Most Douglas County Students Are Not Graduating College Ready – an Open Letter to the BoE.

 


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Dear BoE,

As you know, the district high school CCRPI for 2018 was below 70, and about 5 points below the state. While tweaks were made to the CCRPI formula, in response to the state’s ESSA plan, I hope you will not give in to the temptation to write this result off as an artifact of these changes, as I’m sure some in the school system have done (if the formula change had such big effects, why did the state score barely budge?). Rather, I hope you will see that this result discloses more plainly what has been true for many years: that the majority of your students, indeed the VAST MAJORITY, do not graduate ‘college ready’ or are not currently on track to.
A deeper look into the CCRPI components show this quite plainly:
1. Only 26% of science exams were scored at Proficient or higher – the level that indicates college-readiness in that subject.
2. Only 26% of math exams were scored at Proficient or higher.
3. Only 21% made a college-ready score on either the ACT, SAT, AP, or IB exams (contrast that with 78% enrolled in advanced courses: many of these are AP students who cannot make a passing score on exams).
4. Only 29% went to college (this would have been from the 2017 class – there’s a year delay in this data) and did not have to take remedial courses in reading or math.
I urge you to check out these numbers for yourself. http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2018/Views/Shared/_Layout.html
These numbers portray a situation where about three-fourths of your students are not college ready or on track to be! 
 
Yet in spite of this low college readiness rate, the district saw an 88% graduation rate. This was again higher than the state, even though fewer of our students are college ready! (DCSS under-performed the state in all the above areas).
How can we have such a high graduation rate when a diploma is supposed to represent college AND career readiness?
One of the answers is that disadvantaged students are enabled to advance through the system in spite of very low levels of achievement. Perhaps the most alarming CCRPI result is the ‘Closing the Gap’ category which has to do with the academic performance of disadvantaged groups. Your Closing the Gap score was a 29 (vs 70 for the state). This is a result, in large part, of none of your subgroups meeting their targets in Language Arts.  Yet disadvantaged groups graduate at a much higher rate!
The integrity of our high school diploma is at stake, because most graduates do not have the qualities a diploma is supposed to represent. Isn’t it one of the chief responsibilities of a local BOE to preserve the integrity of a diploma? By systemically devaluing a high school diploma, our school system is disadvantaging disadvantaged students, thus perpetuating their disadvantages instead of giving them a path out of it 
I’ve been pointing out these issues to you for over two years now, and honestly I do not think you have taken it seriously enough, being more concerned to reflect and delegitimize criticism than to fix problems, which requires facing up to them. Working to preserve the image of the school system first and foremost simply does not serve our children well. I hope you will get to the bottom of why college readiness is this low (hint: it has a lot to do with grading policies and practices that convey low expectations).
Regards,
Jeremy

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