Why are so many high school graduates taking remedial classes in college? What can be done to better prepare students for the demands of higher education? Our panel of experts discusses the academic rigor and skills and the “softer” skills-like self-advocacy and teamwork-that teens need to succeed in college. Learn how parents, counselors, classroom teachers can get students thinking about and working toward college, and prepared to succeed when they arrive.
Nevin Brown is a Senior Fellow in the Postsecondary Initiative at Achieve in Washington D.C. Mr. Brown is responsible for advancing Achieve’s mission through engagement with the postsecondary community. Previously he held positions at the Education Trust, where he worked on community-based school-university collaborative initiatives in a number of U.S. cities.
Barbara Taveras is the Director, Community Engagement at New Visions for Public Schools, where she oversees services provided to community stakeholders and parent networks. Prior to joining New Visions, she served as President of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation and as a Policy Analyst in of K-12 education for the New York City Office of the Mayor.
Jennifer Glaser is a school counselor at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. She works on post-high-school planning and college readiness, with an emphasis on first-generation college-bound students.
Background on college readiness
Academic rigor and skills
Early college awareness
College readiness and English-Language Learners
Delia Pompa: Why are so many high school graduates taking remedial classes in college? What can be done to better prepare students for the demands of higher education? Please join me for the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College.
Hello, I’m Delia Pompa. Welcome to the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College. In this segment of our four part program, we’ll define college readiness and how schools and parents can help students get prepared. Joining me are three experts.
Nevin Brown, is a Senior Fellow at Achieve, where he works on the policy initiatives that help smooth the transition from high school to post secondary education. Barbara Taveras is the director of community engagement at New Visions for Public Schools, where she works to involve parents in college readiness efforts, and Jennifer Glaser is a school counselor at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. She works on post high school planning and college readiness. Thank you all for joining us.
Nevin, more people than ever are going to college. Why do we hear so much about student’s lack of readiness for college?
Nevin Brown: Most students have met all the requirements that we tell them they should meet in high school. They take the courses. They get the good grades. They pass the state assessments that are often not though at college ready levels.
They go to college and then they end up in remedial courses. I think this is one of the most critical problems we face in the transition from high school to college that too many students really have done what we’ve told them to do but then find themselves at a disadvantage when they get to the college doorstep.
Delia Pompa: Can you give us a comprehensive definition of college readiness — and by college we’re talking about two and four year schools.
Nevin Brown: That’s right. At Achieve, my organization here in Washington, we focus a lot on academic preparation and in academic preparation. What we mean by college ready is that a student is ready to take a credit-bearing college course without remediation, when he or she comes to the college doorstep.
There are also, though, other criteria or other kinds of capacities students need to have - study skills, for example, time management skills, also abilities in areas like use of technology and media. There are a variety of other kinds of skills that students need to have to really be college ready, but academically, they need to be getting into that first credit bearing course, whether it be at the two year college or the four year college.
Delia Pompa: Jennifer, you’re in a high school everyday. Shouldn’t a high school diploma mean that you’re ready for college?
Jennifer Glaser: A high school diploma is certainly a significant achievement and milestone for our students in our schools. However, it does not equate with college readiness or college acceptance. There are many factors that go into preparing students for college, as Nevin mentioned, with the study skills and advance classes and rigor of the programs.
All of these things combine to help the students prepare for college. And a standard high school diploma or even an advanced studies diploma or a more advanced diploma does not necessarily ensure that every student has taken the extra steps necessary to prepare for those college level skills and the advanced classes that they’ll face at that level.
Delia Pompa: Barbara, what should parents be doing to help their kids get ready for college?
Barbara Taveras: I want to begin by saying that we often talk about parent engagement and at New Visions, where I work, we begin to talk about family engagement because when we talk about college readiness, certainly for many students it is their parents.
But in other instances, it may be other adults that are playing an education mentor-type relationship with the student and the students themselves that are part of that equation. But in terms of parents or adults in a student life, we talk about the roles that parents really play in helping students to gain the skills and competencies that they need to be ready to do college level work or career — going to the workforce.
And one of those, and I think it’s a critical piece, which is setting high expectations for post secondary education. So as Jennifer said, and as you mentioned earlier, it’s not just graduation as the end goal, but graduation from high school as a step towards sort of preparing for life after high school. So setting high expectations for post secondary education is critical and is something that really has to be done at home. Because if it’s only done at the school and then they go home, then there’s a disconnect. So the students are getting the reinforcement both from home, as well as school.
