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Identifying Indicators that Predict Postsecondary Readiness and Success in Arkansas

Researchers estimate that more than a third of students nationally leave high school without the skills to succeed in college or a career. As in many states across the nation, education leaders in Arkansas have established a goal that all high school students will graduate prepared for college, career, and community engagement. In support of that goal, the Arkansas Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan includes indicators of college and career readiness and success for both middle and high school.

In collaboration with the Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership, REL Southwest researchers studied the ability of these indicators to predict postsecondary readiness (ACT score of 19 or above) and success (college enrollment and persistence within eight years of beginning grade 6) for Arkansas students who entered grade 6 in 2008/09 or 2009/10. Students’ postsecondary outcomes were examined through 2016/17 or 2017/18, prior to the pandemic.

Key findings include:

  • The college and career readiness indicators in the Arkansas ESSA plan have predictive power and are actionable, helping us understand which students are on and off track for postsecondary readiness and success.
  • The set of middle school indicators predicted postsecondary readiness and success outcomes for 70 percent to 82 percent of students, when combined with data on student background characteristics. The strongest predictors included demonstrating proficiency in English language arts and math and not being chronically absent, suspended, or expelled.
  • The set of high school indicators predicted postsecondary outcomes for 75 percent to 83 percent of students, when combined with student background characteristics. The strongest predictors included attaining a grade point average of 2.8 or higher, enrolling in at least one advanced course, and not being chronically absent or expelled.
  • Academic indicators were the major predictors of the postsecondary readiness outcome (ACT score of 19 or above), while a broader set of academic, disciplinary, and attendance indicators emerged as major predictors of college enrollment and persistence outcomes.

The study’s findings can help state and local education agencies, both in Arkansas and across the nation, identify and support middle and high school students who are on and off track for attaining postsecondary readiness and success.

See the link below for the full report as well as a one-page snapshot of the findings.

Read the report:

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