A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) titled Barriers to College Attainment: Lessons from Chicago examines the gap between college aspirations and college attainment for low-income, urban high school students, this time in Chicago. The January 2009 report draws on data from the National Student Data Clearinghouse and reveals, among other things, that only 45 percent of Chicago graduates who enrolled in a four-year college during the year following high school graduation attained a four-year college degree within six years. The report echoes the dismal findings of a study in Boston on the college attainment of Boston Public School graduates that I wrote about here. The report calls for the widespread adoption of data systems that track and make transparent high school students’ post-secondary educational choices, concluding, “We simply cannot ask high schools to focus on the college readiness and postsecondary outcomes of their graduates if they do not know what happens to their students after they graduate.”
Up to this point, neither the Boston Public Schools nor Chicago Public Schools has provided much visibility to the new data that’s been uncovered. In a cursory look at high school profiles on the BPS website (example here) and the CPS website (example here), I found no information on the schools’ post-secondary college enrollment and attainment, although the CAP report says, “CPS has made college readiness indicators and college enrollment a central part of their high school accountability scorecard.” The data is dismal and shocking, and I fear that the efforts to sweep it under the rug have been greater than those to put it into the broad light of day where it can be used by principals, teachers, counselors, parents, and policymakers. Greater visibility to the post-secondary education data by CPS and BPS would be a step forward in convincing other school districts to match student data to the National Student Data Clearinghouse.