Access, Opportunity, and Post-Secondary Preparation

Schools need to diminish the historically predictive power of demographic data on high and equitable student achievement by increasing the achievement of all groups of students and dramatically accelerating the achievement of targeted groups of students. Schools help all students set and achieve high goals and provide them the ability to pursue postsecondary education along with support in that effort. They provide information on career pathways and encourage students to become lifelong learners. Schools provide a college-ready curriculum that helps all students set and achieve high goals and generates other important values, the skills and knowledge for engaging in intellectual work across various disciplines, the desire for and expectation to succeed in high school and beyond, and the emotional competence to be resilient and adaptable in living in the global economy of the twenty-first century.

Benchmark Descriptors

Transforming: Practice is reflected in equitable student outcomes.

  • The school prepares students for accessing both postsecondary education and career pathways. We expect that every child will graduate with the options to choose multiple pathways, including those leading to careers and postsecondary education.


  • All students have the opportunity to take college courses and participate in extracurricular activities that will prepare them for college. Student enrollment patterns in all courses, early college options, and extracurricular activities parallel student demographics as a whole; course matriculation is not predictable based on ethnicity, gender, or other variables. Student enrollment patterns and participation in these courses and activities parallel student demographics as a whole. There is no tracking.


  • High school graduation requirements are aligned to college admission requirements to ensure that all students are eligible for college upon graduation. Elementary and middle school requirements are created through backward planning to ensure that students at all grade levels have the skills and knowledge that will put them on a path toward college. All courses align with college expectations so that the instruction, skills, and assessments are focused on the skills and dispositions needed for college-level work. Each student receives the appropriate individual support and academic preparation needed to achieve college readiness.


  • Clear expectations of college-going ensure that all students are prepared for a full range of postsecondary options. What it takes for students to be prepared for college is clearly defined and part of the daily school culture. This includes the development of necessary academic and intellectual skills, independent living, and social-emotional competence.


  • Postsecondary preparation involves more than just supporting students’ intellectual growth. It includes the development of students’ social capital —the ability to create, nurture, and build upon social relationships, and to understand the demands relevant to a variety of diverse social situations and institutional settings.


  • College information and resources are regularly updated and readily available in centralized and known locations that are accessible to students, families, and faculty at all grade levels, Kindergarten through Grade 12. Comprehensive college counseling is available to support every student in navigating the college selection, application, and financial aid processes.


  • The school has an advisory program to support students’ exploration of and matriculation to postsecondary opportunities. The adviser is trained to support students through this process (college application, obtaining financial aid, and so on).


  • Vocational programs and internships provide examples of real-life adult work and adult models. Students learn how to be adults by being with adults and receive invaluable expertise in real-world careers. Vocational programs also prepare students for certification requirements and postsecondary certification programs, as most vocational careers now require postsecondary training.


  • Family connections are an integral aspect of preparing students for postsecondary school success. Families are informed partners in the process of supporting students through school and on to college. They are supported with opportunities to gain knowledge about the about the college process and become aware that all students can be college bound. Materials, resources, and programs about college access and college opportunities are readily available to families (in their home languages if possible) beginning in Kindergarten. Parents are offered opportunities to attain their own B.A. or A.A. degrees, hereby encouraging their children to be excited about doing the same.


  • The school builds relationships with local colleges and ensure that its transcripts are acceptable by all colleges.


  • The school develops structures that support this work, including some or all of the following: dual high school and college enrollment, middle college high schools, advisory, requiring college applications as a graduation requirement, counseling, field trips to college campuses, vocational programs, and family information nights.

Developing: Practice is reflected in school and teacher planning and instruction.

  • The school begins to develop flexible scheduling and grouping patterns to allow better use of time to meet individual needs.
  • The school uses a full inclusion model.
  • Students have access to learning opportunities. Title 1, SPED, and bilingual services are equitably and adequately provided to all eligible students.
  • The school is working toward elimination of rigid ability grouping and tracking ensure optimal access to learning and teaching for all students.
  • Teachers have general discussions about postsecondary options with students in each class.
  • Teachers have an awareness of college expectations and the skills and dispositions needed to succeed in college, and they use this insight to guide planning of the course.
  • Support structures such as mentors, tutors, and study sessions are in place.
  • “Higher level” courses (such as Honors, AP, and IB) are open to all students and have a diverse population of students.
  • Remedial courses are only offered to prepare students for academically rigorous material, not as credit toward graduation.

Early: Learning about and planning for the practice has become important to the teaching staff.

  • Students are aware of postsecondary options through counselors.
  • Higher-level courses are open to all students, but few students of color or low SES take such courses.
  • Students and teachers are aware of courses needed for college entrance.

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Related Principles