On my recent visit to KIPP NYC College Prep High School, I received one of their newsletters. In it I found this graph demonstrating how their students rank in ‘college readiness’ compared to other Black, Latino, and NYC students in general. According to this ‘college readiness’ metric, 72% of the KIPP students were ready for college compared to just 13% of Black students, 15% of Latino students and 22% of students in New York City. Not only that, but they accomplished this with their oldest students who are just in 11th grade.
Now, I wrote about how the teaching there was decent but not spectacular. I also mentioned that the students were struggling there, despite being the ones who had made it through all those years of KIPP middle schools. I should also here, in KIPPs defense, mention that the very best KIPP middle school students often get scholarships to exclusive private schools so the students at the KIPP high school do not necessarily represent the strongest students, academically, from their middle schools.
Still, I wouldn’t have guessed that 72% of the students were ‘college ready.’ Different states define ‘college ready’ in different ways. Louisiana, for instance, uses the ACT. On the KIPP newsletter, they explain what ‘college ready’ entails.
The New York Department of Education has defined that a student is “college-ready” if s/he earns at least a 75% on their English Regents and at least an 80% on their math Regents exam.
I checked, and this is accurate. Now I will admit that getting a 75% on the English Regents and an 80% on the math Regents is better than not getting these grades, but this is hardly a criteria that I would call “college ready.”
There are three different math Regents: Integrated Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II / Trigonometry. According to this metric, if a student gets an 80 on the Integrated Algebra, a test that many 8th graders take, they are half way to being college ready. I’m a math teacher in New York, and I’m always baffled when the ‘scaling sheet’ comes out that converts the raw score from 0 to 87 points into a score between 0 and 100. For the August 2012 test, the scaling chart says that a raw score of 51 translates into an 80. But 51/87 is just 59%. I’m not sure about the English test, but a 75% doesn’t sound that impressive.
KIPP has support services to help their students while they are in college. So far the statistics are that 35% of KIPP graduates go on to graduate college. This is said to be over four times the expected 8% college completion rate for low-income students. Since KIPP has a pretty high attrition, and I’m not sure if this 35% includes all the kids who started with them as 5th graders, I’m not sure how to interpret this statistic. Also, it isn’t clear that the students they had would have necessarily only had 8% graduating college had they not gone to KIPP.
I guess the point is that like other words that have gotten new definitions in education like ‘reform’, ‘accountability’, ‘value’, ‘choice’, ‘graduation rate’, ‘high performing’, ‘failing’ and a whole bunch of others, we can add ‘college ready’ as an expression that really doesn’t mean what it implies.