School communities across the country are working hard to comply with new state and federal policies requiring that all students be prepared for success in college. Technological advances and new reporting requirements make data on students and schools more accessible than ever—but more and better data alone are not enough to meet the challenges posed by the troubling opportunity and achievement gaps that keep many students from reaching their goals after high school. Schools need a strong, systemic approach to fostering college readiness that includes a range of appropriate indicators, supports tied to those indicators, reliable data infrastructure, and the systemwide capacity to make good use of data to inform action.

The CRIS Initiative

In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS) initiative in five urban sites across the country (see map). Each site began by appointing a CRIS Team composed of central office leadership and staff and other college readiness stakeholders in their community. The role of the CRIS Team was to provide ongoing feedback to build and refine an effective and actionable indicator system in response to their community’s unique needs.


Initially, CRIS Teams selected indicators in each of the initiative’s three dimensions of college readiness: academic preparedness, academic tenacity, and college knowledge. Further, within each dimension, indicators were selected at three levels: individual (student), setting (school), and system (district). Beginning in the second year of the initiative, each site aligned previous efforts with the CRIS Framework to implement an improved, dynamic college readiness indicator system. Three research partners (see map) were enlisted at the outset to support these sites in developing and carrying out a college readiness indicator system in a number of ways, including conducting in-depth interviews and observations to document the implementation process, convening cross-site professional learning communities, and providing technical subject matter expertise.

How the CRIS Resource Series Works

Developed by the CRIS research partners, this six-part CRIS Resource Series builds on lessons learned over the course of the three-year initiative and offers guidance to schools and districts that aim to develop and enact effective indicator and support systems. Each resource was created with a particular audience in mind. As such, readers may opt to review the whole series or select only those resources that apply to their particular role or interests. See the table below for more information.



What's in it?

Who might find it useful?

Beyond College Eligibility: A New Framework for Promoting College Readiness

A description of the interrelated components that make up a college readiness indicator system, including considerations for building such a system and putting it to effective use

  • All stakeholders using any part of the CRIS Resource Series

Menu of College Readiness Indicators and Supports

A list of research-based indicators and supports to choose from in building an indicator system, organized across the three dimensions and three levels

  • District leaders and administrators
  • District research and evaluation staff/data analysts
  • School leaders
  • Local/state policymakers and their staff
  • College readiness intermediaries/reform support organizations

Selecting Effective Indicators

A guide for determining what indicators to include in district data reporting systems, in light of a district’s priorities and capacity to provide interventions and support

  • District research and evaluation staff/data analysts
  • School and district staff

A Technical Guide to College Readiness Indicators

A guide that outlines seven steps to examine the predictive validity of indicators

  • District research and evaluation staff/data analysts
  • Educational researchers

District Self-Assessment Tool

A tool that supports a district’s effort to assess and strengthen its organizational capacity to plan and implement a college readiness indicator system

  • District college readiness reivew teams that include district leaders, staff, teachers, counselors, principals, community leaders, and higher education representatives

Essential Elements in Implementation

A report of promising implementation strategies with concrete case examples, drawing on CRIS implementation in partner sites

  • District leaders and administrators
  • Research and evaluation staff/data analysts
  • Community partners
  • Local/state policymakers and their staff
  • College readiness intermediaries/reform support organizations

The CRIS Research Partners

Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR) is a national policy-research and reform support organization that focuses on improving conditions and outcomes for all students in urban public schools, especially those attended by traditionally underserved children. AISR conducts research; works with a variety of partners to build capacity in school districts and communities; and shares its work through print and web publications.

Website | Twitter

The John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education (Gardner Center) is a center for rigorous research, deeply rooted in the principles of community youth development. Its interdisciplinary team focuses on questions raised by its community partners about issues that matter to youth, and its collaborative approach is supported by three broad research strategies: the cross-sector Youth Data Archive, implementation and evaluation research, and community engagement and policy research.

Website | Twitter

University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago Consortium) conducts research of high technical quality that can inform and assess policy and practice in the Chicago Public Schools. Consortium seeks to expand communication among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners as we support the search for solutions to the problems of school reform.

Website | Twitter

Related Resources

College Readiness Indicator Systems: A Framework for the Field 
Voices in Urban Education 38 (Fall 2013)
This issue of VUE reflects on the lessons of three years of work on the CRIS project. Collectively, the articles frame our current understanding of college readiness and show how college readiness indicator systems are being infused into the day-to-day work and culture of the five sites.

College Readiness Indicator Systems
Voices in Urban Education 35 (Fall 2012)
While most U.S. education stakeholders now recognize that a high school diploma is not enough to prepare students for post-secondary success, how do we know when a student is "college ready," and how do we use that information to design effective support and interventions?