The Forgotten Middle. research readiness results. Executive Summary

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1 The Forgotte Middle Esurig that All Studets Are o Target for College ad Career Readiess before High School Executive Summary Today, college readiess also meas career readiess. While ot every high school graduate plas to atted college, the majority of the fastest-growig jobs that require a high school diploma, pay a salary above the poverty lie for a family of four, ad provide opportuities for career advacemet require kowledge ad skills comparable to those expected of the first-year college studet. ACT data show that fewer tha two i te eighth graders are o target to be ready for college-level work by the time they graduate from high school. This meas that more tha eight of te eighth-grade studets do ot have the kowledge ad skills they eed to eter high school ad succeed there. Ad ot surprisigly, our research shows that studets who are ot prepared for high school are less likely tha other studets to be prepared for college ad career by the time they graduate from high school. So although the gates of high school are techically ope to all studets, for more tha 8 percet of them, the door to their futures may already be closed. I recet years, there has bee heighteed awareess of the importace of early childhood educatio ad high school as itervetio poits i the educatioal lives of America s childre. Less attetio, it seems, has bee paid to the importace of the upper elemetary grades ad middle school ad the role they must play i the preparatio of studets for life after high school. The results of The Forgotte Middle suggest that, i the curret educatioal eviromet, there is a critical defiig poit for studets i the college ad career readiess process oe so importat that, if studets are ot o target for college ad career readiess by the time they reach this poit, the impact may be early irreversible. We must therefore also focus o gettig more studets o target for college ad career readiess by the ed of eighth grade, so that they are prepared to maximize the beefits of high school. Moreover, this research shows that, uder curret coditios, the level of academic achievemet that studets attai by eighth grade has a larger impact o their college ad career readiess by the time they graduate from high school tha aythig that happes academically i high school. This report also reveals that studets academic readiess for college ad career ca be improved whe studets develop behaviors i the upper elemetary grades ad i middle school that are kow to cotribute to successful academic performace. The implicatio is clear: if we wat ot merely to improve but to maximize the college ad career readiess of U.S. studets, we eed to itervee ot oly durig high school but before high school, i the upper elemetary grades ad i middle school. research readiess results

2 The Research Study This study had four purposes. First, we wated to examie i greater depth the factors that ifluece college ad career readiess. I doig so, we wated to idetify those factors that are the most effective predictors of college ad career readiess from middle school to high school. Secod, we wated to examie the effect that certai steps to improve studets level of academic preparatio would have o their degree of readiess for college ad career. Third, we wated to examie the academic growth of these studets durig high school. Fourth, we wated to examie the ifluece o their readiess of studet behaviors related to academic performace. Our fidigs are summarized below. Eighth-Grade Academic Achievemet Is the Best Predictor of College ad Career Readiess by High School Graduatio We costructed predictive models to examie the relative stregths of six factors i ifluecig studets college readiess, as defied by their performace o the ACT test: Backgroud characteristics geder, race/ethicity, paret educatioal level, aual family icome, primary laguage spoke at home Eighth-grade achievemet ACT test scores i relevat subject areas Stadard high school coursework highest level of oadvaced, o-hoors take i relevat subject areas Advaced/hoors high school coursework accelerated, hoors, or Advaced Placemet i relevat subject areas High school grade poit average self-reported grade average for take i relevat subject areas Studet testig behaviors whether studets retook the ACT, whether studets provided updated coursework ad grade iformatio if retestig, age ad grade level at time of testig. Because studet testig behaviors are the result of studet decisios about whether, whe, ad how ofte to take the ACT, these behaviors reflect traits such as motivatio ad studets self-perceptios about their academic abilities. The predictive models showed that eighth-grade achievemet (as measured by the four scores i Eglish, Mathematics, Readig, ad Sciece) displays a stroger relatioship with college ad career readiess tha does ay other factor. This meas that eighth-grade achievemet is the best predictor of studets ultimate level of college ad career readiess by high school graduatio eve more tha studets family backgroud, high school coursework, or high school grade poit average. Compared to eighth-grade academic achievemet, the predictive power of each of the other factors we examied was small, ad i some cases egligible. Improvemet i Eighth-Grade Academic Achievemet ad Beig o Target for College ad Career Readiess i Eighth Grade Are More Beeficial Tha Ay High School Level Academic Ehacemet We examied the impact of a variety of steps studets could take to improve their college readiess durig high school, icludig: Maitaiig a B average i relevat stadard high school Earig higher grades i relevat stadard high school Takig a core curriculum i relevat subject areas i high school (for Mathematics ad Sciece oly) Takig additioal stadard i relevat subject areas i high school (for Mathematics ad Sciece oly) Takig advaced or hoors i relevat subject areas i high school (if ot already take) Meetig College Readiess Bechmarks 2 i all four subject areas i eighth grade Icreasig scores 2 poits i each subject area i eighth grade The core curriculum i was defied as Algebra I, Geometry, ad Algebra II; i sciece, the core curriculum was defied as Biology ad Chemistry. For Eglish ad Readig, there was ot eough variatio i studets coursework patters to permit meaigful ehacemets with regard to takig either the core curriculum or additioal stadard (see ext bullet). This is likely because high schools typically require all studets to take the same Eglish ad may of the same social studies. 2 ACT has developed College Readiess Bechmark scores o to idetify studets who are o target to be ready for college-level coursework i Eglish,, sciece, ad social sciece by the time they graduate from high school. 2

