Closing the Attainment Gap

140519 Closing the Gap-01In a few weeks, I will witness my niece graduate from high school to pursue a degree in Chemical and Life Science Engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University, which happens to be my alma mater. Because of her hard work, coupled with the guidance of her parents and the influence of her school, I’m confident that she will be successful in college. However, I cannot confidently say that every student who graduates with my niece is ready for college.

According to the Department of Education, high school graduation rates are at a record high. Moreover, college enrollment rates among traditionally underserved students (minority, low income, first-generation) have increased. Yet, even with these increases, nearly 60% of first-year college students find out that, despite acceptance, they are not fully ready for college. As a result, these students are often required to take remedial courses for no credit. To help students who want to do well in college, and counteract the gap between aspiration and attainment, students, parents and schools must work together to ensure post-secondary success.

Students who want to attend college must become involved in an activity they are passionate about.

Students should actively seek opportunities to explore their passions and interests through school clubs, teams or internships/jobs. It’s not enough for students to obtain good grades and have perfect attendance, they must also challenge themselves in constructive extracurricular activities that enable them to develop the critical thinking skills necessary for college success.

Parents of college bound students should help them prepare for college entrance exams.

In addition to emphasizing hard work and personal accountability, parents should help students prepare for standardized college readiness assessments before 12th grade. Many assessments such as the PSAT, PLAN and EXPLORE can help students perform better on the SAT and ACT. And parents can access free resources at their local libraries and from the test publisher’s website.

Schools should monitor student perceptions of their progress towards college readiness.

Schools should monitor student factors such as motivation, engagement and self-regulation through annual survey data. Continued monitoring can help schools identify students who may need additional support. An annual end-of-year survey designed to measure students’ perceived readiness for college will enable counselors, teachers and administrators to better address student needs.

While a single school, student or parent cannot close the attainment gap, working together they will be able to provide much-needed assistance to every student who wishes to succeed in college.

Author: Bernadine Futrell

Director of Research

3 thoughts on “Closing the Attainment Gap”

  1. Oh my! Yay! Thank you for that shout out! I love you so much so proud of you and your blog, so encouraging!

  2. So true!
    One of my favorite academic support resources is Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and ADHD by Esther Minskoff and David Allsopp (Nov 1, 2002) — even though it lists two disabilities in the name, these strategies are wonderfully helpful for supporting academic success for lots of post-secondary students.
    My other favorite academic support resource is College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities: Strategies and Tips to Make the Most of Your College… by Cynthia Simpson and Vicky Spencer (May 1, 2009) — even though that lists a disability, it includes resources that would work for anyone to support comparing college supports that match needs.

    Access is not the same as success so we all need to work together to boost college success of underserved students!

  3. ETS also hosts an annual Achievement Gap Symposium. The topic for this summer’s ETS Achievement Gap Symposium is narrowing the achievement gap for African American males at the college level. That symposium is free and held in Washington D.C., but it fills up fast. If interested search the ETS site for Achievement Gap Symposium.

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