Every year, taxpayers’ dollars invest in the future by funding public education. The educational system, particularly high school, is intended to help students enter college or begin their choice career. However, a 2018 report from the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index gave the Clarke County school district a D grade of 65.8.
The readiness score given to schools is based on students’ participation in career pathways, Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and Dual Enrollment.
When it came to content mastery, or the level to which students mastered the state’s standards in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, Clarke County high schools fared even worse, earning an F grade of 53.6.1Students particularly underperformed in mathematics, earning a 45.75 mastery score.1
Clarke County high schools also received a 2.5 out of 5 score on financial efficiency, which is the degree to which they effectively use their funds to achieve high achieving students.1 Clarke County currently spends an average of $11,440.08 on each high school student.1 Additionally, a report from the Network for Southern Economic Mobility Athens Team found that approximately 40% of children aged 5 to 17 live in poverty.
Considering how many students are economically disadvantaged, education can truly serve to even the playing field and end the cycle of poverty within Athens. In fact, a Georgetown study finds that college graduates earn $1 million more in lifetime wages than high school graduates. Moreover, A Pew study found that college graduates are 5.3 times more likely to escape poverty than nongraduates.
Evidently, more can be done to prepare Clarke high school students for the future.
It is important to note, however, that this problem is not unique to Clarke County, but rather, a part of a larger issue across the country. As Elaine Allensworth, Director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, points out, “at no time in U.S. history have public schools been designed to prepare all students for college.”
According to an article from The Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit education-focused newsroom, one of the first steps school systems can take is to shift from simply boosting graduation rates to actual knowledge and skill development.
Furthermore, a focus on completing a curriculum will benefit students in their future career paths.7
The report also encourages schools to look at the requirements of state colleges.7 If the school system does not implement the college’s requirements in its own high school course requirements, students can use their preferred college’s entry requirements as a guide for the classes they should take in high school.
Stanford has developed the College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS). At the school level, it stresses the availability of Advanced Placement courses, academic support, consistent grading standards, professional development, a college-going culture, counseling resources and resources for teachers’ college knowledge.
On a school system level, CRIS places emphasis on student and teacher assignment policies, the availability of academic support, communicated expectations about academic tenacity and communicated expectations about college knowledge supports.8
These also influence individual actions that can increase college readiness such as high GPAs, credits and courses, benchmark exam scores, few disciplinary infractions, regular attendance, self-discipline, mastery goal orientation, completion of college and financial aid applications, campus visits and meetings with college advisors.7
The To&Through initiative at the University of Chicago reinforces these principles. Research finds that attendance is particularly important, as students in Chicago Public Schools who only missed one to two weeks per semester have a much lower possibility of graduating.9 Maintaining grades from freshman year is also important, as almost no student earning less than a D average in freshman year graduated.9
The initiative’s report also places importance on a school’s environment. It finds that success in school and eventual college readiness is heavily influenced by personal qualities such as persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, and self-confidence.9 As such, these qualities must be developed in a classroom setting, to not only help students graduate but be successful later in life.
Post-secondary attendance is also influenced by students’ performance on the ACT and SAT.9 An effort to boost these scores should not begin in a student’s junior or senior year but, rather, as a long-term commitment to student attendance and engaging, deeply analytical class work.9
Allensworth presents additional tactics that may be useful in increasing college attendance. The George Washington High School in Chicago has increased its college enrollment rate from 35% in 2011 to 59% in 2016.6 The school developed a team of teachers that review students’ college and financial aid applications.6 The team also contacts students when their GPA falls below a 3.0, the minimum for most college admissions and financial aid packages. Teachers also carry out an annual “phone-a-thon” whereby they contact families and discuss academic progress and post-secondary plans to engage parents and guardians in their student’s next steps.
These tactics can, and should, be implemented in Athens-Clarke County. Though they require time and persistence, our students and our future are worth it.
Gadoe. (n.d.). College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) Reports. Retrieved October 16, 2019, from http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2018/Reports/629/ALL/Report_629_ALL_ALL.pdf
 College and Career Ready Performance Index. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://www.gadoe.org/CCRPI/Pages/default.aspx.
 Harris, Lawerence, et al. “Pathways to Prosperity.” Network for Southern Economic Mobility. https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/57882/NSEM-Final-Report Retrieved Feb. 1 2019.
 Carnevale, A. P., Cheah, B., & Hanson, A. R. (2015). The Economic Value of College Majors. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Executive Summary. Retrieved from https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Exec-Summary-web-B.pdf
 Moving on Up. (2013, November). Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2013/11/01/movingonuppdf.pdf
 Allensworth, E. (2017, January 18). We Need to Change the Way High Schools Are Preparing Students for College. Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://educationpost.org/we-need-to-change-the-way-high-schools-are-preparing-students-for-college/
 Santelises, S. B. (2019, April 13). Are high schools preparing students to be college- and career-ready? Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://hechingerreport.org/are-high-schools-preparing-students-to-be-college-and-career-ready/
 Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University; John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, Stanford University; & University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. (2014). Beyond college eligibility: A new framework for promoting college readiness. College Readiness Indicator Systems Resource Series. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from https://consortium.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/2018-10/FrameworkNarrative.CRIS_.pdf
 the To&Through Project. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://toandthrough.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/UChiToThrough_ResearchOverview_20160413.pdf