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RCA Newsletter: September 2022

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The Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative is a national effort to advance the use of high-quality performance assessments completed by secondary students for higher education admission, placement, and advising decisions. The approach is intended to increase college access by expanding and deepening information about secondary students’ preparedness for higher education while deepening high school education by focusing on meaningful and rigorous work. The initiative, led by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) in collaboration with EducationCounsel, brings together a diverse group of k–12 and higher education policy and practice leaders engaged in using authentic assessments of students’ competencies and mastery of skills needed for college, work, and life in the 21st century.

This quarterly newsletter provides updates about the work of the RCA initiative, the RCA Network members, and other partners seeking to reimagine college access and success, as well as about national trends in college admissions.

Jump to: RCA Initiatives  |  National News  |  RCA Network Research & Resources

RCA Initiatives

Complete College America (CCA) recently released Making the Connection: Using K–12 Performance Assessments for College Placement and Advising. The report examines the issues that need to be considered when developing policy on the use of k–12 performance assessments in college advising and placement that were identified by an RCA-CCA cross-sector task force. The resource highlights how college placement and advising currently work, challenges for implementing and using performance assessments, issues to be considered for performance assessment policy, and policy recommendations.

LPI is finalizing an implementation study about how the University of Michigan Ross School of Business uses admission portfolios in holistic review that will be published later this year. Drawing on interviews with Ross School undergraduate admission staff, application readers, and current students, the report will illustrate a promising model for other colleges and first-year-admitting programs considering an approach to holistic admissions that integrates authentic student work and experiences. The case study may be useful for higher education systems seeking to enact similar systems change to meet their own institutional values and goals.

Additionally, RCA will present at multiple national conferences this fall to share its vision and resources with more leaders in both k–12 and higher education:

  • NACAC Conference 2022 (Houston, TX), September 22 and 23
    • Designing the Ask: Using K–12 Performance Assessment in College Admissions (September 22) – This session will provide a brief overview of performance assessments and how they can be integrated in the admission process, drawing from a tool, Performance Assessments in College Admission: Designing an Effective and Equitable Process. Stu Schmill from MIT will be a core partner at this session.
    • The Future Is Here: Using Performance Assessment in College Admissions (September 23) – This session will cover how the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and others already incorporate k–12 performance assessment information in their admission decisions. Blaire Moody Rideout, Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, will be a core partner at this session.
  • College Board Forum (Orlando, FL), October 24, 25, and 26
    This session on October 24 will focus on the use of performance assessments in Advanced Placement courses and how these and other performance assessments can be integrated into the admission process. Session details are being finalized.
  • Aurora Institute Symposium (Virtual), October 25 and 26
    • Understanding the Quality Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment Tool (October 25) – This session will be a hands-on workshop focused on providing guidance and information on how to plan, design, and implement student-centered, personalized, competency-based education systems or learning environments, including how the Quality Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment Tool can support this.
    • Using K–12 Performance Assessments and Competency-Based Transcripts in College Admissions (October 26) – This session will discuss the challenges, opportunities, and promising solutions for students to be able to submit their portfolio and/or digital transcripts for admission into higher education. Edgar Montes, Director of Higher Education Engagement at Mastery Transcript Consortium, and Ed Devine, Western Regional Director and Manager of Constituent Relations at Xavier University, will be core partners at this session.

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National News

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is joining forces with the Equity Research Cooperative (EqRC) and a University of Maryland–led research team to understand how testing requirement changes have impacted access for students traditionally underrepresented in college enrollment, especially among selective institutions. University of Maryland researchers will collaborate with faculty members from Penn State University and Southern Methodist University to analyze enrollment patterns from approximately 150 4-year institutions. Additionally, EqRC will administer a representative national student survey and conduct six case studies to examine the enrollment of Black, Latino/a, Indigenous, and Asian students, and students from low-income families, as it relates to test-optional policies.

Read the announcement >>

In a recent piece from KnowledgeWorks, Jon Alfuth, Senior Director of State Policy, interviewed Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) staff to better understand barriers to adoption and implementation of mastery-based transcripts, including questions that state-level policymakers can ask when determining how friendly their state environments are to schools interested in adopting these transcripts. MTC staff provide several reasons for states to adopt mastery-based transcripts, such as these transcripts being able to more holistically capture students’ skills, strengths, and interests than traditional transcripts. Along with the benefits of adopting these transcripts, MTC staff identifies state-level policy barriers that may discourage or prevent adoption of mastery-based transcripts. Looking back at the past 2 pandemic years, MTC staff and member schools report seeing a positive impact on students from school communities utilizing these transcripts.

Read the piece >>

In an article from Next Generation Learning Challenges, Carisa Corrow, Founder of Educating for Good in New Hampshire, debunks myths and falsehoods around the use of performance assessments. The piece specifically addresses three persistent myths: (1) that performance-based assessments and project-based learning are different; (2) that performance assessments can only be given on a large scale; and (3) that performance assessments are too subjective for reliable scoring. The author asserts that there is great power in a performance assessment system and that it can tell us more about what students know and can do than traditional assessment systems.

Read the article >>

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RCA Network Research & Resources

University of Michigan Ross School of Business Blog Post on Admission Process

Blaire Moody Rideout, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, recently wrote a blog post on the use of performance assessments in the Ross School undergraduate admission process. Moody Rideout highlights two components of the application, the Business Case Discussion and the Artifact, both of which are used to consider applicants’ personal experiences and reflections. The post includes exceptional samples of each component and argues for admission professionals to consider more than just the numbers in an application. As noted above, LPI will be releasing a case study on the Ross approach later this year.

Read the blog post >>

RISE Network Launches Postsecondary Tracker for Counselors and Administrators

The RISE Network launched a tracker for high school–based counselors and administrators to have access to detailed student profiles regarding students’ plans and progress toward their postsecondary goals. The tracker integrates data from College Board, Naviance, PowerSchool, and Key Survey, as well as information drawn from student surveys. RISE coaches and counseling teams use the tracker to develop support and outreach plans for students who need additional help completing major postsecondary milestones. These efforts have had a positive impact. In 2021, 80% of RISE high school students identified a postsecondary plan and pathway; as of March 2022, 98% of RISE high schools students had done so.

Read the report >>

New Strategy Guide to Advance Equitable Outcomes for All College Students

The College Completion Fund Project, a collaboration among MDRC, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), The Education Trust, and The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), released the College Completion Strategy Guide to offer guidance on evidence-based strategies to advance equitable outcomes for college students. The strategy guide provides policy guidance and summarizes high-quality research on strategies to increase college completion, particularly for students from historically underserved populations in postsecondary education. These resources are designed for state and system policymakers, leaders of postsecondary institutions, and other stakeholders, such as federal policymakers and researchers.

Read the strategy guide >>

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