Another important role that parents play is monitoring the progress that students are making around academic achievement, student performance. And the third critical support and role that parents play is really advocating for the resources that their child needs when that child may be falling off track or just to make sure that they stay on track to finishing high school and to being successful at entering and staying in college. So those are three critical things that families can do hopefully with the support of schools and other resources.
Delia Pompa: So when is the right time to start planning? What’s the timeline?
Barbara Taveras: Well, it’s never early enough. I’m sure that you’ve heard recently that we’re all beginning to talk about from cradle to college and I would say from cradle to career, the three C’s — cradle, college, careers. At New Visions, we’re really focusing on the 9th grade because national research tells us that 9th grade is a critical transition point in the educational point in the educational continuum of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
And in fact, data from the New York City public school system (when New Vision worked with schools in New York) shows that in 9th grade is where the highest number of students are held back and many of those students may become over-age and under-credited, meaning that by the time they’re supposed to graduate, they do not have enough credits to do so. So 9th grade is critical.
And in 9th grade, I believe that research also shows that this is critical in any other point of transition — attendance is key. So attendance in 9th grade is something that we really want to emphasis with parents and students. That is critical. It’s something that they could do. And 9th grade for us, for New Vision, is a global point of transition. But again, kindergarten, 5th grade, 6th grade, 8th grade and 9th grade have been identified as critical points of transition in the educational continuum.
Delia Pompa: Well, it seems that there’s a role for everybody. Jennifer, what’s the role of the high school counselor in getting kids ready for post secondary education?
Jennifer Glaser: Well, I want to echo what Barbara said. First of all, it’s never too early to start post-high school planning or talking about college and career readiness with students and the role of the counselor really starts at the elementary level, exposing students to college and career curriculum, infusing it into the curriculum with the help of teachers and then moving to the middle school to talk about the academic advising, choosing the right classes and really helping for college readiness and college preparation.
At the high school, we work with students in a variety of ways. Specifically, we start with the 9th graders to expose them to interest inventories and career inventories, trying to get them to start to look at different options while also mentioning and starting to think about college majors and options for colleges.
Then for 10th grade, we start to look at more of the careers and job opportunities, extracurricular activities, possibilities for them to expand their resume and really get interested in not only the elective courses and the core courses that they’re taking as part of their curriculum, but also in how can they start to really create a whole person who’s going to move on from high school into college and be ready.
Junior year, generally, we start to look more specifically at colleges. “What is your interest? Are you looking for a two year or a four year college as a high school student?” And again, the academic advising remains key for all of the years of high school and their counselor is critical in that. We also try to collaborate with the teachers, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years so that the teachers are in touch with what the students goals are and really where the students want to go.
And then senior year, of course, there’s a huge focus on college applications, choosing the right fit school — again, whether it’s two year or four year for a specific student. There are so many options and we really want to connect the specific student with the college or the career path that is best for that student.
And the whole time, again, we’re focusing on preparation for outside of high school. We’re looking beyond the requirements of the graduation and the diploma that each state or each school has, so that the students are really becoming well rounded and ready for higher level thinking in college classes.
Delia Pompa: You’re a busy person!
Jennifer Glaser: We are busy. [laughter]
Delia Pompa: Barbara, what are the special challenges of preparing say English language learners for college?
Barbara Taveras: One of the special challenges is that English language learners are held to the same standards for graduation and college acceptance so I think that one of the things that needs to be in the forefront with teachers and counselors and others is that they’re not moving in a different pathway.
That although they may be learning English, that’s neither a disability nor something that would exempt them from the standards or the requirements for college readiness so making sure that they are getting the content that they need so they’re developing the same competencies that other students may need. So I think the challenge is one of not thinking of them as separate from others and really preparing them, just as all the other students are being prepared to meet the requirements that are needed, while they work on their language skills.
Delia Pompa: Nevin, what are the consequences of not preparing students or having college readiness as something that’s important for all students?
Nevin Brown: I think ultimately, the biggest price we pay is that we’re closing the door for opportunity to our students. I think one of the things we need to think about is that education is really a lifelong activity, especially when you look at the kind of economy in society that we are evolving into over the next 10 to 20 years.
