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Postsecondary Preparedness

Measuring Academic Preparedness for College and Careers

In November 2018, the National Assessment Governing Board unanimously approved a recommendation to explore developing a dashboard that will display indicators of students’ skills and knowledge necessary for postsecondary preparedness. The indicators will present data from the Nation’s Report Card, otherwise known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), along with other data sources.

To the extent possible given the limits of extant data and the NAEP Authorization Act, the dashboard will report academic and non-academic knowledge and skills that are essential for all high school graduates to master in order to be prepared for a wide range of postsecondary endeavors.

The Governing Board already reports indicators of 12th graders’ academic preparedness for postsecondary education. The Board sets levels on the NAEP Reading and Mathematics assessments at which students qualify for “placement into entry-level college courses that meet general education requirements, without the need for remedial coursework.” This effort will continue as the Governing Board explores a new dashboard to represent a broader array of indicators for success in any postsecondary pathway. 

The Governing Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Measures of Postsecondary Preparedness—comprising 12 Governing Board members and established in August 2017—recommended the Board explore creating such a dashboard after consulting expert groups and reviewing research. The committee also recommended that the Governing Board create a conceptual framework to guide the dashboard’s content by describing the universal skills that represent preparedness for any postsecondary choice. The goals of this conceptual framework are to:

  • Be comprehensive in the skills, knowledge, and abilities included in the framework, to include constructs that may extend beyond NAEP’s statutory purview and/or be unlikely to be measured in large-scale assessments.
  • Include external input in the development of the conceptual framework, as is done with NAEP assessment frameworks.
  • Provide the education field with a resource, offering the full picture of what postsecondary preparedness includes, even if it is not explicitly taught in secondary school or measured in assessments.
  • Inform revisions to NAEP, so that as new frameworks, items, and contextual variables are developed, relevant aspects of the postsecondary preparedness conceptual framework can be incorporated into those revisions.

As part of this exploratory process, the Governing Board and the National Center for Education Statistics will develop a prototype to ascertain if a Postsecondary Preparedness Dashboard is feasible and potentially valuable to stakeholders. If feasible, this prototype will offer a necessarily incomplete understanding of “postsecondary preparedness,” as the Governing Board expects to improve and expand the dashboard’s contents over time. 

Following this exploratory phase, the Governing Board should have sufficient information to determine whether it can provide data regarding postsecondary preparedness that policymakers, educators, researchers, and practitioners will value as they look to the Governing Board to provide information about what U.S students know and can do. The committee expressed a sense of urgency for this work and encouraged the exploratory phase to be completed within one year.