Updates Likely Coming to How Maryland Measures “College and Career Readiness”

Maryland might change how the state measures “college readiness” after analysis suggests we might improperly assess a large portion of high school students.

Career and college readiness is a central pillar of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (“The Blueprint”), which declares it is the goal of the State that students enrolled in public school shall meet the CCR standard before the end of the 10th grade and no later than the time the student graduates from high school. Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, all students were to be assessed no later than 10th grade by a method adopted by the State Board to determine whether the student is “college and career ready. The law further requires that meeting the CCR standard shall initially require a student to achieve “the equivalent of a score of 4 or 5 in the mathematics and English portions of the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Career grade 10 assessments or the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program grade 10 assessments or any successor assessments.”

To meet this goal, the Blueprint required the Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE) to adopt interim standards to define what it means for students to be considered college and career-ready. The Board did so in February 2022 via the state’s interim College and Career Readiness Standards (CCR). New analysis suggests that the interim standards might improperly assess a “large percentage of students,” prompting talk of potentially changing how Maryland measures college and career readiness.

A new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) analyzing the state’s interim CCR standards suggests there are larger areas for improvement. As required by the Blueprint, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) contracted the AIR to help evaluate the interim standards and offer suggestions for how they could be improved. AIR’s findings suggest that the interim standards are not correctly assessing many Maryland high school students and that final standards should be adjusted to do so more appropriately.

In fact, as much as 35% to 53% may be inaccurately assessed as either ready for college or not ready for college, the American Institutes for Research’s report to the Maryland State Department of Education found.

Key takeaways 

One of the main takeaways from the report is that the interim CCR standards often “misclassifies students on their readiness” and have an accuracy rate between 47 percent and 65 percent, depending on the subject matter measured. Maryland Matters reported:

For example, the analysis says that only 35% of the students in the study were “correctly classified” as ready for college under the interim CCR standards, based on whether a student earned math credit in their first year of post-secondary education. But 5% were “misclassified” as ready, as they struggled to earn a math credit in their first year.

Meanwhile, the analysis shows that the current interim standards correctly classified 28% of students as not college ready, but misidentified 32% of students as “not college ready,” when in fact they were able to earn a math credit in their first year.

The report also determined that the interim standards needed to be more accurate for specific demographics. For example, according to AIR, the interim CCR standards had average accuracy rates of less than 60 percent for Black students, Hispanic students, English learners, students with disabilities, and students eligible for free and reduced-price meal services.

Furthermore, the report suggests that it may be more accurate to analyze “college readiness” via a high school Grade Point Average (GPA) threshold or the interim CCR standards. This would mean a student could meet either benchmark to be considered “college-ready.”

The analysis suggests that a high school GPA threshold between 2.83 and 2.98 would be a strong indicator of a student’s college readiness, but the AIR recommends rounding up to a 3.0.

The report also suggests the state use a more robust equity lens to adjust CCR standards:

The report also advises the department to revise CCR standards to assess more accurately and equitably. That includes providing students with two options to meet CCR standards, either based on state assessments or through a GPA of at least 3.0. If the department takes this route, the MSDE would need to work with local education agencies to better standardize and align grading practices across Maryland.

In the coming months, education officials and leaders will use the AIR study to update the standards and approve a new, final CCR standard. Stay tuned to Conduit Street as the new standards are developed and adopted.

Read the full report from the American Institutes for Research.