It’s interesting. We’re not really just educating students to enter college; we really want them to get through college but also be able to come back and get additional education and training when they need it and we know that that’s gonna be necessary — probably for most American adults or their entire career. And so I think when we don’t think about preparing students adequately for college, we’re really not preparing them adequately for careers — as you were noting — and for life.
And I think also there are other costs. For example, dashed dreams on the part of our students who think that they have been prepared adequately for college, go to the college, get in a remedial course (and we know that there are a high percentages of students who never get out of those remedial courses), whether it be at the two year college or the four year college level.
I think also we have big financial costs. Many colleges and universities — especially two year colleges but some four year colleges, too — spend a lot of money on remedial education. And many of those students are spending a lot of student loan support that they’re getting from the federal government, to pay for these remedial courses that still are not really getting them where they need to go to be able to succeed in college, whether at the two or four year level. But the I think the most important message is that by not preparing students adequately for college now, we are really closing doors and I don’t think adults should be closing doors for students.
Delia Pompa: Well we focus mostly on high schools today. What is the role of colleges in preparing students for the demands of higher education and how are they doing at it?
Nevin Brown: Colleges have for a long time had programs of various kinds. There have been federal programs, the trio programs and others that have been designed to identify students early who might be college material. Many colleges have programs to bring students on campus or bridge programs over the summer, this kind of thing. But I think what colleges need to do more of is communicate about the actual reality of going to college and especially the realities about academic work.
I think one of the things, for example, that many students, teachers and others don’t really know is that it’s not just being admitted to college that is the goal; it’s being placed in courses that will get you going toward a degree or certificate — in other words, credit bearing courses. And I think colleges have not communicated effectively that that is the real gate.
Even community colleges that will say that they are open enrollment…most of them have placement tests for mathematics or English or other subjects and many students who think that they’re ready. I got into college. There were no admission’s requirements. All of a sudden, they’re faced with a placement test and that’s where often they find that they’re not prepared.
Delia Pompa: So Jennifer put a face on this for us. Tell us about some students you worked with.
Jennifer Glaser: Sure. Well again, there’s a different path for every student and it’s really critical that each student gets intervention from teachers, counselors, family members, those in the community so that they can create the best path and the one that fits them for their future. Just within the past few weeks and months, I’ve worked with a variety of students who have very different goals and ambitions for college.
Recently, there was one student who brought me his transcript and we sat down and we discussed how his GPA, his grade point average in high school, has been pretty low. He hasn’t gotten more than C’s or D’s in most of his classes, but he has dreams of going to college. He wants to go to a four year college. I talked with him about how there are options — not just four year colleges right away, but also the two year option and other preparatory programs that he can use to really achieve his goal.
It’s very important that as community members, as counselors, as people who are working with students, we do not crush anyone’s dreams and we never hold the student back from thinking that college is practical. I’ve worked with other students who are coming from another country whose parents have never attended college in the United States.
They’re first generation college bound students for the United States and they don’t know where to begin in many cases because they don’t have the parental involvement at home who has been through the experience. So working with the student in that case, it’s really a whole new learning curve, exposure to colleges, preparation for the applications and then also of course the academic load that they are bearing within their high school courses.
Then if you take it a step further, I’ve worked with students who are very prepared. They’ve excelled in all their classes. They’ve taken all high level classes. It’s obvious that they’re ready to go for college but they’re trying to find that right fit school and they really have so many options to explore. Helping them to not only define their interest, but also find schools that align with their interest and will continue to challenge them and allow them to be successful is really important.
Delia Pompa: So you’ve found a path for everybody? Barbara, what do you say to people who say not everyone is college material or it’s a waste of time to send that student to college?
Barbara Taveras: Well, I’d like to remind folks who say that (and I hear that a lot, very often I hear that), that ours is a knowledge-based society and is also a technology-driven knowledge economy. And consequently, the notion that there are students who are college material and others who are not, is probably no longer relevant. And as I’m sure Nevin could probably explain, the same skills and competencies that are needed to do college level work are the same that are needed to go into the job, into the workforce.
