Digging Deeper: Ensuring All Students Are College and Career Ready

Roberta FaeryAt the Plainview-Old Bethpage Cental School District, we have all of the indicators that enable us to consider ourselves a high-performing district.  We typically send 96% of our graduates to college, with 82% attending 4 year colleges and 14 % who go to Nassau Community College (NCC).  Approximately 70% percent of our graduating class has taken one or more Advanced Placement course.

When we were presented with statewide data from the class of 2012, which showed a 74 percent graduation rate and 35 percent declared College and Career ready, I felt assured knowing that we were far out-performing the rest of the State.  But slowly, after this information continued to be presented at various conferences, I became troubled not only by what the low percentage of students who are College and Career ready meant for students across the state but also what it means in districts like Plainview-Old Bethpage. 

At about the same time, the Curriculum Committee for Nassau County superintendents began to wrestle with our own definition of College and Career Ready (CCR) and decided to look at the data of our graduates attending NCC.  While we send students to the Ivy Leagues and Tier I colleges in proud percentages, I entered the process believing that the graduates attending NCC were also prepared and ready to successfully graduate. 

Using the data warehouse at Nassau BOCES, my district reviewed the college graduation data for the past five years and immediately the graduation rates from our NCC bound students sent up red flags. Only 38 percent of our graduates attending NCC completed a degree after five  years!!!  Moreover, we found that those who attended NCC and transitioned to a four  year college also had an alarmingly poor graduation rate(less than  20 % of those attempting a 4 year degree complete their goal).  Something had to be done to improve our success rate for this population of students.

We dug further.  With the assistance of Nassau Community College, we analyzed the class of 2013 and discovered that nearly 50% were enrolled in or recommended for remedial Math or Reading. Data has shown that fewer than 1 in 10 students who have taken remedial courses graduate community college in three years.[1] It became crystal clear that if our students were going to be successful we had to ensure that they were beginning their college years better prepared.

So we started from scratch and engaged the high school faculty in what it means to have our graduates leave us assured that they are ready for their next challenge.  Partnering with NCC, we administered the College Board diagnostic test called Accuplacer to our current seniors who had indicated that they would attend NCC in the fall of 2014.  We received score reports indicating which students would have qualified for remediation, along with detailed feedback in terms of areas of weakness. A remediation plan was put in place in Mathematics and English Language Arts for the spring and plans are in place to have these students take the actual placement test for NCC on our campus in mid-June.  They will then be monitored thorough the fall as they tackle the first year of college.

This year’s graduates will be the first to participate in a five year tracking survey that will provide us deeper insight into their level of preparedness as well as give honest feedback on how we can improve our system for greater success.

Along with our stellar graduation rates and outstanding Advanced Placement participation rates, reducing remediation rates will rank right up there with all the other Points of Pride we claim.  Until districts become seriously engaged in looking at the performance of the entire spectrum of their graduates and dig deeper into the data, we cannot honestly claim to have completed the task of preparing our graduates for the challenges of the world they will enter.  At Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD, we believe all of our children are now on the right path to success.

Dr. Lorna R. Lewis is Superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD

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