One of the best ways to measure the quality of an individual high school is to look at whether its graduates matriculate to and then graduate from college. There was no public data tool, however, in New York City that allows parents to learn how many students from a particular high school get to and through college—information that would ultimately enable them to make a more informed decision about where to enroll their child. We conceived of a project to address this because we had sought, without success, to have this data released by New York City governmental authorities, which possess the data.
We supported The Education Trust—New York (Ed Trust) to create a “To and Through” tool which revealed–for the first time–which New York City high schools are preparing students for college completion and made this information available to students, parents, policymakers, and the public in a user-friendly way. Modeled after the University of Chicago’s To & Through Project, it identifies key milestones, in particular college persistence and graduation, and then publicly reports on the data by high school.
Our project was designed to reframe college readiness around long-term student success outcomes and to identify key inflection points that enable student success with the goal of providing transparency and K-12 accountability.
Ed Trust, working with The Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), created a tool linked to the National Student Clearinghouse data that shows the percentage of students from every New York State high school who receive TAP funds (families earning under $80,000 per year) and who are attending both private and public New York universities, and persisting there.
We also supported Ed Trust to make the tool available through a partnership with one of the best resources for parents who seek information on schools in New York City – InsideSchools – and we supported the expansion of InsideSchools’ own data that is most useful to families.
As many as half of all low-income students do not apply to or attend selective institutions to which they appear to be admissible (based on their academic record) because, according to various indicators, they struggle with completing college and financial aid applications. In fact, a large percentage of Pell-eligible students do not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and thus do not receive any federal grant assistance. New York ranks behind ten other states and Washington, D.C. for FAFSA completion by high school seniors. Access to data and the ability to understand it underpins successful FAFSA completion efforts.
Another project we undertook with Ed Trust makes high schools’ FAFSA completion rates transparent and accessible, complementing our funding of the data tool (above) that links college success rates back to New York City high schools.
FAFSA tracker, also featured on InsideSchools, has become a go-to tool for schools, college advisors, school counselors, media, and policymakers and has raised awareness about the importance of FAFSA completion and the steps schools can take to support students and families through the process.
Ed Trust developed the data tool that shows the percentage of seniors with a completed FAFSA application in each public high school and school district in New York State. Users can see a school’s current FAFSA completion rate benchmarked against similar schools (based on share of low-income students) and top performers. Users can also see a school district’s current overall FAFSA completion rate and view the FAFSA completion rates of all schools in the district. This data spotlights success statewide and in each region of the state, with a focus on schools that serve a significant proportion of low-income students, and builds urgency and awareness around schools with low FAFSA completion rates.