AUSTIN — Nearly 90 percent of Central Texas students graduated from high school in four years in 2013, but only 30 percent of graduates earned a post-secondary credential within six years, according to the 2015 CAN Community Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well-being.
On-time high school graduation has a positive effect on future employment and earnings, and a post-secondary degree or credential is critical to success in the Austin-area’s economy. According to the CAN Dashboard, only 13 percent of low-income high school graduates complete college within 6 years, compared to 39 percent of their higher income peers.
Among improvements on the educational front, more students are graduating from high school “college ready” than ever before. Students who achieve this state standard do not have to take non-credit remedial courses in college before taking full credit courses. The E3 Alliance, a regional education collaborative based in Austin, reports that 62 percent of graduating students in Central Texas met college readiness standards in 2013, compared to only 43 percent of graduates in the class of 2007. High school graduation rates are increasing as well, but gaps by race, ethnicity and income, while gradually closing, still remain.
Del Valle ISD has made significant improvements in college readiness rates among students within the district, with 51 percent of graduating seniors meeting the college ready standards in 2013, a substantial increase from the 9 percent of students who graduated college ready in the Class of 2006. The high school graduation rate was 90 percent in the Del Valle district, a notable achievement considering 86 percent of its 11,611 students are economically disadvantaged and one-third are English language learners.
“Del Valle ISD is committed to continuous improvement and success for our students, as evidenced in the huge increase in college readiness rates,” said Kelly Crook, Del Valle ISD Superintendent and member of CAN Board of Directors. “We have more work to do, and our teachers and staff, together with our board of trustees, are working hard every day to increase college readiness and overall educational outcomes for our students together with their families.”
The Community Advancement Network (CAN), a nonprofit coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith and economic sectors, tracks four broad community goals over time to identify where attention and action are needed. The fourth goal of the CAN Dashboard, “We achieve our full potential,” measures kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, college success, and unemployment. The most recent data for these indicators are available in the online Dashboard.
According to the CAN Dashboard, a number of community partners are working on many fronts to improve educational outcomes from kindergarten through college and to employment in Central Texas. Currently, one-third of all Central Texas students who enroll in college within a year of high school graduation, do so at Austin Community College.
“ACC is always looking for ways to redesign curriculum, boost student engagement, and innovate what happens in and out of the classroom,” said Dr. Mary Hensley, Executive Vice President of ACC and a member of the CAN Board of Directors. “The new Highland Campus features the ACCelerator, a massive, high-tech computer lab that’s helping students learn more effectively and reach their goals faster. The campus also provides a full range of support programs to guide students from admission to completion.”
According to CAN Dashboard data from the E3 Alliance, just over half of Travis County children entering kindergarten in 2014 were “school ready,” an important indicator of later academic success. Children who are low-income are less likely than other children to meet “school ready” standards. Participation in pre-kindergarten programs can help close that gap. In their 2014 study, E3 found that 55% of students who attended a pre-kindergarten program, regardless of income level, were school ready
Additionally, over 30 organizations, led by United Way for Greater Austin’s Success by 6 initiative, joined forces to create the School Readiness Action Plan. Goals of the plan include: supporting families to help them support their children, increasing access to high quality early education and care, promoting preventive health and mental health services, and fostering public and private partnerships to promote school readiness.
Finally, the CAN Dashboard reports that unemployment rates for Travis County are lower than state and national rates and continue to decline. However, the five occupations with the highest number of workers in the Austin metro area pay a median wage of $31,000 per year or less.
CAN will release the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report on May 20th at a press conference at Austin City Hall. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.