In pursuit of our goal for 100% of students to commit to a post-secondary plan by June of their senior year, we have developed a series of post-secondary lessons for every grade level. Effectively working with students towards an individualized post-secondary plan cannot begin during senior year, rather students benefit when afforded their opportunity to receive scaffolded information and ample time to plan. Our freshmen, sophomore, and junior lessons are highlighted below.
Each lesson is built upon the foundation that “post-secondary education and lifelong learning are necessary for long-term career success” (ASCA Mindset #4). Furthermore, students have the opportunity to apply technological skills (ASCA Learning Strategy #5), identify long- and short-term career goals (ASCA Learning Strategy #7), and collect a wide variety of data and perspectives to inform their decisions (ASCA Learning Strategy #9).
Each lesson begins with a presentation, through which students are guided through post-secondary options and key factors in the college admissions progress. Each lesson contains pertinent information specific to grade-level needs, including an activity in Naviance. Freshmen are introduced to the high school transcript and GPA, then engage in the Road Trip Nation activity where they independently view videos on leaders within career fields of interest. Sophomores delve further into the college admissions process, begin creating their resume, and complete the Strengths Explorer questionnaire to research careers and college majors. Juniors utilize search tools to identify post-secondary programs for which they plan to apply, develop a list of colleges to research, and identify reach/target/safety schools based on their own GPA and test scores. This year, we needed to spend time reviewing the differences between the old vs. new/revised SAT with our juniors, a noteworthy change for the Class for 2017.
For outcome data for the three lessons, we looked at student enrollment in rigorous coursework (enrollment in at least 1 honors or AP course). We found an increase in enrollment in rigorous coursework from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 school years among freshmen and juniors, which rose by 2.14% and 7.6% respectively. Among sophomores, we found a slight 1.2% decline in students registering for an honors or AP course. Although we cannot decipher cause and effect, our sophomores identified “strength of curriculum” as a key factor in the college admissions process on their post-survey at a lower rate (70.3%) than freshmen and juniors (74.7% and 84.9% respectively). Given this information, our sophomores may need greater attention during the course selection process to ensure they pursue an appropriately challenging academic curriculum.
Additionally, we looked at grade-level promotion rates. Retained students were identified into four distinct groups: students who experienced course failure, students retained as a result of the ELL course progression, students retained due to transferring mid-year without prior coursework (auditing), and students denied credit due to poor attendance. The retention rate due to course failure was 2% among freshmen and sophomores, which increased from 1% in the 2014-15 school year. Retention due to course failure for juniors remained steady at 3% across the 2015-16 and 2014-15 school years.
For each lesson, students are asked to complete a pre- and post-survey, which we utilize for perception data. While each survey contains grade-level specific content, all ask students to identify the three most important factors in the college admissions process (according to NACAC): grades in college prep courses, strength of curriculum, and SAT/ACT scores. We feel this repetition is important and plays a pivotal role in ongoing post-secondary planning, given that 93% of our students pursue higher education. Across all three grade levels we found an increase in overall student accuracy of identifying these factors. However, our 9th grade students did not show an increase in identifying grades as an important factor (remained steady at 80% accuracy across pre-/post- surveys). Moving forward, we intend to analyze this data longitudinally. For example, it is our hope that sophomores and juniors will be able to complete the pre-survey with greater accuracy than freshmen. We intend to increase efforts to ensure long-term retention of post-secondary planning information (e.g., developing a spring semester “booster” workshop, collaboration with teachers to emphasize course rigor, and increasing efforts to encourage students and parents to engage in post-secondary planning or Naviance activities throughout the year at home).