Predicting College Success

I spent my morning analyzing the grades of the sixty-seven juniors and seniors who dual enrolled from my school this past semester. Of the 464 college credits attempted, 440 were earned, giving us a pass rate just a hair under ninety-five percent. Half the group had a college GPA above a 3.43. I'd say this is pretty good news for our first cohort of New Tech students taking college classes.

One of the goals of my analysis was to assess how well we predicted college readiness amongst these young advanced students. While only four of the sixty-seven students who dual enrolled experienced failure, some students still performed worse than expected. Pushing students to college too early could potentially blemish their college transcript. Defining "ready" has therefore become a really big deal.

Aligning our thinking with both our college partner and the state, we placed the greatest weight on students' college entrance exam scores last year. In deciding who got to go, we let test scores trump all other valid readiness indicators such as high school GPA, teacher perception, etc.

So, how did that work out for us?

The worst predictor of student success for us was their score earned on the COMPASS, taken by our current juniors who had not yet taken the ACT. The COMPASS is used by our community college partner to place students into courses at appropriate levels. For us, it turned out that the COMPASS provided only a minor ability to predict college success (r=0.25).

The correlation between student COMPASS scores and college GPA was a low r=+0.25.

The correlation between student COMPASS scores and college GPA was a low r=+0.25.

Coming in second was the ACT assessment, taken by all juniors in the state of Michigan. The ACT proved to be a fair predictor of college success (r=0.44).

The correlation between student ACT scores and college GPA was a moderate r=+0.44.

The correlation between student ACT scores and college GPA was a moderate r=+0.44.

The best predictor of college success turned out to be student GPA (r=0.76).

The correlation between student high school GPA and college GPA was a high r=+0.74.

The correlation between student high school GPA and college GPA was a high r=+0.74.

While the state of Michigan allows schools to use varied methods of determining college readiness before allowing students to dual enroll, it is interesting that they will not not allow GPA be a primary determining factor, given it's apparent ability to correctly predict student success.

What we will most likely do in the future, given this data, is create a single numerical value for each student that takes into account their college entrance exam score and their high school GPA. This would appear to provide some additional predictive ability (r=+0.82 to r=+0.86) not possible using test scores alone.

UPDATE—January 30, 2015: Looking at this with fresh eyes, I think it's important to point out that we used the minimum COMPASS and ACT scores required for college-level coursework placement with our community college partner as our cutoff for allowing students to dual enroll. We did not use the state minimum scores, which are higher. It is logical that using the higher scores would have increased these assessments' predictive ability. We are choosing to use the lower scores to increase access with the hope of keeping risk to a minimum for our students.

We Still Don't Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation

Ron Ashkenas, writing for Harvard Business Review:

Unlike change management, [transformation] doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly, the overall goal of transformation is not just to execute a defined change — but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future. It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk. And even if successful change management leads to the execution of certain initiatives within the transformation portfolio, the overall transformation could still fail.

While his audience is clearly the business community, the above statement speaks volumes to educators just the same.

A Teenager's View on Social Media

Insightful article by "actual teen," Andrew Watts:

If I could break down a party for you in social media terms, here’s how it would pan out:

  • You post yourself getting ready for the party, going to the party, having fun at the party, leaving at the end of the party, and waking up the morning after the party on Snapchat.
  • On Facebook you post the cute, posed pictures you took with your friends at the party with a few candids (definitely no alcohol in these photos).
  • On Instagram you pick the cutest one of the bunch to post to your network.

Snapchat is where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity. Without the constant social pressure of a follower count or Facebook friends, I am not constantly having these random people shoved in front of me. Instead, Snapchat is a somewhat intimate network of friends who I don't care if they see me at a party having fun.

Five Rules for Getting Things Done as a Principal

One of the more challenging aspects of school administration is undoubtably managing your time and attention. Between the emails, phone calls, texts, memos, agendas, and chats in the hall, demand always seems to be greater than supply. Handling all those inputs requires a great deal of skill — one in which I am definitely still learning and think about a lot.

The following "rules" represent what I've learned it takes to accomplish daily tasks as a high school principal. My thinking has been influenced largely by David Allen's treatise on personal productivity, Getting Things Done.

Rule 1. View yourself and your management of time, tasks and things as a system.

Systems produce the result they produce because they are designed that way; there are no excuses for systems. If you regularly fail to keep commitments that you make – to yourself or others – then your system has a design flaw requiring increased attention. It's not personal and it's certainly not "the nature of the work." It's a flaw that requires intentional thinking and planning to remedy.

Rule 2: Capture your ideas, next actions, and commitments as they come into your system.

Stop relying on your brain to capture what you think and need to do. It will fail you every time. Decide on the specific tools and methods you will employ to capture this information and get dicsiplined about using them everywhere without exception.

Rule 3: Make time daily to process and organize everything you capture.

You must decide what work must be done the next day, week, month, or year. For me, this almost always occurs between the hours of 9pm and 7am, when I'm not at work and have enough time and space away to think about what needs to be done. Without this time, you're efforts to capture what's coming into your system will be fruitless and what you inevitibly do will be absent the type of intentionality that leads to meeting your goals.

Rule 4: Crank through your next actions and commitments each day.

Procrastination is not your friend. Be honest with yourself about what can be done and do the work. If an urgent event demands your attend – because it will – regroup and get back to work on your list of next actions and commitments as soon as you can.

Rule 5: Review open projects, commitments, and goals every week.

Did you forget to do something? Did a commitment go unmet? How do you know? I spend an hour to an hour and a half each weekend reviewing open loops and establishing next actions. Without regularly taking a 35,000-foot overview of your work, you're bound to miss something, which is a flaw in your system.

My Reaction to Michigan's Switch to the SAT? Carry On.

I do not deny that we have a lot to learn about Michigan's switch to a new "college-readiness" assessment and the impact this switch will have on students' admission to colleges and universities. Any time we spend learning about the SAT is time we could spend learning about something else, like teaching practices that positively impact student achievement. At the same time, I can't help but feel indifferent about the news of the change.

High schools exist to teach students to be successful in the world they graduate into. College readiness exams measure a narrow band of that world. Assuming we are focused on teaching students the knowledge and skills they need (rather than just those that are assessed), the brand of exam should have little impact on how we work with students.

My message for teachers about this week's news:

Carry on.

College Board president key figure in development of Common Core

Nick Anderson, writing for the Washington Post Back in March 2014:

Coleman’s vision for the SAT, with emphasis on analysis of texts from a range of disciplines as well as key math and language concepts, appears to echo the philosophy underlying the Common Core and could help the test track more closely with what students are learning in the nation’s classrooms.

Differing Points-of-View

The Detroit News:

Michigan’s high school juniors will be required to take the SAT college assessment exam instead of the ACT next spring ...

Quoted in the article, here's Wendy Zdeb-Roper, Executive Director of the MASSP:

Colleges and universities have not even seen the test yet and will need to re-norm their acceptance standards, since it will include a new scoring scale ...

Later in the article:

Jim Cotter, Michigan State University’s director of admissions, said he expects the impact on the admission review process will be minimal.

By my measure, the gap between "re-norm their acceptance standards" and "the impact ... will be minimal." is pretty huge.