States’ Accountability Systems Flawed for College Readiness, Report Finds

For more than a decade, Achieve has issued an annual 50-state report on each state’s adoption of college- and career-ready (CCR) policies as reflected in state standards, graduation requirements, assessments, and accountability systems. Having the right policies is necessary to ensure that students graduate academically prepared for college and careers, but policy alone is insufficient. Implementation of policy matters. So how do states— and their citizens—know whether their policies are having the intended impact? As high school graduation rates continue to rise, how do states know whether more students are graduating college and career ready? To know the answer to this question, Achieve looked at actual student performance against CCR measures in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

These individual state profiles, as well as a K–12 summary report, represent the first time that indicators of college and career readiness, from publicly available sources, have been compiled to paint a picture of college and career readiness in every state. The report and accompanying state profiles illustrate that too few high school graduates are prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, the military, and careers. Rather surprisingly, the report also shows significant limitations in the availability of data and inconsistencies in how metrics are reported, making it challenging for policymakers, educators, families, and advocates to have a clear answer to the simple question: Are high school graduates prepared for postsecondary success?

The report turns up a good deal of variation in how many states report the proportion of students completing a college-readiness curriculum (15 states), how many report the proportion of students who are “on track” to graduate (seven states), and how many report the proportion who are earning college credit while in high school (22 states). This map shows how few states report to the public that they offer a college-and-career-readiness course of study.


Achieve also found that not every state publicly reports its test-score data broken down by academic subject and subgroup. Federal law requires states to do that, but Achieve’s finding suggests that a few states might choose not to include in their own state reporting systems the same data they send to federal officials.

A look at Achieve’s compilation of student performance across states on PARCC and Smarter Balanced, which made their debut in 2014-15, and on the SAT and ACT in states that mandated those exams, offers a reminder of how far most states are from demonstrating that their students are ready for the rigors of college, at least according to these kinds of measures. The Achieve report shows that in states that gave PARCC or Smarter Balanced, or required the SAT or ACT, the proportion of students who reach college-readiness benchmarks varies widely, but rarely goes over 60 percent (and there are lots of figures in the 30s and 40s).

For the report and individual state profiles, see

For further commentary, see