schoohouse4Data is the driver. A planned workforce is the destination.

The Missouri P20 Data Council, made up of: the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the Missouri Department of Higher Education; the State Board of Education; the Coordinating Board for Higher Education; the Coordinating Board for Early Education; and the Missouri Department of Economic Development, has the goal of  positioning the state “as having a world- class education system that adequately prepares Missouri students, the emerging workforce, for family-supporting career opportunities that await them in the New Economy.” The “new economy” they refer to is the high-tech, innovation economy which will require math and science as the core competencies.

A report from the P20 Council provides these mind blowing conclusions based on analysis of numerous linked databases such as the Missouri Student Information System (MOSIS), Enhanced Missouri Student Achievement Study (EMSAS), Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), ACT assessment, A+ data files, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC)  Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records datasets and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC):

  • Low-income students in Missouri that completed an ACT assessment were less likely to enroll in higher education compared to Missouri students with higher family income levels. Only 22.4% of Missouri 2008 high school exiters who completed an ACT assessment who were eligible for free or reduced price lunch enrolled in higher education in 2008-09.
  • A+ eligibility contributed to greatly increased chances for college attendance for populations that normally would be less likely to attend. Although 24.8% high school graduates that completed an ACT assessment completed requirements for A+ eligibility, they made up 47.0% of students enrolling in college.
  • Missouri high school students in the linked records that completed an ACT assessment who completed a college preparatory certificate were significantly less likely to enroll in remedial college courses the following fall. For 2008-09 Missouri higher education institutions, only 7.9% of all enrollees in remedial classes had completed the high school college preparatory certification the previous spring.
  • Only 2% of Missouri high school graduates students in the linked records that completed an ACT assessment enrolled in higher education and were determined by ACT to be college ready (as defined by having an ACT Math sub score of 21 or greater) were enrolled in remedial math coursework compared to 38% of those below a 21, and 48% of those without an ACT score.
  • For Missouri graduates of 4-year public institutions, those that graduate with METS-related degree enjoy higher wages in the fall following graduation than many of their counterparts with non-METS-related degrees.
  • Male college graduates earn more than their female counterparts after graduation in 17 out of 20 industry sectors. The gender wage disparity for college graduates is largest in Manufacturing, Information Services, and Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services.
  • Of the most popular Bachelor’s degree programs (by highest number of graduates) 17 out of 20 subject areas the same for both male and female completers, with Business Management the most popular for both genders. However, in only 8 of the 26 different types of Bachelor’s degrees do female graduates earn more than their male counterparts after graduation.

So we now know that students from poor families tend not to go to college, even if they take the ACT. The report doesn’t tell us why because they didn’t have that information in any of the databases. For instance we don’t know what the average ACT score was for those low income kids so we don’t know if they were really qualified to go to college. We don’t know if they couldn’t afford to go to college or if they chose to stay home to get a job to help with family finances. What education policy will be developed from this partial information?

Students who graduate from a designated A+ qualified high school may qualify for  a state-paid financial incentive to attend any public community college or career/technical school in Missouri. They must meet these criterion to access that financial aid:  (1) enter into a written agreement with the high school prior to graduation, (2) attend a designated school for three consecutive years immediately prior to graduation, (3) graduate with an overall GPA of 2.5 points or higher on a 4-point scale (editors note: this will have to either be modified by the state for schools converting to standards based grading or those schools will have to continue maintaining a dual grading system), (4) have an overall attendance rate of at least 95 percent for grades 9-12, (5) perform 50 hours of district-supervised, unpaid tutoring or mentoring, (6) maintain a record of good citizenship and avoid the use of drugs and alcohol. The only characteristic of this type of student that would make them “normally be less likely to attend” college would be a lack of financial ability to do so. Otherwise the program selects for highly motivated, self controlled students with a modicum of intelligence and a good set of values. Is it really a revelation that these students, once you give them the money, do go on to get some college instruction? Is the program working, or has its effectiveness as a sorting tool simply been demonstrated?

A similar conclusion can be reached about Missouri’s college preparatory studies certificate (CPSC) being an effective tool for determining college readiness.  In 1994, the State Board of Education revised its requirements for the CPSC in order to align with the “Core Curriculum” standards recommended by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education as a basis for college admissions in Missouri. Colleges set their admissions requirements and the CPSC qualifications were written to align with those requirements. Voila, students who get a CPSC did not need remedial course work. Was this a surprise to anyone?

Students who didn’t take or scored very low on the ACT required a lot of remedial course work in college.  Is there anyone out there who couldn’t figure out if you scored low on a college admissions exam you would need extra support in college level coursework, core or otherwise? The ACT is national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, math science and reading. Therefore, if you earn a low score on it, it is unlikely you are prepared for the rigor of college. It has a pretty good track record of being able to successfully predict which students are ready for college. The 48% who didn’t take it probably already had a good idea that they were not college material. Since 2006 the percentage of the whole population who successfully complete a college degree is only between 25-30%. Any surprise that a large portion of the high school graduating population would need extra help to get through any of those subjects if they were admitted to college?

People with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math earn more than people with degrees in other fields. This is true, but they only account for 5% of the total workforce according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. If we boost the number of people going into those fields, according to the principle of supply and demand, what is going to happen to the earning potential in those fields? More people competing for those jobs means its an employer’s market which means people with those degrees will earn less. Good for the state to attract those rising business sectors. Not as good for the workers in the long run.

The last two points deal with earnings differences for the sexes. I’d like to know what educational policy they are going to come up with the address that inequality.

The report concludes: “Continuation of this type of workgroup to discuss issues such as data, policy, access, data repositories/warehouse functionality will provide for a useful and supported longitudinal data system. This project has provided an opportunity—a learning experience—which can be transferred to the implementation of a longitudinal data system.” For now, it appears the P20 council is only worried about its own perpetuation and the continued existence of a longitudinal data system. They have proven that they can link data and see trends. Whether the information gathered is useful or worth the expense has yet to be proven.




Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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