3 The figures below ad o the followig page show the additioal percetages of studets who would meet the ACT College Readiess Bechmarks 3 i each subject area if the studets took each of the seve steps idepedetly of the others. As the figures show, beig o target for college ad career readiess i the eighth grade ad improvig the college ad career readiess skills that studets possess by grade 8 have the most dramatic impact o high school graduates ultimate level of college ad career readiess. This impact is much larger tha that associated with ay sigle high school level ehacemet. These results, however, should ot be iterpreted to mea that high school level ehacemets have little or o beefit for studets. Rather, of the factors studied, modest icreases i studets level of academic achievemet by the eighth grade ad beig o target for college ad career readiess i the eighth grade had the greatest relative impact o college ad career readiess i grade or 2. Icreases i ACT College Readiess Bechmark Attaimet Associated with Various Academic Itervetios 2 Percetage-Poit Icrease i ACT Eglish Bechmark Attaimet Maitai B average i stadard Eglish ad social studies Icrease stadard Eglish ad social studies course grades oe letter advaced/hoors Eglish ad social studies Meet all four Bechmarks Icrease all four scores 2 poits Eglish 3 The College Readiess Bechmark scores o the ACT idetify studets who are ready for college-level coursework. 3

4 2 Percetage-Poit Icrease i ACT Mathematics Bechmark Attaimet 2 Maitai B average i stadard ad sciece 7 Icrease stadard ad sciece course grades oe letter core curriculum i ad sciece 8 additioal stadard ad sciece 6 advaced/ hoors ad sciece 9 Meet all four Bechmarks 3 Icrease all four scores 2 poits Mathematics 2 Percetage-Poit Icrease i ACT Readig Bechmark Attaimet Maitai B average i stadard Eglish ad social studies Icrease stadard Eglish ad social studies course grades oe letter advaced/hoors Eglish ad social studies Meet all four Bechmarks Icrease all four scores 2 poits Readig 2 Percetage-Poit Icrease i ACT Sciece Bechmark Attaimet Maitai B average i stadard ad sciece 3 3 Icrease stadard ad sciece course grades oe letter core curriculum i ad sciece additioal stadard ad sciece 2 advaced/ hoors ad sciece 7 Meet all four Bechmarks 3 Icrease all four scores 2 poits Sciece 4

