California recognized for effective measurement of college and career readiness

In a March 2023 report, All4Ed found that since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, the majority of states have incorporated college and career readiness indicators into their school accountability systems. The report, Undermeasuring: College and Career Readiness Indicators May Not Reflect College and Career Outcomes, revealed that since there is no standardized way to measure the indicator, states vary on the metrics and standards for how students are deemed prepared. It highlighted states, including California, that are implementing recommended criteria for preparing students for postsecondary opportunities.

In a follow-up to the Undermeasuring report, All4Ed released three briefs focusing on states that are leading the way: California, Louisiana and Georgia. “Each brief explains a key feature of the state’s college and career readiness indicator that sets it apart and helps provide richer, more nuanced information about students’ levels of preparation for higher education and the workforce,” according to All4Ed.

The brief “California Leads in Disaggregating Readiness Data” delves into the California School Dashboard College/Career Indicator (CCI) that measures the percentage of high school graduates who are prepared for college or a career. “Unlike many other states, California does more than report the percentage of ready graduates. The state provides additional context so that Dashboard users can make meaning of the CCI, as well as additional data points for wonkier users who want to dive deeper into which high school students are prepared, and how.”

The CCI categorizes students as prepared if they meet criteria in one of 12 pathways — six focus on college-ready measures and six focus on career-ready measures. Schools and districts receive a color-coded rating of how well students are meeting the indicator. While this may seem a simple calculation, many criteria are required to fulfill a single pathway.

The brief provides an example in which students who successfully complete the A-G course requirements with a “C” average — the most common way California graduates show readiness and a requirement to enroll in public four-year universities in the state — are only considered “approaching prepared” is they also complete another readiness measure. To be considered “prepared,” students successfully completing the A-G requirements must also complete one of the following:

  • complete a career technical education (CTE) pathway;
  • complete, with at least a “C-” grade, the equivalent of one semester of dual credit in academic or CTE courses;
  • demonstrate proficiency (Level 3 — “standard met”) on the state summative assessments in English language arts (ELA) or math and score at least a Level 2 (“standard nearly met”) on the summative assessment in the other subject; or
  • score at least a “3” on an Advanced Placement exam or at least a “4” on an International Baccalaureate (IB) exam.

Students who complete a CTE pathway with a “C-” average in the capstone course are not considered fully prepared unless they also reach Level 3 in either math or ELA on the statewide summative assessments and reach Level 2 in the other subject area; or earn the equivalent of one semester of college credit through dual enrollment with at least a “C-” grade.

Additionally, once the percentage of graduates considered “prepared” is determined for each school, a school’s performance level on the Dashboard is determined by not only current year data, but also how current data compared to prior-year results from the previous cohort of graduates. “In other words, schools can be recognized as high-performing if a significant percentage of their graduates are deemed prepared or for making significant progress in improving the percentage of prepared graduates, even if the actual rate is not as high as in other high schools,” according to the brief.

The brief also praises California’s disaggregation of data by student group and the additional annual report related to CCI. The report details the percentage of graduates of graduates achieving each readiness measure within the CCI, allowing users to understand more nuanced differences in student preparedness across measures, student groups and schools. “As a result, instead of only answering whether graduates were prepared for college and career, California’s data can also answer how and which student groups showed they were prepared,” states the brief.

The other briefs in the series include “Louisiana Defines a Stronger Diploma” and “Georgia Measures Readiness with College Outcomes.”