Press Release

Austin Chamber Partner School Districts Post Higher College Readiness Scores than State Average

Posted By Greater Austin Chamber | Nov 14, 2017
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Austin, Texas (Nov. 14, 2017) The Greater Austin Chamber today announced that more than half of high school graduates at five major Austin-area school districts participating in its nationally recognized education partnership program are ready for college, 17 percentage points higher than the state average.

The recent findings were released at the Chamber’s annual State of Education event. The Chamber’s partners include Austin, Hutto, Leander, Pflugerville and Round Rock Independent School Districts which represent about 14,000 high school seniors and 200,000 students. In addition, the Chamber provided several updates on its education programs including status of financial aid form filings in the region, a key indicator of direct-to-college success. Award recipients for top performing school districts/campuses can be found here and individuals recognized can be found here.

"In the face of lower Texas college readiness rates statewide, our (DTC70) Partnership school leaders deserve immense credit for their efforts to stem the tide. We also believe that due to their focus on helping our children achieve success, college readiness rates will bounce back here more quickly than other school districts across the state,” said Shaun Cranston, 2017 Greater Austin of Commerce Education Chair. “Indications are that is likely already the case for the Class of 2017 who graduated from our five school district partners."

Statewide, Texas college readiness rates for high school graduates plummeted from 54 percent to approximately 39 percent between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2016, while Chamber DTC70 Partners dropped from 63 percent to 56 percent, according to recently released data from the Texas Education Agency.   

The Chamber’s DTC70 Partners have taken deliberate actions to strengthen college readiness rates: 

  • Austin ISD students who are not college ready are identified and connected to free tutoring provided by Austin Partners in Education in an effort significantly funded by the Austin Chamber’s economic development arm, Opportunity Austin.
  • Leander and Hutto ISDs connect students to free online resources to help them improve performance on SAT and ACT assessments; Leander also offers easy-to-access ACT and SAT testing during the school day for all high school juniors. 
  • Round Rock ISD offers SAT school day testing for all juniors and pays for The Official SAT Online Course, offering interactive lessons, official practice tests, sample essays, auto essay scoring and personalized score reports.
  • Hutto, AISD, and Round Rock ISDs continued to provide support to recent graduates over the summer, including offering TSI assessments to ensure students have a last chance to demonstrate college readiness prior to enrolling in college.
  • Pflugerville ISD offers ACT school day testing for all juniors, pays for initial TSI testing for students who don’t demonstrate readiness on the ACT or SAT, and assigns students to teacher-led classes to help them become college-ready if they are not. 

“We remain focused on ensuring our students are prepared for college and careers once they graduate,” said Dr. Paul Cruz, Superintendent of Austin Independent School District. “It is our job to prepare students to reach their higher educational goals. College readiness is a key part of their success. We are so proud of the Class of 2017 and will continue to improve outcomes for our current seniors.”

"We know being college ready means our students have the knowledge and skills to succeed once they graduate high school," said Dr. Dan Troxell, Superintendent of Leander Independent School District. "Many careers require a post-secondary education.  We want to ensure all students can access those opportunities after graduation."

UT-Ray Marshall Center Research on Why College Readiness is Important to Student Success

DTC70 partners work with researchers at the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin to study educational attainment of students based on correlations between college enrollment, persistence, and completion, then work on interventions to improve direct college enrollment up to the national average of 70 percent.

Recent UT-Ray Marshall Center research presented at the State of Education, demonstrates that college-ready high school graduates:

  • persist into a second year of post-secondary enrollment at a rate of 86 percent compared to 69 percent for their non-college ready peers;
  • earn a college degree within 6 years at a 48 percent rate compared to 18 percent of those who don’t meet the state’s college-ready standards, for the graduating class of 2010. 

"DTC70 school districts engage in numerous efforts to ensure students are college ready," said Dr. Greg Cumpton, Associate Director of the UT-Ray Marshall Center. "Being college ready significantly improves the odds of enrolling in, persisting and completing college within a reasonable time period."

