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An average of 70 percent of the Evanston Township High School graduating class enrolls in college the fall immediately following high school graduation, according to a report based on data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), which the District has used since 2006 to track college attendance. By two years following graduation, 79 percent of ETHS students enroll in college.

Dr. Judith Levinson, director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment, told the District 202 School Board at their meeting on Feb. 8 that, prior to 2006, the District had hired retired teachers to conduct follow-up surveys of students. The surveys, administered by mail or telephone, were based on students’ self-reported responses.

This approach was deemed to be unsatisfactory. “Since not all students responded, the final report made estimates as to the percent attending college,” Dr. Levinson reported.

Dr. Levinson explained that NSC is a non-profit organization, established to assist higher education institutions in verifying degrees and college enrollments. More than 3,300 post-secondary institutions participate, representing 92 percent of such institutions. One of their more recently developed services, said Dr. Levinson, is assisting high schools in analyzing college attendance patterns. In 2009 NSC created a secondary education research initiative, funded in part by a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide the first national secondary education research and reporting system.

In addition to providing data about college enrollment, NSC also reports on freshman-to-sophomore retention in college and on college graduation. This information is disaggregated by institutional type (public vs. private), institutional level (2-year vs. 4-year) and institutional location.

On average, 40 percent of ETHS students attend public institutions; 30 percent attend private institutions. More students attend four-year institutions and more go out of state.

According to the report, once ETHS students get to college, most of them (89 percent) stay at least through their sophomore year. Dr. Levinson said this figure compares positively to the national average of 75.5 percent of students returning for a second year at four-year colleges as reported by the National Center for Higher Education Management System.

Dr. Levinson said, “The most complete data set we have for graduation from college is for the class of 2004. … (of those students,) 52 percent of those who attended college have graduated” by now (in five years). She said that there is no commonly agreed-upon formula to evaluate college graduation rates, so it is difficult to compare ETHS results to national results.

However, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon pointed out that “the six-year graduation rate in this country hovers around 50 percent.” This indicates that ETHS compares favorably to the national average, he said.

“Does this data tell us anything we should be doing differently in terms of counseling our students?” asked Board member Mary Wilkerson.

“We could do a better job with post-secondary planning (for every student),” acknowledged Assistant Superintendent Oscar Hawthorne. He emphasized that the post-secondary planning needed to begin in ninth grade.

Mr. Hawthorne reminded the Board that the District goals for 2010-12 currently being formulated include an objective to ensure that 100 percent of all seniors “have a post-secondary plan that connects their educational attainment with reaching their career and life goals.”

Administrators acknowledged that less was known about the fate of students who did not go to college even two years after graduation, as there was no organization that collects data about them. Assistant Superintendent Laura Cooper said with this new, more reliable college attendance data, more focus can be placed on the 20-30 percent of students who chose other post-secondary paths.

Percent of Class Enrolled in College Fall 2009 by Ethnicity

The table below gives the percent of percent of the ETHS Class of 2009, by ethnic group, that were enrolled in college in the Fall after graduation.


Asian                 64%

Black                 71%

Hispanic            42/%

Multi-ethnic       79%

White                 82%

Total                  74%