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Informing and Monitoring California's Progress

indicatorsTitle: Informing and Monitoring California's Progress Toward Equitable College Access

Authors: Jeannie Oakes, Julie Mendoza, David Silver

Date: August 2004

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This chapter describes the University of California’s All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity’s (UC ACCORD) development of a set of College Opportunity Indicators to monitor and inform progress toward reducing disparities in educational achievement and college access among California's diverse student population.

Indicators are single or composite statistics that provide “at a glance” information about complex systems. Since the 1960s, government has used indicators to monitor and report the status of important social conditions and outcomes, track changes over time, and predict likely changes based on past trends. Over the past two decades both the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Education have constructed and reported indicators of K-12 education. ACCORD’s Indicators follow in this tradition. They are grounded in the premise that, if Californians are to open college doors to its diverse population, policy and practice must be guided by more nuanced information than what the state now regularly reports.

UC ACCORD’s the College Opportunity Ratio (COR), for example, allows policymakers and the public to monitor how well California public high schools move students from being college hopeful 9th graders to being college-ready graduates. CORs are calculated for every California comprehensive public high school and displayed on Geographic Information System (GIS) maps for every legislative district in the state, setting schools’ CORs against the median household income of residents in the neighborhood where the schools are located. These colorful maps reveal the startling degree to which high school completion and college preparation differs for students at different schools, in different legislative districts, and among different racial/ethnic groups. Although COR is not a truly longitudinal indicator, it offers more useful information than any other publicly reported statistic now available about high school graduation rates and college preparation.

Other UC ACCORD indicators report students’ access to a set of K-12 school conditions that are critical for college preparation. These indicators provide a research-based framework for understanding the barriers to equity in achievement and college going and for monitoring the state's progress toward removing those barriers. Indicators of students’ access to a “College-Going School Culture,” for example, document how student survey data can used to construct meaningful indicators that measure policy alterable conditions that underlie disparities in student achievement and college-going among California's diverse student population.

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