News: Data, Research & Evaluation

GreatSchools Expands College Success Awards to 25 States; Recognizes 1,722 High Schools

Tuesday, June 18, 2019  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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GreatSchools is a national nonprofit perhaps best known for school ratings and summaries but which also engages in education research and parenting advice. Last year, the organization launched the College Success Awards, which looked at nine states’ high school-level data on college preparation, enrollment, course remediation, and/or persistence. Based on that data, GreatSchools recognized 814 schools that “excel in ensuring students are prepared for college.”

The Awards are back and bigger in 2019, covering 25 states while recognizing 1,722 high schools.

State-level reporting on postsecondary readiness metrics is becoming more commonplace thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. GreatSchools seeks out this newly available data and compiles it to examine high schools within states according to three components: college preparation, college enrollment, and college performance. The indicators within these groupings vary by state. After meticulously scouring the data, GreatSchools makes its awards.

New to the methodology in 2019 is an adjustment based on equity for schools that are “’beating the odds’ by better serving low-income students who might otherwise not be prepared for or attending college.” This methodology takes into account either low-income student enrollment or (where available) low-income student subgroup data or both.

The states for which 2019 data are available include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Through its research, GreatSchools has identified six educational strategies common across College Success Award winners. These will hardly be new for NCAN members, but they are valuable for school districts aiming to improve:

The value of the College Success Awards is multifold:

  1. Identifying the best-performing schools, and especially identifying those best-performing schools serving low-income students, offers a significant opportunity to continue to learn what works and to teach these strategies to other high schools.

  2. Recognizing high school communities and the stakeholders within them surely is a confidence boost and, hopefully, impetus to continue with the practices making the high school successful.

  3. For the 25 states and the District of Columbia whose data are not currently included in the College Success Awards, hopefully this increases pressure to either release their college readiness data or to put it into a more accessible format.

  4. Collecting these data from 25 separate state education agencies and putting it into one dataset is a quasi-Herculean task that will allow for even richer research insights downstream.

NCAN looks forward to exploring GreatSchools’ College Success Awards data, identifying exemplars for college access for underrepresented populations, and sharing what we learn with members and the field.

(Image by AxxLC from Pixabay)