Selecting a Public High School Based Upon Their Graduates’ Success

Selecting a Public High School Based Upon Their Graduates’ Success
What is the best way to evaluate the quality of a public high school? Learn about the data available that helps parents choose a high school based upon how well their graduates perform in college.

AP courses, state standardized test scores, and teacher-to-student ratios: these are all measures utilized by parents to judge a public high school’s quality. However, what if parents have been evaluating all the wrong statistics? What if the best way to measure a public high school’s educational quality is by the success its students achieve after they graduate?

While some public high schools will proudly publish the colleges to which their seniors have been accepted, what happens to these students once they enter into the towers of higher education? Has their public high school education properly prepared them for the rigors of college?

All of these answers – and more – can actually be answered through research and data compiled by the National Student Clearinghouse.

Measuring a Public High School’s Success

As reported by the Washington Post, the National Student Clearinghouse manages a database of more than 93 million students enrolled in over 3,300 colleges. While this information was once compiled for student loan purposes, the Clearinghouse has now made this data available for high schools.

Included in the National Student Clearinghouse reports is a bevy of valuable information, such as:

  • Institutions of enrollment
  • College transfer statistics
  • College graduation rates
  • Types of degrees earned
  • Majors pursued

The conclusions that could be gleaned from these reports are invaluable for both high schools and parents. For example, in the sample report evaluated by the Washington Post, the data showed:

  • 76% of students who scored 3 or higher on an AP exam graduated from college
  • 59.4% of students who failed an AP exam still graduated from college
  • Only 24.7% of students who did not take an AP exam graduated from college

This could lead a school district to offer more AP courses, as the conclusion could be drawn that the academic rigor of AP classes lead to better preparation for college.

Helping Districts Track Their Students

Some school districts around the country are already taking advantage of the data offered through the Clearinghouse. For example, as reported by The Keller Citizen, the Keller School District in Texas is paying approximately $600 per high school campus to obtain the statistical data on their students. The report has provided much more insight than the district’s previous tracking methods; according to Deana Lopez, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, “In the past, district officials have relied on students to report where they are enrolling in college, but those figures can be somewhat higher than those who actually attend.”

From the Clearinghouse report, the Keller School District found that 45% of their graduates earn a 3.0 GPA or higher at Texas universities, while only 45% of their students who apply to the University of Texas Austin are admitted.

What The Data Means for Parents

In viewing a sample report, the Clearinghouse not only provides statistics pertaining to graduation and enrollment rates, but also lists the “most common institutions of initial enrollment” as measured by the number of students.

For example, according to Baltimore’s report, the top five local colleges for their school district are Community College of Baltimore County, Towson University, University of Maryland – College Park, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, and Stevenson University.

For many parents, the barometer of a quality high school education is marked by college acceptance letters. If the National Student Clearinghouse shows that a particular high school’s graduates enroll in the country’s top universities and graduate from those institutions with competitive degrees, then this may speak more volumes than the number of counselors or the results of state standardized tests.

While schools are slowly beginning to access their students’ data through the Clearinghouse, hopefully the trend will continue to grow, with more and more high schools sharing their statistics with the public. Parents can lobby their school districts to purchase the reports, which are highly affordable, especially considering how much valuable information is presented. Indeed, analyzing how students perform in college may be the best way to judge the quality of the high school’s education.

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