Skip Navigation
archived information
Skip Navigation

Supporting the creation of a postsecondary readiness indicator

Supporting Creation of Postsecondary Readiness Indicator

By Marguerite Huber
June 22, 2018

Sometimes it takes the collaboration of multiple organizations to accomplish one task. For instance, in the fall of 2017, the Iowa Department of Education (IDE) requested assistance in creating a postsecondary readiness indicator. To address this request, REL Midwest teamed up with experts from two members of the U.S. Department of Education’s Comprehensive Center Network—the Midwest Comprehensive Center (MWCC) and the College & Career Readiness & Success Center (CCRS Center).

Why did IDE need to create a postsecondary readiness indicator in the first place? With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), each state must include an indicator of school quality or student success in their methodology for identifying low-performing schools. ESSA gives states flexibility to choose this indicator, but suggests postsecondary readiness as one potential focus. Substantial evidence exists that college and career readiness measures are better predictors of postsecondary success than high school graduation rates.

When IDE submitted its ESSA plan in September 2017, it left a placeholder explaining that its postsecondary readiness indicator would be developed with the help of stakeholders during the 2017/18 school year in a four-stage process. The first stage involved establishing a Postsecondary Readiness Indicator Workgroup.

To assist the workgroup, MWCC and the CCRS Center completed a literature review examining the relationships between potential postsecondary readiness measures that Iowa might consider and the student outcomes identified in the state’s definition of postsecondary readiness. Additionally, they conducted a scan of the postsecondary readiness measures included in other states’ ESSA plans.

Then, REL Midwest provided coaching on the development of the indicator in March 2018. REL Midwest senior researcher Amy Feygin and senior technical assistance consultant David English conducted a coaching session on the literature review at a workgroup meeting. Attendees included superintendents from rural and urban districts, counselors, professional organizations, and university admissions officials, among others.

The coaching session focused on how to design a postsecondary readiness indicator that will meet IDE’s needs. Feygin and English also covered the research base for measures of postsecondary readiness that IDE might consider, such as participation or performance in advanced/college level coursework, individualized career plans, and career and technical education pathways. Afterward, attendees had the opportunity to evaluate each of the 18 measures under consideration using the following criteria: technical quality (e.g., relationship to postsecondary outcomes), stakeholder relevance (e.g., actionable results), and system utility (e.g., cost to implement data collection).

Following the evaluations, Feygin presented the findings from the state scan conducted by MWCC and the CCRS Center. She noted that 35 states include at least one measure of postsecondary readiness in their accountability systems. Having an idea of other states’ accountability practices can help Iowa to understand the spectrum of approaches to measuring postsecondary readiness and combine best practices to reach its own approach. When attendees were asked what they thought was the most helpful aspect of the coaching session, many agreed that the depth of the state scan was greatly beneficial.

“The workgroup’s engagement level exceeded expectations,” English reflected, “Because the topic was relatively technical, we couldn’t be sure how willing they would be to get down in the weeds, but they were already there in their thinking as a group. Our framework provided an intuitive sequence of guiding questions to help them gain more coherence in their approach to designing their postsecondary index. I think they were eager to sort through some technical questions, and as a result their breakout groups were very animated, and our materials provided a good medium for capturing their thinking.”

Now that the second stage of indicator development—obtaining stakeholder feedback—has been completed, the next stages fall into the hands of IDE. The third stage involves piloting the indicator, followed by the last stage of incorporating it into Iowa’s accountability index beginning in the 2018/19 school year. “REL Midwest’s role was to provide support to IDE in the postsecondary readiness indicator decision making process,” Feygin concluded. “The decision is a deeply local one and now they have the tools that they need to agree on what indicator is best for Iowa’s students.”

< Previous PostNext Post >

Author(s) Information

Marguerite Huber Staff Picture

Marguerite Huber

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

Return to the REL Midwest Blog

Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly updates featuring new posts from the REL Midwest blog!

Subscribe to Newsletter