How Well Is Your High School Preparing Your Student for College

By Elizabeth LaScala, PhD

We live in a state with one of the best and most selective state university systems. Seats in the freshman classes at the University of California (UC) campuses are in great demand. Admission to the UC and California State Universities (CSUs) is more competitive than ever, partly because applicants are presenting more highly competitive profiles than ever before and there are more of them applying.

For example, this past year more than 100,000 college-bound high school seniors applied for admission to UCLA—and just 16,500 got in. Over 85,000 applied to UC-Berkeley; their admissions officers admitted just over 16,500. The UC campuses at Davis, Irvine, San Diego and Santa Barbara all admitted less than half who applied.

Families deserve to know if their local high schools will effectively prepare them for admission to one or more of its university campuses. The first step in gaining admission to the UC and CSU systems is fulfilling A-G Coursework Requirements.

According to EdSource a non-profit resource reporting on education issues of important in California, there has been a massive increase in the numbers and percentages of students meeting the A-G Coursework Requirements for admission to the UC and CSU systems — from 126,019 in 2005-06 to 194,698 in 2015-16. Over the last five years, EdSource reports, the number of high school graduates has increased by 5 percent, but the number of A-G eligible applicants has increased by 28 percent.

Although fulfilling A-G requirements is just a start in the competitive university admission process, it helps to know if your local public and private high schools have success in guiding students to complete them. It is also important for parents and students to know that fulfilling A-G requirements is an excellent foundation to build upon for admission to hundreds of other fine public and private college and universities nationwide.

In March of last year, the California Department of Education launched a new School Dashboard. A well-intentioned effort, the Dashboard presents parents and policy makers with more, and better, measures of educational quality in a user-friendly format. The Dashboard placed College and Career Preparation front and center as a measure for all students. Read on for instructions on how to find your high school or other high schools you may be researching for your student.

Once you are at the home page of the California School Dashboard, enter the name of your high school and press the ‘Search’ button. When you see your search results, choose your school. You’ll come to a page with four tabs (Equity Report, Status and Change Report, Detailed Report and Student Group Report) and five categories, including College/Career (9/12). But you must take a different path to find out how well your high school prepares its students to meet A-G requirements.

Click the tab ‘Detailed Report’. You’ll see a one-year purple color graph on the right that tells you what percentage of the Class of 2016 was “prepared” or “approaching prepared” for college. High numbers sound nice, but they tell you nothing about meeting A-G requirements. But click a link below that graph, and you’ll go to this page which will tell you the real story. Choose the link: College/Career Indicator Reports and Data, enter the name of your high school again, and you will find those measures. Measure E gives you the number and percentage of students who completed courses that met the A-G requirements—after you scroll down the page.

I wish that this information had been at the very front of the School Dashboard for you and me to find. I also wish that I did not need two paragraphs to explain how to help you find it. For more comprehensive and personalized information on how to help your student build a strong academic and extracurricular profile visit Doing College and Beyond.