College for All: Gaps Between Desirable and Actual P-12 Math Achievement Trajectories for College Readiness

College for All: Gaps Between Desirable and Actual P-12 Math Achievement Trajectories for College Readiness

Issue/Topic: High School--College Readiness; P-16 or P-20
Published On: 3/5/2012

What is missing in the "Child for All" and college readiness debates is empirical evidence on how well the nation is preparing students throughout the entire P-12 education pipeline for different types and stages of postsecondary education. It may be too late in high school to address college readiness gaps. As K-12 education has been largely disconnected from college education, more attention on college readiness is needed in the early years of the P-16 continuum.

This study addresses missing links in the current P-16 education and "College for All" debates by investigating gaps between actual and desirable math achievement trajectories for different college pathways. The goals of the study are twofold: (1) to compare performance standards, benchmarks, and norms for college readiness, and; (2) to assess college readiness gaps among all students as well as among racial and social groups.

1. This study revealed large disparities between actual and desirable math achievement levels for college readiness.

2. Math achievement was a good predictor of whether students in P-12 stay on track toward 2 or 4 year college education.

3. The typical state standard of math proficiency might be adequate only for typical 2-year college completion, whereas the national proficiency standard or international benchmark was high enough for typical 4-year college completion.

4. The study identified significant racial and ethnic gaps in terms of college readiness.

Policy Implications/Recommendations:
1. Institutional admissions data cannot provide a comprehensive picture of how well the nation as a whole is prepared for meeting the goal of college for all.

2. Because college admission tests are not strategically aligned with national or state standards for school curriculum, college admission test scores are unable to inform educational policy and practice to improve college readiness for disadvantaged minority groups at critical earlier periods.

3. The study has implications for setting and ensuring desired achievement levels on new assessments based on the national Common Core standards that have been developed through the synthesis of best practices and prior research in K-12 education.

Research Design:

3 national longitudinal data sets from previous studies: <p>1. 6,051 individuals born in 2001 from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort <p>2. 5,959 individuals from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 <p>3. 10,879 individuals who were in grade 10 in 1990 and grade 12 in 1992 from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort.

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
Building upon prior research, this study used 3 existing national longitudinal data sets to track math achievement growth during P-12 education at the aggregate national level. A linear linking method was used to convert the scores and scales of the 3 data sets to one usable set of data. Various methodologies were then utilized to: track average math achievement levels; estimate math achievement benchmarks for college readiness, and; locate existing math achievement standards.

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