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Setting Students up for Success by Aligning K-12 and Postsecondary Advising Data and Supports

By Jacqueline Raphael | April 10, 2017


Jacqueline Raphael
Jacqueline Raphael is a practice expert in system improvement at Education Northwest. She has extensive experience in facilitating constructive dialogue and professional development among stakeholders to improve alignment between secondary and postsecondary education systems.

The journey from high school to college or a career is an exciting but daunting one for most students.

High school counselors and college advisors can play a big role in helping this transition go smoothly. To best serve students, it is critical that both groups are on the same page in terms of the data they use and the supports they provide.

Adjusting to a Changing Postsecondary Landscape

In Oregon, community colleges are moving away from standardized test scores as the primary means of determining course placement. Instead, they are beginning to look at multiple measures of student performance, including high school GPA and grades in specific courses; state assessment scores; and nonacademic measures, such as motivation, self-confidence, and grit.

Although it's promising, this approach requires increased collaboration and alignment—high school counselors need to gather and provide the necessary information and postsecondary advisors need to use it to effectively support students and set them up for success.

Community colleges in Oregon have also begun to implement reforms based on the concept of guided pathways, a framework in which students' career interests are incorporated into the advising process.

Many of these efforts can begin in high school. For example, if a sophomore wants to be an engineer, their counselor might recommend that they take a dual-credit or Advanced Placement math class to get a head start on earning college math credit.

Collaborating Through Cross-sector Professional Learning Communities

To facilitate increased collaboration between high school counselors and academic advisors at two-year colleges, REL Northwest will partner with the Oregon Department of Education, the Career College Collaborative, the Oregon Student Success Center, and the Oregon Academic Advising Association to convene three to five cross-sector professional learning communities (PLCs) across the state.

Some topics the PLC members might discuss include:

  • Incorporating more in-depth information on students—such as high school course-taking patterns, career interests, and other information from the Oregon Education Plan and Profile—that college advisors can use for course-placement purposes
  • Expanding access for all students to advanced coursework, such as dual-credit, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate classes
  • Encouraging more students to participate in career and technical education, particularly in courses that offer college-level credit

Throughout the project, REL Northwest will provide support related to research, data use, and capacity building.

In addition, we will work with researchers at community colleges across Oregon to analyze how their use of multiple measures to determine course placement impacts student outcomes and to communicate findings to the PLC members and other stakeholders.

Although some of this work will be specific to Oregon, our hope is that it will apply to other states that are looking to align and improve the secondary-to-postsecondary transition.

As stakeholders and policymakers look for ways to improve postsecondary success, we believe guidance counselors and college advisors can be leveraged as strategic partners in these efforts.