Photo by Charles DeLoye on Unsplash

From and College Success Award Insights 2020

Out of 13,500 school districts nationwide, the Seminole County Public School (SCPS) District is one of only 16 named and referenced in GreatSchools! recent article: “Insights on College Success:  What Makes a District Succeed?” — a shining example of how to do it right.

Identifying schools that excel at preparing all students for college has been a driving goal of GreatSchools!. To that end, they created the College Success Awards in 2018 to identify high schools that are helping students succeed in college, based on newly available data on preparation, enrollment, persistence, and remediation. The following year, they revised their methodology to better highlight those successfully preparing students from low-income families to get into — and persist in — college.

The 2019 College Success Awards (CSA) examined data from more than 8,100 high schools in 25 states to identify which ones were preparing their students for college based on preparation, enrollment, persistence, and remediation data provided by the states, particularly looking at those schools that were doing an exceptional job preparing students from low-income backgrounds for success. Just over one in five — 21 percent — of the eligible high schools ultimately qualified for the 2019 CSA award.

While the 2019 CSA award winners, like virtually all measures of student performance, are tilted towards schools with higher proportions of students from more affluent families, 39 percent had significant numbers of students from low-income families. This means that at least 40 percent of the student populations qualified for free and reduced-price lunches.

GreatSchools! took the next step to shift the lens from individual schools to public school districts, which typically draw from broader geographic areas that include a wider range of student and family demographics than the neighborhoods that each of their individual schools serve. To identify districts that appear to be effectively preparing all of their high school students — and in particular low-income high school students — they eliminated nontraditional school districts, such as charter management organizations or magnet school districts with more than one school serving multiple districts or jurisdictions. (However, they did include districts with a combination of traditional and charter schools.) They then identified public school districts with the following criteria:

• The district has at least three high schools to ensure its success reflects more than the success of a single high school.
• At least 40 percent of the district’s students are low-income, representing a student
population with a diverse socioeconomic background.
• At least half of the district’s high schools qualified for a College Success Award to
ensure that success in college preparation and performance is reflected in a wide cross-section of the district’s students.

In the 25 states that have school-level data on college preparation, college enrollment, and college performance, GoodSchools! found 16 districts in eight states which met these criteria. One of the states was Florida, and Seminole County Public Schools was one of only two districts in Florida to qualify for this distinguished designation due to their focus and hard work:

What distinguished SCPS was that with approximately 67,000 students, 47% are identified as low-income students, and five out of the ten eligible SCPS high schools were 2019 CSA winners.

2019 SCPS College Success Award Winners

Crooms Academy of Information Technology in Sanford

Hagerty High School in Oviedo

Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs

Oviedo High School in Oviedo

Seminole High School in Sanford

SCPS stood out because they have managed to provide large numbers of their high school students with the kind of preparation that will allow them to succeed in college and life. While more research is needed to identify the specific strategies that have allowed these winning districts to serve socioeconomically diverse students well, their diversity — in size, community type, and composition of high schools — suggests that none of these factors are in and of themselves unsurpassable barriers to helping students from low-income families succeed. The only way to understand where equity gaps persist, and how schools and districts like SCPS are succeeding in supporting disadvantaged student populations, is for all states to break down data by student group, including race and income levels.

Politicians and policymakers alike have long said that a student’s zip code shouldn’t determine his or her destiny. The hope is that by highlighting the districts that are helping students from diverse backgrounds go on to college it will provide insights that can
improve the lives of every K-12 student, regardless of where they live, where they go to school, and their parents’ levels of income and education.

Congratulations Seminole County Public School District administration, teachers and students for being a bright example locally, statewide, and for the country!




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