Boston Opportunity Agenda report validates connections between high school course work, college and career success

Evaluation of College, Career and Life Readiness metrics finds high GPA, MassCore curriculum and attendance are predictors of success after graduation

March 1, 2019

Boston – A new report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University has found that a series of predictive indicators of college success developed by The Boston Opportunity Agenda and its partners are strong predictors of college and career success. The report finds that students who meet benchmarks such as attendance over 94%, a 2.7 or higher GPA, AP course taking and taking the MassCore curriculum, are more likely to succeed in their college and career paths after high school. But the report notes that the connection between the indicators and future success is much stronger at four-year, rather than two-year colleges.

College readiness Report cover Download the report

The report, titled College, Career and Life Readiness: A Look at High School Indicators, was released by the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a public/private partnership that strives to ensure that all of Boston’s children and youth are prepared to succeed in college, career and life, at an event at the Bruce C. Bolling Building this morning. Researchers from the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education tracked almost 2,700 BPS Class of 2010 graduates who had been in Boston Public Schools (BPS) since 8th grade, adding supplemental data from the Class of 2012, to develop their findings.

“This report validates the indicators selected by the Boston Opportunity Agenda partners and adopted by BPS, Catholic and charter schools as measures that students are on-track to succeed in college or careers,” said Kristin McSwain, Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda. “But it also gives us insight into the strength of the connections between elements such as high school GPA and completing the MassCore curriculum and college success, while pushing the conversation as to whether we need to continue to examine our indicators for those choosing two-year colleges or entering directly into the workforce.”

Three key indicators: High GPA, High Attendance, and MassCore/AP participation

The report focuses on three potential indicators of post-secondary success: A greater than 94% attendance rate, a GPA of 2.7 or higher, and completion of the MassCore curriculum and at least one AP class. The researchers found students with any one of the three indicators were 3-to-4 times as likely as other students to enroll in postsecondary education. Those with higher than 94% attendance were over four times as likely to complete their postsecondary degree, but those with higher GPAs or MassCore and AP curriculums were more 7-to-8 times as likely to complete. Even controlling for student demographics, each of the three indicators correlated with students being twice to three times as likely to complete their postsecondary program.

While the finding is noteworthy, it comes with one interesting note: the positive impact of the indicators was limited almost entirely to those students who attended four-year college. Almost no significant differences in completion were evident for students with positive indicators who attended two-year schools. More research is needed to better analyze that result, particularly of students who attended community college subsequent to developmental education reforms.

GPA and MassCore/AP: A powerful pair

The report also breaks down the impact of combinations of the key indicators on postsecondary enrollment and completion. Not surprisingly, those with all three indicators had the highest completion rates – and those meeting none of the indicator standards fared worst. Of those students meeting two benchmarks, those meeting the high GPA and MassCore/AP standards were more likely to complete than any other combination.

Anytime/Anywhere Learning

And lastly, the report used supplemental data for the BPS Class of 2012 Senior Exit Survey to look at the impact of a fourth indicator, “anytime/anywhere learning,” such as job shadowing, internships or volunteer work affected postsecondary outcomes. It found a small distinction between engaging in these activities and post-secondary success, with most of the difference coming from those students who interned or volunteered.