Background/Context: Today we have moved from the debate of student opportunity to postsecondary educational setting to 100% access. That is, today’s high school settings have been charged with preparing “college ready” graduates. Educational policy has leveraged mandates and sanctions as a mechanism to improve college placement rates, especially in high schools with a high percentage of low-income students. However, little empirical evidence exists to assist us in understanding how college readiness is actualized for low-income students.
Focus of Study: The purpose of this study was to identify specific strategies that schools employ to raise college application and attendance rates for low-income students.
Research Design: This study investigated 18 College Board Inspiration Award winning or honorable mention high schools across the United States. Phone interviews with all 18 schools informed the selection of five case study high schools. Data collection included interviews and observations with high school educators, parents, students, and other community members.
Findings: In this study, we describe evidence within and across the five case schools using a framework that was generated from the first phase of this study. These schools effectively improved college readiness by developing collaborative practices around: (1) Program Management, (2) External Partnerships, (3) Leadership, (4) College-focused Intervention Strategies, (5) Achievement-oriented School Culture, (6) Parental Outreach, (7) Systemic, Multileveled Intervention Strategies, (8) Use of Data, (9) Development and Implementation of Inclusive School Policies, and (10) Routinizing or Offloading Routine or Mundane Tasks.
Conclusions/Implications: This study operationalizes what effective practices look like in high schools with low-income students. The findings move beyond normative models to be implemented across sites to illustrations of exemplar practices that can guide collaborative efforts to enact the specific tasks necessary to improve college readiness for students.