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California Addresses College Readiness

July 1, 2021 by Ansley Puckett

The Public Policy Institute of California released the first in a series of posts examining how educational opportunities and outcomes are different across California.  

According to the post, only a third of California’s 9th graders make it to and then complete college. Middle-income and higher-income students are also twice as likely as their lower-income peers to make it to college and get their degrees.  

School districts vary greatly as to the share of students who graduate ready for college, and ongoing efforts to boost college readiness have led to improvements, according to the post. 

Although the number of students completing college preparatory courses called A-G courses is increasing, not all students make it to high school graduation. PPIC found that statewide, 43% of 9th graders go on to finish high school and complete the college prep courses.  

Completion of these courses is relatively high in major regions like Los Angeles. However, for the rest of the state, college preparation tends to be lower.  

According to the post, equity gaps are also apparent in almost all school districts. Black, Native American, Pacific Islander and Latino 9th grade students are less likely to graduate with the college prep requirements than White and Asian students. 

Socioeconomically disadvantaged students that receive free or reduced-price school meals or whose parents do not have a high school diploma, are also less likely to complete the college preparation requirements.  

PPIC found that these disparities can sometimes be larger in higher-performing districts, while in other districts, access to the college preparation courses are a concern. 

“Expanding the availability of A–G approved courses is an important step, though PPIC research has found that this may present hiring difficulties or other challenges for schools,” according to the post. “In addition, policies related to course placement, scheduling, counseling, and grading could affect—and in some cases diminish–students’ likelihood of enrolling in these courses.” 

Some research suggests that making the A-G courses part of graduation requirements can improve A-G competition. However, it could also negatively affect graduation rates for some students, including those receiving special education services and those learning English.  

According to the post, accountability measures focused on district and school level performances could also help address persistent equity gaps. 

“While improving college readiness must be a statewide endeavor, a multi-faceted approach will be necessary to address districts’ unique challenges,” the post read. “Ensuring that districts are able to provide additional supports and services to help students succeed in more rigorous coursework is essential.”  

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