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Resource roundup: Indicators of college and career readiness

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By Joni Wackwitz | November 30, 2021

To meet requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act, a growing number of states and districts are using measures such as high school grade point average (GPA) and attendance to monitor students' progress and postsecondary readiness. To help educators learn from these efforts, we rounded up research and resources on indicators of college and career readiness from across the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) network. Knowing which indicators have strong predictive accuracy can help educators identify students who are on track for success as well as those who may need more support.

Identifying Indicators That Predict Postsecondary Readiness and Success in Arkansas
This REL Southwest study examined the predictive strength of middle and high school indicators that the Arkansas Department of Education is using to track students’ college and career readiness. The strongest predictors in middle school were demonstrating proficiency in English language arts and math and not being chronically absent or expelled. The strongest high school predictors were attaining a GPA of 2.8 or higher and enrolling in at least one advanced course. A companion blog post explores the findings and their implications. In addition, a related webinar examines discipline-related indicators that emerged during the study as major predictors of college enrollment and persistence outcomes.

Examining Student Group Differences in Arkansas Indicators of Postsecondary Readiness and Success 
At the request of the Arkansas Department of Education, REL Southwest is building on the above study by examining differences in college and career readiness indicators for specific student groups. These supplemental findings will help Arkansas education leaders focus on indicators that serve all students well and minimize generalizations in the use of indicators that could inequitably affect students. A report of the findings is slated for publication in 2022.

Alternative Career Readiness Measures for Small and Rural Districts in Texas 
This REL Southwest study examined whether Texas graduates from small districts and rural districts demonstrated career readiness through five alternative career readiness options identified by the Texas Education Agency. A companion blog post highlights the key findings. The study found that students who met one of two alternative options—career and technical education completers and work-based learners—had higher rates of college enrollment than students who met the state’s college, career, and military accountability standards.

Associations Between Predictive Indicators and Postsecondary Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Success Among Hispanic Students in Texas
Hispanics remain underrepresented in the in-demand and high-paying fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This REL Southwest study identified indicators that predict whether Hispanic and non-Hispanic high school students in Texas went on to pursue or earn a postsecondary STEM degree. Predictors included number of math or science courses taken, number of Advanced Placement (AP) math or science courses taken, and highest math or science course taken.

The Growing Importance of College and Career Readiness Indicators
In this blog post, REL Central describes the value of including college and career readiness indicators in district and school accountability systems and how a growing number of state education agencies are redesigning their systems to do so.

The Effects of Accelerated College Credit Programs on Educational Attainment in Rhode Island
This REL Northeast & Islands quasi-experimental study examined participation in accelerated college credit programs—dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and AP test-taking—in Rhode Island high schools to understand the effect on the rate of high school completion and postsecondary outcomes. Students who participated in accelerated college credit programs were more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college within a year than nonparticipating students.

How Well Does High School Grade Point Average Predict College Performance by Student Urbanicity and Timing of College Entry?
This REL Northwest study builds on a prior study that found that high school GPA was a better predictor of college course grades than college placement test scores for recent high school graduates in Alaska. This follow-up study examined how well high school GPA and standardized exam scores predicted college course grades by the urbanicity of students’ hometown and the timing of students’ college entry. A companion animated video explores the implications of the findings.

Using High School Data to Predict Early College Success in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia
This REL Pacific study used existing high school data to identify student characteristics and aspects of students' high school preparation that predicted early college success and college persistence among students in Pohnpei. Similar REL Pacific studies identified predictors of college readiness and early college success among students in Guåhan (Guam), the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

Examining the Associations Between High School Students' Social-Emotional Competencies and Their High School and College Academic and Behavioral Outcomes in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
This REL Pacific study examined the relationships between Northern Mariana Islands students’ high school academic preparation, high school academic achievement, intrapersonal competencies, and early college success. High school students with higher growth mindset or self-efficacy scores had higher high school GPAs and higher grade 10 ACT Aspire math and reading scale scores.


For more information on our work supporting college and career readiness and other projects of the Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership, browse the following resources:

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Author Information

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Joni Wackwitz

Senior Communications Specialist | REL Southwest

jwackwitz@air.org