News: NCAN News

NCAN Releases Report Highlighting Big Ideas for Changing K-12 Advising

Monday, March 2, 2020  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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For two years, NCAN’s work with 20 school districts and partner organizations during the To & Through Advising Challenge yielded important lessons and insights about the work of transforming postsecondary advising in K-12 systems. Last week, with the release of “The Data that Matter and the Plans that Work: New Districtwide Approaches to Student Success Beyond High School” NCAN shared the stories of five To & Through organizations using big ideas to transform postsecondary advising and improve student outcomes.

The report’s release came at an event at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which also made this work possible) in Washington, D.C., that featured panels of practitioners and coaches who have been deeply engaged in this work across the country.

The report profiles five organization: AchieveMpls (Minnesota); Broward County (Florida) Public Schools; Jefferson County (Alabama) Schools; the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, and Sacramento City (California) Unified School District.

The Advising Challenge places its best around four key high-leverage practices:

  1. Incorporating fit and academic match concepts into postsecondary advising.
  2. Increasing FAFSA completion and reducing the effects of FAFSA verification.
  3. Combating summer melt and making sure students who intended to matriculate actually do.
  4. The use of postsecondary outcomes data to spur buy-in and change and guide practice.

This last practice, the use of data, especially data from the National Student Clearinghouse, received a lot of attention in both the report and at the event.

“The real data on students’ postsecondary outcomes are affordable, accessible, and unfortunately underutilized. If harnessed for advising high school students before graduation, these data could significantly change the approach to preparing students for college and career success across the country,” the report notes.

In a survey with a nationally representative sample of school leaders, the RAND Corporation found that just 33% of principals reported having access to student-level postsecondary enrollment rates. Just 25% of those principals reported having student-level data on the completion rates of the colleges and universities to which students were applying.

“You can’t do better if you don’t know better,” Dr. Yolanda Johnson, the executive officer for student services at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Public Schools, noted during last Thursday’s event about data’s eye-opening impact.

The report offers short profiles about each organization’s “big idea” for its work. Those ideas include:

  • Grounding stakeholder engagement (especially among students) and changes to practice and curriculum within a communitywide communications campaign around changing perceptions of what college is and can be.
  • Harnessing the power of National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data to create counselor resources and strategies for improving postsecondary fit and match for students.
  • Adding specialized personnel and use peer mentoring to assist school counselors and improve students’ postsecondary outcomes.
  • Leveraging the partnership of a college access program to provide districtwide support.
  • Employing letters to inform students and families about their best fit postsecondary options.

Rather than representing a coda to the To & Through Advising Challenge work, the report’s release instead marks the beginning of a new chapter in NCAN’s work on assisting K-12 stakeholders with transforming postsecondary outcomes.

What readers of the report hopefully take away from it is that there are a lot of great ways to transform postsecondary advising. This work doesn’t look the same everywhere, and districts should find their own right approach. Beyond that, there are resources and organizations out there in the field to support this work. NCAN and our members are some of them, but there are so many others whose partnership will be key. Schools and districts don’t need to reinvent the wheel if they aren’t prepared to. NCAN, the organizations involved in the To & Through Advising Challenge, and the postsecondary attainment field more broadly want to share those lessons and resources and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Want to share the word about the report more broadly? Check out NCAN’s handy social media toolkit.