5 The icreases i Bechmark attaimet associated with higher scores ad meetig all four College Readiess Bechmarks were up to three times the size of the largest icrease associated with ay sigle high school level academic ehacemet. Beig o Target for College ad Career Readiess i Eighth Grade Puts Studets o a Trajectory for Success Because the data for the sample used i this study raged from the eighth to the twelfth grade for the same group of studets, we were able to examie the rate of growth i studets achievemet through high school. We examied growth amog three categories of studets i our sample: those who were o target for college ad career readiess i the eighth grade, those who just missed beig o target for college ad career readiess (i.e., by two or fewer score poits), ad those who were more substatially off target (i.e., by more tha two score poits). O average, oly the group of studets who were o target for college ad career readiess by the eighth grade were ultimately ready for college ad career by the eleveth or twelfth grade. Eve the group of studets who just missed beig o target i eighth grade fell short, o average, of becomig ready for college ad career by the time they reached grade or 2. This was true i each of the four subject areas (the results for Mathematics appear i the figure below). Mathematics Test Score Average Scores for 2 Sample (All Studets) Mathematics Bechmark: 7 Met/exceeded Bechmark Etire sample Withi 2 poits of Bechmark More tha 2 poits from Bechmark PLAN Mathematics ACT ACT Mathematics Bechmark: 22 Oce agai, if studets are o target to be ready for college ad career i the eighth grade, their chaces of beig ready for college ad career by high school graduatio are substatially icreased. Improvig Certai Behaviors of Middle School Studets Particularly Academic Disciplie Ca Help Improve Studets Readiess for College ad Career Academic achievemet is oly part of what studets eed i order to be ready for college ad career. Studet readiess is also iflueced by their psychosocial (that is, psychological ad social) developmet, so we examied the role that academically related behaviors play i predictig two importat idicators of studets future academic success: course failure i grade 8 ad high school grade poit average i grade 9. Failig a course is a strog predictor of droppig out of high school, ad our fidigs suggest that two academic behaviors we studied had a substatial impact o whether a course was failed i grade 8: academic disciplie (i.e., good work ad study habits, such as cosistetly completig homework) ad orderly coduct. We also examied how academic behaviors affect grade poit average i ith grade because grade poit average ot oly predicts future academic performace but also ca be used to idetify studets who are at high risk of experiecig academic difficulty. We foud that three academic behaviors had a impact: academic disciplie, orderly coduct, ad havig positive relatioships with school persoel. Middle school studets who demostrate those behaviors that ehace academic achievemet are more likely to perform well academically i high school ad be ready for college ad career by the ed of high school, tha middle school studets who do ot demostrate these behaviors. By cosiderig these behaviors alog with academic achievemet, educators ca more accurately idetify studets who are i greatest eed of itervetios to prevet them from failig ad droppig out of school, thus icreasig the likelihood that these studets will graduate from high school ready for college ad career.

