●Math: Complete advanced math in fifth grade, complete Algebra I by eighth grade with a C or higher and complete Algebra II by 11th grade with a C or higher.
●High school exams: Score at least a 3 on an Advanced Placement exam or a 4 on an International Baccalaureate exam; score at least 1650 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT.
The number of students who have reached these benchmarks has improved for at least five of the seven keys during the past five years, specifically in the areas of high school math and high school exams. Montgomery graduates earning a score of at least 1650 on the SAT or a 24 on the ACT went from 37.6 percent in 2008 to 51.9 percent in 2012, a 14.3 percentage point increase.
The number of students taking advanced math in fifth grade has remained stable from 2008 to 2012. There was a slight decrease in the number of second-grade students who met reading benchmarks, going from 44.9 percent in 2008 to 43.2 percent in 2012.
Montgomery officials said they do not track how many of the county’s graduates who went to college met all of the keys, nor does the county track data about the keys related to graduation rates.
David Conley, a University of Oregon professor and chief executive of the nonprofit Educational Policy Improvement Center, has been studying what students need to know and be able to do to be ready for college and careers for more than two decades. In the early 2000s, Conley created the Four Keys to College and Career Readiness, which focus not only on academics, but also ideas about how students should act, think and set goals for themselves.
“I really worry about kids struggling with literacy, and we’re telling them until they overcome that, they can’t go to college,” Conley said. “If you have a motivated person who needs help, and seeks help when they need it, if they work hard and persist when confronted with a challenge, we’d like to send a message to that person that even if your literacy skills are developing, you shouldn’t think of college as beyond your ambitions.”●
Regardless of whether Montgomery develops seven, 17 or 70 keys in the future, there are some unteachable factors that go into college success, parent Mayra Moran says. She has a daughter who recently graduated from Watkins Mill High School. Her daughter didn’t rely on the Seven Keys alone, Moran said.
“The school system does a good job of getting information out, but whether a student doesn’t go to college is more family rooted than not having those keys up on a wall,” Moran said.