State Advocacy

With Data, Leaders Can Better Support Students’ Pathways

With Data, Leaders Can Better Support Students’ Pathways

For many students, dual enrollment programs—commonly referred to as concurrent enrollment, college in high school, or early college programs—exist as an essential part of the pathway that connects students with postsecondary experiences in high school. They provide high school students with significant academic benefits by allowing students to participate in postsecondary college courses and earn college credit in high school. These programs are known to increase college access, enrollment, and completion and play a key role in expanding educational opportunities, particularly for students that have been historically less likely to go to college. To make dual enrollment programs work, school and state leaders need access to timely, accurate data about which students have access to these programs and how participation impacts their lives after high school.

While some states already collect and report fairly robust dual enrollment data, others do not collect this data or do not meaningfully disaggregate and report it in ways that help families and education leaders understand how well different students are served by these programs. Under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (known as Perkins V), states are required to report annually on dual enrollment credits earned. But we know from DQC’s 2021 review of state report cards, Show Me the Data, that:

  • Only 32 states reported dual enrollment participation or completion this year.
  • Of the 32 states, just 22 reported disaggregated data in some way.
  • About 15 states included dual enrollment along with other college and career readiness indicators (e.g., Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate coursework, career and technical education).

Although states are not starting at square one, this reporting is not comprehensive enough. All states must work toward closing these gaps in data access to provide families with the information needed to make decisions on potential pathways and their futures.

Fortunately, there are opportunities for state leaders to collect and report meaningful data about dual enrollment programs and to better connect state K–12 and postsecondary data systems to ensure that all students have access to programs that best serve them. State leaders should continue to prioritize the following data collection and reporting considerations to improve student access and postsecondary outcomes:

  • Data disaggregation: In addition to disaggregating student demographic data on public reports, state leaders should consider reporting on enrollment in advanced coursework, such as Advanced Placement courses, and dual enrollment data to understand the individual impact of each program.
  • Access to accurate and timely data: At the federal level, the National Student Clearinghouse and the High School Longitudinal Study reported by the National Center for Education Statistics are resources that highlight student persistence and postsecondary attainment. However, this data isn’t part of state data systems. In many cases, states cannot easily connect it to other relevant state data like postsecondary or employment outcomes, making it more challenging to identify the most impactful programming on student success.
  • Systemwide commitments: State leaders have the opportunity to use data as a lever to close equity and opportunity gaps. High-quality data governance brings together K–12, postsecondary, and other state leaders to make equitable decisions about how state education data is linked, used, accessed, and protected. For states like California, this commitment is a strategic way to ensure that dual enrollment data collection and reporting are intentional and aligned with best practices.

COVID-19 has changed how parents, educators, and school leaders think about their students’ post–high school options. State leaders can play an essential role in ensuring that student recovery is rooted in equity and designed to best support all learners. All states must work towards closing these gaps in data reporting to provide families with the information needed to make decisions on potential pathways and their futures.