6 Recommedatios for Improvig College ad Career Readiess Requirig high school studets to take ad pass more challegig ad to ear higher grades, ad workig with teachers ad admiistrators to improve the rigor of high school curricula, are importat strategies for achievig the broad goal of improvig the college ad career readiess of our high school graduates. But the results of the research preseted i The Forgotte Middle suggest that we caot expect such activities i ad of themselves to chage the picture of college ad career readiess amog our studets util more of them are ready to lear the cotet of rigorous high school. I the curret educatioal eviromet, the majority of studets i the eighth grade will likely ot beefit eough from high school level ehacemets to be prepared for college ad career by the time they graduate from high school, so we must also focus o gettig more studets o target for college ad career readiess by the ed of eighth grade so that they are prepared to maximize the beefits of high school. Ultimately, we must reduce the umber of studets who are seriously uderprepared by the ed of middle school, which will require itervetios well before grade 8. Furthermore, if we ca improve studets academic skills before grade 8, the the other, high school level ehacemets will be far more effective. Makig sure that all eighth-grade studets have attaied the kowledge ad skills that put them o target to becomig ready for college ad career is the sigle most importat step that ca be take to improve their college ad career readiess. Give the results of this study about the relatioship amog high school academic readiess, high school academic success, ad college academic readiess, we offer the followig recommedatios to improve academic achievemet ad college ad career readiess amog our atio s high school graduates:. Focus K 8 stadards o the kowledge ad skills that are essetial for college ad career readiess, ad make these oegotiable for all studets. A key focus for the upper elemetary grades ad middle school should be to prepare studets for the high school curriculum by focusig o the attaimet of foudatioal skills i Eglish compositio,, readig, ad sciece the essetial skills for college ad career readiess by the ed of high school. Give the crucial importace of pre high school academic achievemet level o studets evetual level of college ad career readiess, it is o loger acceptable for oly some studets to possess these skills. Mastery of these foudatioal skills must therefore become a oegotiable prerequisite for etry ito high school. The Forgotte Middle idetifies the essetial kowledge ad skills i Eglish,, readig, ad sciece that studets eed by the ed of eighth grade if they are to be o target for college ad career readiess. 2. Moitor studet progress i becomig ready for college ad career, ad itervee with studets who are ot o track to becomig ready, begiig i upper elemetary school ad cotiuig through middle school. College ad career readiess is a process, ot a poit i time. It is therefore importat to view the process of preparig studets for college ad career as oe that ecompasses all of K 2. If studets are to have a fightig chace of beig ready for college-level coursework by the time they graduate from high school, their progress must be moitored so that deficiecies i their foudatioal skills ca be idetified early i the upper elemetary grades ad at the start of middle school ad itervetios ca be made. While itervetio is ot the sole solutio to the college ad career readiess problem, it is a key elemet i guarateeig that these studets will have the skills they eed to graduate from high school ready to succeed i college. 3. Improve studets academic behaviors. Couterproductive studet behaviors that lead to puttig off academic work ca become habitual. Ufortuately, may studets will ot realize the cosequeces util much later, whe they drop out of high school, drop out of college, or fid themselves stuck i a urewardig ad low-payig career as adults. The earlier a studet develops importat academically related psychosocial behaviors (such as academic disciplie) that cotribute to college ad career readiess, the more likely those behaviors are to become habitual. Ad these are also the same behaviors that are coducive to career success. Educators eed to moitor, diagose, ad improve studets academic disciplie durig the upper elemetary ad middle school years. 4. Icrease federal ad state support for schools to implemet itervetio programs that help all studets become ready for college ad career. Policymakers should icrease support for schools to implemet itervetios desiged to brig studets with academic deficiecies back o target for college ad career readiess. This support should focus o both icreasig academic preparatio ad improvig academic behaviors that research shows support studet success. 6

7 Coclusio Eighth-grade studets who are ot o target for college ad career readiess face severe academic obstacles i high school ad are substatially more likely to be uprepared for college ad career whe they graduate tha studets who are o target to become ready for college ad career i the eighth grade. At a time whe fewer tha two i te eighth graders are o target to be ready for college-level coursework by the time they graduate from high school, it is crucial that we itervee with the studets i the Forgotte Middle the upper elemetary grades ad middle school to esure that they eter high school ready to beefit from high school coursework. The process of preparig studets to make successful trasitios from middle school to high school is just as importat as the process of preparig them to make successful trasitios from high school to postsecodary educatio. Obstacles to college ad career readiess must be met head o. We ca take the steps ecessary to esure that every studet lears the essetial skills ecessary to hadle the rigorous high school coursework that prepares them for college ad career. Let s make these skills oegotiable miimum stadards for all K 8 studets. They deserve it. Visit ForgotteMiddle.html to read the full Forgotte Middle policy report. 7

8 ACT Drive P.O. Box 68 Iowa City, IA / by ACT, Ic. All rights reserved. The ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Ic., i the U.S.A. ad other coutries. 649 *8C6A* Rev

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