minutes west of
Serves families in 11
90 square miles
The mission of Illinois, Elgin U-46 district is to “be a great place for all students to learn, all teachers to teach, and all employees to work. All means all.” With six high schools and nearly 12,000 high school students, achieving their goal of equity was no small task. To advance their postsecondary outcomes and to increase college and career readiness for their students, they partnered with OneGoal.
When district leaders at Elgin U-46 evaluated their postsecondary advising and preparation program, they found that the percentage of students attending college was not meeting district goals. In fact, in a survey of students, 1 in 5 disagreed that all students are encouraged to go to college. Limited resources at the district level and inconsistency across schools further emphasized the need for Elgin U-46 to enhance collaboration and coordination of their postsecondary advising.
Elgin U-46 knows they play a critical role in improving students’ futures. The postsecondary landscape is complex, and secondary systems have a direct impact on students’ college and career success. Students expressed needing more guidance and support in navigating the application process, accessing financial aid, and planning their postsecondary journeys. To expand their skills and knowledge Elgin turned to the guidance of our OneGoal Leadership Network coaches.
minutes west of
Serves families in 11
90 square miles
district in Illinois
8 middle schools
More than 35,000
from preschool through
More than 50%
from Hispanic families
61% qualify for free
and reduced lunch
OneGoal has identified seven focus areas related to a district’s postsecondary practices. Each district selects 1-2 areas for improvement during its work with the OneGoal team.
OneGoal team members like Andy Schmitz work with district partners to assess a school or district’s postsecondary readiness. Through consistent one-on-one coaching and analysis, Andy helped Elgin define a path to high-impact improvements. “Because we meet so regularly, he knows our system. He’s presented to our people and has been a strong outside voice to help create buy-in across the district for these new interventions in postsecondary preparedness for our students,” said Elgin’s Director of Postsecondary Success, Michele Chapman.
We tailored our approach by working with Elgin U-46 on identifying two focus areas to prioritize of the seven in our menu of practices to ensure a strong foundation for success across all areas. Based on our expert analysis, we recommended Elgin choose:
Continuous Improvement Cycles
District executes postsecondary improvement cycles with fidelity that lead to practice changes.
Adult Capacity Building
Adults across the district are knowledgeable about the postsecondary pathway landscape and practice culturally responsive pedagogy.
“Andy is a master at listening to us, and he has this magic ability to put his finger right on what we need, so he‘s been that person that synthesized everything that we throw at him into actionable steps we can take.”
Director of Postsecondary Success
“It’s nice to be in spaces with people who are all working for the same thing: postsecondary success for our students. Whether it be college and career, or whatever it is, it’s nice to hear what other schools and districts are doing. There are places where our district might be ahead and places where other schools are ahead of where we are, and that’s where we’re able to really learn from each other.”
COVID impacted postsecondary results not just at Elgin, but nationwide, “so it’s hard for us to say at this point that many more kids are going to college, but we have made major strides,” says Michele. Seeing an increase in the number of students completing the FAFSA and more students with a documented postsecondary plan have been big wins for the district. But Alexa points to a larger cultural shift in the district since they began partnering with OneGoal, “the conversations that counselors are having with students has changed, and the language we’re using has helped us translate the options available to our students in really meaningful ways.”
The U-46 + OneGoal partnership has shifted the balance of postsecondary advising and preparation. Instead of engaging students solely through the counseling offices, advising students is becoming the collective responsibility of everyone in the district, including administrators and teachers. After leading practice sessions on college and career advising across the district, Michele and Alexa say that teachers have begun incorporating postsecondary into their curriculum, “We’re building everyone’s capacity to prepare students for postsecondary, and everything students are doing in our schools prepares them for what the next thing is after they graduate.”
Between 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, Elgin more than doubled its number of unique student enrollments in dual credit classes. More students in Elgin now have the opportunity to participate in advanced coursework and earn postsecondary credit. In addition, each of Elgin U-46’s six high schools has its own team leading postsecondary advising and preparation. Through guidance from Andy, Michele and Alexa have built accountability into their system through a “Counselor Collaborative” designed to engage counselors in postsecondary data analysis on alumni and current students. Counselors use this data to reflect on successes and strategize on improvement opportunities such as increasing FAFSA completion, student survey completion, and supporting students still in the process of planning their postsecondary pathways.
In addition to their work with Andy and the OneGoal Leadership Network, the district has adopted the OneGoal classroom-based model, including two cohorts of Juniors and two for Seniors. Alexa and Michele are monitoring developments and outcomes for students engaging in the OneGoal class and thinking about ways to broaden those impacts district-wide. There are students for whom college is not their first choice after graduation, and the Postsecondary Success team at Elgin is thinking through strategies to support kids interested in career paths.
Alexa Charsha and Michele Chapman reflect on the challenges they worked to address as they built a districtwide vision to ensure all their graduates were prepared and supported to achieve postsecondary success.
OneGoal spoke with Amanda Ringfelt and Jeffrey Riley of Joliet Central High School about the school’s postsecondary advising for students.
Sifting through postsecondary options can be overwhelming for students. The new Quality Enrollment Framework at OneGoal supports students in narrowing these options into a shortened “best fit” list.