The Promise of Proficiency: How College Proficiency Information Can Help High Schools Drive Student Success

By J.B. Schramm & E. Kinney Zalesne
December 2009 

The Promise of Proficiency, a joint production by the Center for American Progress and College Summit, argues that we need to equip high schools with data regarding their graduates’ college enrollment and proficiency rates. To fill the “P-20” informational gap, and backmap students’ collegiate performance in a way that would improve America’s high schools, the report insists that the federal government should:

  • Support the gathering of college proficiency data so that each high school can track their graduates’ success in “year 13”;
  • Disseminate this data to the public; and
  • Reward high schools for making improvements in their graduates’ college proficiency rates.

Promise’s case for building P-20 longitudinal systems is compelling, as is the call for installing a college-prep culture in America’s neediest high schools. However, it places the onus of responsibility on the shoulders of the federal government without adequately exploring whether states are suited to oversee data-building efforts. Certainly the federal government plays an important funding role (with 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act money, the U.S. Department of Education earmarked $250 million for this very purpose), but individual states are ultimately responsible for laws/regulations governing the use of data, and creating (or preventing) an environment conducive for collecting and applying data meaningfully.

Ohio already has incorporated nine of the 10 elements of the Data Quality Campaign (see Ohio’s DQC profile here), a national group that supports state policymakers in improving the use of high-quality education data. And the Ohio Board of Regents collects a wealth of data on district and school-level outcomes (average ACT scores, graduation rates, percent of students requiring remedial coursework) as well as performance indicators from Buckeye State colleges and universities. To learn why this kind of postsecondary data collection is so essential, read the report here.

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