Class of 2017 Preliminary Findings

Austin, Hutto, Leander, Pflugerville and Round Rock school districts – who together educate approximately 14,000 high school seniors and 200,000 students – also achieved a preliminary 58 percent college readiness rate for Class of 2017 graduates, based upon performance on state benchmarks on ACT, SAT or the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA). These exams measure whether 2017 high school graduates have learned the math and grammar content and writing skills to enroll in college-level credit bearing courses. Comparable state data is not expected to be available from the Texas Education Agency or non-DTC70 Partners for months.

Additional Announcements at State of Education

The Chamber also highlighted new details and data on programs:

  • For the current high school Class of 2018, DTC70 Partners can now track near real-time status on whether each high school senior in Austin, Hutto, Leander, Round Rock and Pflugerville is college/career ready. 
  • Through October 27, more than one-quarter of the current Class of 2018 seniors from DTC70 school districts had submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The Chamber and its partners have sponsored 23 financial aid events since October 1 to assist the Class of 2018.
  • UT-Ray Marshall Center research demonstrated low-income high school graduates who are fully college ready and who have completed the FAFSA are three times more likely to graduate college within six years, 49% compared to only 15% for the2010 high school graduating class. 

College Readiness Background

Between 2008 and 2014, Texas graduates were considered college-ready based on their performance against college readiness benchmarks established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on one of the following assessments: ACT, SAT, TSIA or the exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. All non-"life skills" students in Texas were required to take and pass each section of the TAKS assessment to graduate. Under state law, this practice ended with the Class of 2014.

With passage of HB5 in 2013, beginning with the Class of 2015, high school students were required to take a combination of 9th and 10th grade level State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness end-of-course exams. None of the required STAAR end-of-course exams have state college-ready benchmarks. Students can still demonstrate college readiness by meeting or exceeding benchmarks established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on the ACT, SAT or TSIA.

The following chart is based upon Texas Education Agency data for the Classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the DTC70 Partnership preliminary data for the Class of 2017.  This demonstrates improvement in college readiness rates for the DTC70 Partnership year over year.

College Readiness Outcomes for DTC70 Partnership vs. State 2014 - 2017
DISTRICT PERCENTAGE COLLEGE READY IN MATH & ELA 2014* PERCENTAGE COLLEGE READY IN MATH & ELA 2015** PERCENTAGE COLLEGE READY IN MATH & ELA 2016** PERCENTAGE COLLEGE READY IN MATH & ELA 2017***
Austin ISD 62% 49% 56% 54%
Hutto ISD 47% 36% 39% 34%
Leander ISD 69% 63% 64% 67%
Pflugerville ISD 48% 35% 43% 49%
Round Rock ISD 70% 61% 58% 63%
DTC70 TOTAL 63% 53% 56% 58%
TEXAS TOTAL 54% 35% 39% (2016 Rate Used as Placeholder)
Percentage Points DTC70 Partnership Above State Average 9% 18% 17% 19%

Source and Methodology:

*For 2014, the college-ready rate reflects the percentage of graduates that met or exceeded the college ready criteria on the TAKS exit-level test, the SAT test, or   the ACT test. The college-ready bench marks for 2014-2016 are accessible on the Texas Education Agency's Texas Academic Performance Reports for 2014.

**For 2015 and 2016-College Ready-Graduates are defined as the percentage of annual graduates that meet or exceed the college-ready criteria on the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA), the SAT test, or the ACT test. These benchmarks are accessible on the Texas Education Agency's Texas Academic Performance Reports for here for 2015 and here for 2016.

***Preliminary college readiness assessment data for Graduating Class of 2017 as of 10/11/17. Methodology: College-ready rates reflect the percentage of the graduating class who met Texas Success Initiative (TSI) benchmarks in both reading and math across ACT, SAT, or the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA). TSI benchmarks are set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and indicate student readiness to enroll in credit bearing courses at the postsecondary level. THECB college-ready benchmarks for the ACT, SAT, and the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) are hyperlinked here for the ACT and SAT and here for the TSIA.

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About the Greater Austin Chamber
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas.  Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous economy and effective advocacy for members. For more information, please visit AustinChamber.com.

Media Inquiries:
Luke Sheffield, Public Relations Manager
Austin Chamber of Commerce
512.322.5637
lsheffield@austinchamber.com

Greater Austin Chamber

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas. Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for members.