Transitions to Postsecondary

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With job demands continuing to increase, more workers will need some type of postsecondary education and training. By 2020, postsecondary education or training will be required by 62% of jobs in Kentucky. High-quality postsecondary education opportunities in Kentucky must be inclusive of all students, and Kentucky should ensure that all students are prepared for, have knowledge of, and are encouraged to pursue opportunities through postsecondary education pathways.

Unfortunately, the transition from high school to postsecondary education is rocky for many students. Achievement gaps remain despite recent gains in the college readiness of Kentucky high school graduates. Overall, college readiness rates grew from 34% in 2010 to 55% in 2017. But only 33% of African American students, 45% of Hispanic students, and 42% of students from families with low incomes achieved college-ready status in 2017. This means traditional college entrance exams leave many students behind and are growing inadequate for determining admission.

Despite the fact that more students were ready for college, the number of students actually going to college in Kentucky has declined from 55.5% in 2010 to 53.5% in 2014. Similarly, recent research by the Strategic Data Project at Harvard University, in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Center for Statistics, have focused on the entirety of the college-going pathway, beginning in the ninth grade. Their analysis found that for every 100 Kentucky ninth graders, 45 seamlessly transitioned to college upon graduating, while only 34 persisted into their second year.

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As outlined by the Prichard Committee in Pursuit of Excellence: Principles to Guide Kentucky’s Future Postsecondary Success, improved practices that help ensure students are prepared and encouraged to transition and persist in postsecondary education can lead to greater levels of student success. We are developing a Postsecondary Transitions Blueprint that will elevate best practices and policies that ensure every student can progress and successfully transition to postsecondary education, with an emphasis on increasing equity and closing achievement gaps. This tool will be designed to help education leaders and community members build awareness and impact practice by illuminating key data and telling success stories of high-performing schools. The Postsecondary Transitions Blueprint will also highlight evidence-based policies and practices, including:

  • Maintaining rigorous academic standards that clearly establish what students should know and be able to do to achieve postsecondary readiness.
  • Encouraging greater college going and persistence.
  • Ensuring that high-quality early postsecondary opportunities and career pathways are available to all students.
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Parents and community members should work closely with school leaders and teachers to ensure all students are prepared for, have knowledge of, and are encouraged to pursue opportunities through postsecondary education pathways. Important questions to ask include:

  • Do all students have access to rigorous courses needed to prepare them for postsecondary education?
  • Are all students provided with advising and support to explore career options based on their skills and interest? How can parents and community members help in this process?
  • Do all students have opportunities for early postsecondary education such as dual credit and Advanced Placement courses?