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Citation:Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. Washington, DC: American College Testing Program (ACT).

The purpose of this policy report is to examine early planning in college readiness areas and to investigate how parents, school staff, and school experiences assist students with educational planning. In addition this report discusses programs and practices schools use successfully to provide educational planning information to parents and to involve them in planning and decision making at key transition points for their children. The results of the study indicated that most students planned to pursue postsecondary education, but fewer students described their high school program as college preparatory. The majority of students stated that their mother (or female guardian), teachers, and counselors were very helpful with their high school class selection. However, fewer students reported that their father or male guardian was helpful with high school class selection. Most students utilized standardized assessments to assist in educational planning, had considered their post high school options, and indicated that their families had begun to explore ways in which to pay for postsecondary education or training. Four policy recommendations for the facilitation of early education and postsecondary planning are presented: 1) college readiness should begin in the middle school, 2) schools should explain to students and their parents the effects of taking a challenging curriculum on their future educational, career, and income options, 3) schools should use multiple sources of information, including standardized assessments, to help inform students and their parents of the students' progress toward college readiness, and 4) schools should work with families to calculate college costs and develop a plan to meet these costs. This study utilized findings from a survey and focus groups that demonstrate how people and school-based factors (i.e., classes, extracurricular activities, and pre-college programs) helped shape students' educational and postsecondary planning. Participants in this study were 2,942 eighth, ninth, and tenth grade students and 263 school administrators and counselors associated with 15 schools from six school districts across the U. S. The sample schools were located in urban and suburban areas and comprised students with diverse economic and social backgrounds. This report suggests that middle and early high school students may not be aligning their high school curriculum with their postgraduate plans. Additional research, including randomized controlled trials, is needed to determine which of the four strategies have the greatest impact on student preparation for college.

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