White paper

A level playing field: College readiness standards


By: Michael Dahlin, Beth Tarasawa


This study examines the academic growth of 35,000 elementary and middle school students in 31 states—all of them high achievers within their own schools—over a three-year period. Of particular interest were the growth and performance of high-achieving students within high-poverty schools, where “growth” focused on change over time and “performance” focused on single points in time. As the focus of accountability has shifted from basic proficiency to college and career readiness, we wondered whether high-poverty students were “on track” to meet this higher standard by the end of high school. To study this, we compared a sample of NWEA schools’ achievement scores in elementary and middle school grades, and their associated probability of being on trach to meet ACT® college readiness benchmarks at the end of high school.

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