Catching Up To College and Career Readiness


How many “far off track” fourth and eighth graders catch up to college and career readiness before they graduate?

Efforts to improve students’ academic preparation have often been directed at the high school level, although for many students, gaps in academic preparation begin much earlier. These gaps are likely to widen over time because of the “Matthew effects,” whereby those who start out behind are at a relative disadvantage in acquiring new knowledge.

This report uses information on the percentage of students reaching college and career readiness targets over a four-year period as an indicator of the difficulty of doing so. The report focuses on students who start out far off track—well below the achievement level that those with average growth trajectories need to reach college and career readiness targets in a specified later grade. We focus on closing academic preparation gaps over two four-year periods:

  • Grades 8–12: How many students who are far off track in eighth grade reach college readiness benchmarks by twelfth grade?
  • Grades 4–8: How many who are far off track in fourth grade catch up by eighth grade?

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