Download featured IES Practice Guide

This event for about 80 Nevada education leaders launched an initiative to develop Nevada’s college and workforce readiness standards.

For more information, please contact:

BethAnn Berliner


Pathways to College: Next Steps for Nevada

November 12, 2009

Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel
3400 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Pathways To College 43:56

    To view keynote speaker William Tierney's narrated slide presentation, click on the thumbnail to the left. Dr. Tierney discusses the five recommendations from the featured IES practice guide. You may also download the presentation using the button below.

    Instructions For Download Tierney

Key Nevada stakeholders engaged in reviewing research findings in the Helping Students Navigate the Path to College: What High Schools Can Do Practice Guide, recently published by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, and applied that research to the development of Nevada state college readiness standards.

Following brief welcoming remarks by Keith Rheault, Nevada State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Jane Nichols, Vice Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education; and Glen Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of WestEd; Jane Nichols briefly discussed the state context and framed the issues that would be discussed during the day, including providing recommendations to the task force that will develop the state college readiness standards. A short DVD presentation provided background information about IES practice guides, including how they are developed and organized, and the levels of evidence for the recommendations included in each guide.


William Tierney, Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Center for Higher Education Policy at the University of Southern California, and panel chair for the practice guide, presented the guide’s five recommendations—strategies that have been shown to have immediate and significant impact on increasing access to college and student success.

  • Offer courses and curricula that prepare students for college-level work, and ensure that students understand what constitutes a college-ready curriculum by 9th grade. Steps to implementing this strategy include offering a curriculum that prepares all students for college and includes opportunities for college-level work for advanced students, ensuring that students understand what constitutes a college-ready curriculum, and developing a four-year course trajectory with each 9th grader that leads to fulfilling a college-ready curriculum.
  • Utilize assessment measures throughout high school so that students are aware of how prepared they are for college, and assist them in overcoming deficiencies as they are identified. Implementation activities include identifying existing assessments, standards, and data available to provide an estimate of college readiness; utilizing performance data to identify and inform students about their academic proficiency and college readiness; and creating an individualized plan for students who are not on track.
  • Surround students with adults and peers who build and support their college-going aspirations by, for example, providing mentoring for students by recent high school graduates enrolled in college or other college-educated adults, facilitating student relationships with peers who plan to attend college through a structured program of extracurricular activities, providing hands-on opportunities for students to explore different careers, and assisting them in aligning postsecondary plans with their career aspirations.
  • Engage and assist students in completing critical steps for college entry. To implement this strategy, ensure that students prepare for, and take, the appropriate college entrance or admissions exam early; assist students in their college search; coordinate college visits; and assist students in completing college applications.
  • Increase families’ financial awareness, and help students apply for financial aid by organizing workshops for parents and students to inform them prior to 12th grade about college affordability, scholarship and aid sources, and financial aid processes; and by helping students and parents complete financial aid forms prior to eligibility.

At lunch, Chancellor Daniel Klaich welcomed the group and stressed the importance of the work to the future of Nevada. A panel discussion provided an opportunity for participants to hear from several experts from other states that have developed college readiness standards. Moderated by Neal Finkelstein, Senior Research Scientist at REL West and a panelist for development of the featured practice guide, the event's panel included:

  • Sue Cain, Director of Transition and University Services, Eastern Kentucky University, and Coordinator of the Developmental Education and College Readiness Initiative for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
  • David Conley, Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership in the College of Education, University of Oregon.
  • Amaury Nora, Professor and Director of the Center for Student Success at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

The panel discussed key elements that converged in their states to allow for explicit college readiness standards to emerge, including who was involved, how long the process took, and the steps necessary to formalize the standards. They shared examples of changes that schools have made in response to the development of the state standards, including middle school curricular changes that link to college preparation pathways. The focus of the panel members' remarks was on providing practical suggestions that would contribute to guiding development of college readiness standards and enable Nevada stakeholders to learn from the panelists' experiences.

Interactive Sessions

Participants had two opportunities to work in small table groups. The first group discussion focused on connecting the five practice guide recommendations to the Nevada context. Groups rated each of the recommendations on a five-point scale on three dimensions:

  • To what extent is the recommendation already in place in Nevada?
  • How important is the recommendation in ensuring that Nevada's students are ready for college?
  • How feasible is implementing this recommendation in Nevada?

Each group's consensus rating was recorded on a poster, and results were tallied and presented back to the audience after lunch. During the second discussion, participants were asked to make specific recommendations to the task force charged with developing Nevada's college readiness standards. All groups responded to the first two questions, then each group received one additional question to discuss in depth. All recommendations from this activity were summarized and given to the task force to use as guidance as members develop the state's standards.

  • If the task force is charged with recommending college readiness standards for Nevada, what suggestions do you have for building the best standards possible?
  • Should the task force place more emphasis on any of the five recommendations to enable Nevada's high school graduates to be successful in going to college? If so, which one(s) and why?

Additional questions:

  • Two of the recommendations from the practice guide focus on "academic" preparation and relate to high school courses and academic assessments. What suggestions do you have for how Nevada can ensure that the right course content and the right feedback from testing is accomplished?
  • Some components of the recommendations relate to preparatory steps outside the high school classroom. How should these be reflected in college readiness standards for Nevada?
  • What key institutions in Nevada could play a critical role in developing partnerships around college readiness? For example, what role should and could higher education institutions play in carrying out all five recommendations in partnership with high schools?
  • Are there specific questions or concerns raised by the practice guide that signal particular considerations for students in rural parts of Nevada?
  • Building on the discussion of financial aid for families and students, how might these issues be reflected in the discussion of the task force?
  • The recommendations in the practice guide signal the importance of academic preparation for college before high school. What additional considerations regarding the role of grades K-8 might the task force include in developing college readiness standards?

Keith Rheault, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction, summarized the key outcomes of the day and closed the meeting.


Following the larger event, the state task force held its first meeting to develop a work plan and time line. The next meeting of the task force will be in January 2010.

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