student performance has been, where it is, and where it needs to go.

  2. The K-12 sector’s accountability for and ability to influence students’ postsecondary pathways does not stop when those students cross the stage at high school graduation. Although there are always new classes of students coming up behind those graduates, cities and districts can learn from the postsecondary outcomes of past classes to influence practice and programming for future ones.

  3. It doesn’t take all of the data in the world to generate a report that is meaningful for stakeholders, policymakers, and the public. In both cases the authors have homed in on a selection of indicators that they are collecting with fidelity and using to illustrate broader points about postsecondary readiness and outcomes. A thoughtful collection of a smaller number of points will outweigh a broader, but more scattershot, jumble of data nearly every time.

NCAN looks forward to identifying more reports that coordinate districts and cities for the potential benefit of large numbers of students. Congratulations to Nashville and Cleveland for the commitment demonstrated here.

(Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash)