PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has been awarded nearly $3 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help school districts improve high school graduation rates and college and career readiness. The funds will be used to support development of “College Readiness Indicator Systems” (CRIS) that schools can use to identify students in danger of dropping out or graduating from high school unprepared for a postsecondary job or education.
Leading researchers have developed indicators and early warning signals that can reliably identify students who are at risk of not completing high school. Attendance patterns, grade point average, course failures, suspensions, and other figures can be used to predict which students are on track to graduate and which students are not. Ellen Foley, clinical assistant professor of education and principal associate at the Annenberg Institute, says these indicators are highly reliable. “You can identify these at-risk students early — often by middle school — and certainly by ninth grade,” she said, “and there are interventions that schools and teachers can do to change that trajectory.”
Schools have yet to develop a system to track and support students focused on college or career readiness.
“Ideally, high school completion and college readiness would be one and the same, but they aren’t,” Foley said. “That’s what we’re trying to address with this grant. We want to build similar systems that are just as practical and just as useful, but put the focus on college readiness.”
The Annenberg Institute will select up to six school districts or networks nationwide to take part in this project, most of which are already doing innovative student support work. The sites will work with Annenberg and the John Gardner Center at Stanford University to expand and implement their early warning systems to focus on college and career readiness. The grant will also support semiannual meetings among participants to better connect the schools, build relationships among sites, and facilitate the frequent sharing of information and practices.
Foley is most excited to bridge those research-based findings with real-life practice in schools. “College education is essential to economic successes — it’s both self-serving for the future of our country, but also for individual moral and ethical reasons,” she said. “I think having that as the goal — college and career readiness — is something we want to help schools figure out how to do.”
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University is a national organization that supports policy development, research, and school reform efforts to provide high-quality education for children in urban communities.