Double the Numbers for College Success: A Call to Action for the District of Columbia

DC College Access Program, DC Education Compact, DC Public Schools, DC State Education Office
October 2006

This study confirms that the District of Columbia's public schools (DCPS), despite multiple reform efforts (see here and here), are still failing most of their students, particularly when it comes to college preparedness. According to the report, only 9 percent of D.C. ninth-graders will complete college within five years of graduating high school (compared with 23 percent nationwide). As its title suggests, the report focuses on how to double this number for today's ninth-graders--the high school class of 2010. The authors offer a "10-Point Plan." One recommendation, for instance, calls on the city to "put systems in place to monitor student progress." The District would thereby fall in line with such cities as New York and Philadelphia, both now using data tools to determine, among other things, when and why students drop out. Another recommendation is for D.C. to expand student access to college-prep curricula such as AP and IB. The report's final recommendations mostly concern the leap from high school to college and identify the need for: better guidance counseling for both parents and students; increased access to financial aid; more college-level guidance on matters such as student loans; and improved district relationships with area colleges. All in all, it's a solid plan for beginning to address the major challenges facing those in D.C. who aspire to graduate college. Although one wonders why the authors pay so little attention to deeper, potentially more effective, systemic reforms such as replicating successful charter school models. Regardless, the path that DCPS ultimately takes will rely on soon-to-be-Mayor Adrian Fenty, who seems poised to make a grab for control of the district. He should take a look at this report.

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