DC Public Schools Increased College Enrollment Rates in Five Years. Here’s How.

Between 2013 and 2018, DC Public Schools (DCPS) went from only 41% of its high school graduates enrolling in college to 55%. How was the district able to cross the threshold to help more than half of graduates enroll in college, and what can other districts learn from the strategies they implemented?

Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DCPS from 2010-2016, believed deeply in the importance of supporting K-12 students on their path to postsecondary success. She decided the district needed to take a more active role in crafting the vision for postsecondary advising and connecting the efforts of the many college access organizations (CAOs) operating in the district.

As my colleague Lina Bankert writes in The 74 this week:

The district started by creating a small central team, with just two dedicated staffers who set districtwide aspirations for postsecondary success. Over time, the district created a school-based college and career coordinator position to work in tandem with the central team. The people in this role were charged with coordinating with the nearly 70 college access and success third-party programs that operate across the city. Their goal was to ensure that resources at the school level — counselors, afterschool programs and more — were coordinating well and not duplicating efforts. Importantly, this initiative started as a resource-limited, grant-funded pilot at three of the highest-need schools and was later expanded across district high schools, and then moved into the district’s budget based on its success.

Cover of "Equitable Postsecondary Advising Systems Expanding access to help close the degree divide" tip sheet for districts, by Bellwether Education Partners June 2020

DCPS is a great example of what can happen when a school district prioritizes postsecondary advising and takes an active role in ensuring students have the support they need. We profiled DCPS and many other districts, college access organizations (CAOs), and intermediary organizations in our latest report on postsecondary advising

Read the full report here or check out one of our simple summaries for funders, CAOs, or districts.