5 ways K-12 can better prepare students for college success

Fewer lower-income high schools can offer 10 or more advanced placement or honors courses

College educators know that students who complete advanced coursework in high school have a better chance of success on campus.

A recent survey has raised equity and access concerns by identifying a gap in advanced courses offerings at lower-income K-12 schools—even those that have been recognized for sending more students to college.

A disparity in the number of advanced courses persists even at lower-income schools that have been recognized for sending more students to college, a GreatSchools.org survey has found.

Almost all of the 820 leaders surveyed by the public school rating site said their students had access to at least one advanced academic program.

Among schools that have won GreatSchools.org’s College Success Award, however, significantly fewer of the lower-income schools offered 10 or more advanced placement or honors courses, according to the survey.

“Many school leaders are currently strategizing around the use of new financial resources via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund,” GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane said. “Understanding which practices give students—particularly those striving to overcome systemic barriers in pursuit of a great education—the best possible chance for success during and after high school is a key step in turning those dollars into meaningful, persistent actions that benefit generations of students.”

The survey defined lower-income schools as those in which 40% or more of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Still, schools at all income levels that have been recognized for college success by GreatSchools.org provide access to more advanced courses, suggesting that this is a key factor for students’ persistence in higher education.

Schools can boost enrollment in advanced courses by reaching out to parents and students, automatically enrolling students in at least one last advanced course and strengthening partnerships between middle and high schools.

1. Equitable and early access to advanced courses. Schools whose graduates have more success in college can also boast higher enrollment in AP and other advanced courses. These schools are also more likely to open advanced courses up to 9th graders.

2. Supportive school environments. Strong relations between students and educators also fuel college success. In lower-income schools, a focus on college affordability and one-on-one support throughout the college application process often anchor these relationships. These components are also important in higher-income schools, the survey found.

3. Teacher support and consistent communication. School leaders said that out-of-school tutoring by teachers is the most effective way to get students back on track and also helps promote postsecondary success. Leaders in higher-income schools reported more use of peer tutoring for students.

4. Greater access to academic clubs and activities. Higher-income schools offer more academic clubs and outside-of-class activities in STEM, business, journalism and media, activism and public service, foreign language, and other subjects.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

Most Popular