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Report Number: 2016-114

College Readiness of California's High School Students
The State Can Better Prepare Students for College by Adopting New Strategies and Increasing Oversight

February 28, 2017 2016-114

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning access to and completion of college preparatory coursework needed for admission to the State’s public university systems.

Our analysis suggests that students attending school districts that establish higher student expectations, coupled with relevant tools and student support, are more likely to meet those expectations. San Francisco Unified School District’s (San Francisco) college preparatory coursework completion rates (completion rates) were significantly higher than the other two districts we reviewed—Stockton Unified School District (Stockton), and Coachella Unified School District (Coachella). Specifically, in 2015 only 21 percent of Stockton’s students successfully completed the college preparatory coursework, while 30 percent of Coachella’s students met these requirements. In contrast, 69 percent of students in San Francisco completed college preparatory coursework. We believe the difference in completion rates is in part because San Francisco requires its students to take college preparatory courses in order to graduate and has devoted significant resources to assisting their students in this endeavor.

We also found that completion rates are influenced by whether students stay on a prescribed track each year—most notably in grade nine. At each of the three districts, we found most students who fell off track for completing the necessary coursework did so during grade nine and only 9 percent of them went on to complete the coursework necessary to gain admittance to the State’s public university systems. Thus, students’ academic preparedness upon entering high school significantly impacts completion rates. Funds to help kindergarten through grade eight students prepare for the rigor of college preparatory coursework could help keep more high school students on track to complete the coursework requirements by their senior year.

In addition, our review suggests that schools within our selected districts were able to provide students with sufficient access to college preparatory coursework during the years that we reviewed, but we encountered significant barriers to assessing the level of access because of the limited data the districts maintained. The California Department of Education and county offices of education could provide additional oversight, support, and guidance to districts to ensure they provide sufficient access to college preparatory coursework and adequately assist their students in completing those courses.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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