So what I say to folks often is, let’s make sure that we are preparing students in such a way that they can make that choice for themselves as opposed to we as adults when they come to the school door, determining that they are college material or that they’re not. Let’s prepare them so that they’re the ones to make that choice and when they make that choice, regardless of whether it is to go to work or to go to college immediately after high school, they know that they have what’s needed to be successful in either one.
Delia Pompa: Thank you, Barbara and thank you everyone. That marks the end of this segment but not our discussion. Please join us for part two of this webcast. We’ll discuss the academic knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college. You can learn more about college readiness and watch the other segments of this webcast at www.AdLit.org.
Narrator: Funding for this adlit.org webcast was generously provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional funding for AdLit.org was provided by the Ann B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation.
Delia Pompa: What classes do high school students need to take and what skills should they have to succeed in college? Please join me for Academic Rigor and Skills, part two of the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College.
Hello I’m Delia Pompa. Welcome to the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College. In part one, we introduced you to basics of college readiness. Now we’ll focus on academic skills students need to be successful in college. Thank you, Nevin Brown, Barbara Taveras and Jennifer Glaser for joining us today.
Nevin, let’s start with a definition, what is academic rigor?
Nevin Brown: I want to use a definition that Lauren Resnick at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh has been using and I think really we use at Achieve as well, and that is rigor is about one, focusing on the core concepts, the core knowledge that one needs to learn in a particular discipline. Two, it’s trying to focus on how to help the student ask good, solid, hard questions about that information, and thirdly it’s about finding ways of engaging the student with the information and engaging a student with the learning.
So I think rigor sometimes, if you look at a dictionary definition, has all kinds of negative connotations. It sounds kind of unpleasant, but actually what it’s about is really engaging students in their learning and really focusing on the information — the knowledge that they need to be able to be successful in that particular class or that particular subject area.
Delia Pompa: Well, you and your organization have done a lot of work to increase rigor of high school classes in the United States. Can you tell us a little bit about those efforts?
Nevin Brown: We are the sponsors of the American Diploma Project, which is a network of 35 states around the country educating about 85 percent of the nation’s school children. And the focus has been on developing rigorous academic standards and especially in Mathematics and English Language Arts, to start with. We’re going to be getting in to Science soon.
Aligning assessments to those standards, developing data systems that help us track how students are doing across the K12 and really the K16 spectrum and then developing more rigorous graduation requirements and curricular requirements for students at the high school level, all of which then are aligned to what it takes to be ready for doing, again as I said before, college level credit bearing work. So it’s really focused on college and as we said before too, career readiness.
Delia Pompa: And Jennifer, you’re in the middle of it everyday — in the trenches, so to speak. What are the barriers to increasing work toward graduation or having more rigor in class work?
Jennifer Glaser: Right. Well, first, the requirements come down as policy from the state and the schools are responsible for following what the requirements are as they are defined for each state and district. Now in the schools, we always are trying to encourage rigor and again. As Ned said, I look at it as a positive term, rigor as in challenging the students and then also allowing them to be successful.
However, sometimes it’s hard to add new classes that perhaps have a more advanced foundation into the schools because of shopping and budget funding we are limited by the amount of teachers that we may have, the students who may be available to take the classes and we really have to pay attention to numbers, both financial and student, in order to get access and availability of classes in our schools.
Even more than that, we still have to meet the standards that are in place so the students are still required to take standard classes and then they really only have room for maybe one or two electives a year, depending on the school and the states requirements. So we’re still trying to find that balance between appropriately challenging while also meeting the standards for the states and for the school districts.
Delia Pompa:Barbara, in your work engaging the community on a daily basis, do you find that parents understand what classes their children should be taking?
Barbara Taveras: They don’t. New Visions has launched a campaign that’s called Good to Go. And a core part of Good to Go is really helping parents and students understand, what are the courses that they really need to be taking to be good to go to college?
So what we have done is to conduct sessions, actual sessions with parents and students, and everything is focused on 9th grade, in terms of the family engagement that we are doing, and really saying to parents, “Here are the courses that your student needs to be taking in 9th grade. Here are some of the state tests that also your child needs to take in the 9th grade and also to students,” so that they understand that.
And then really working with teachers so we do sessions with teachers so that they can go even deeper with parents and students and not only say, “You need to take Algebra in the 9th grade, but here are the learning goals.” Because we often find that teachers may talk about my class and how you get the grades in my class in math, but not to really help parents and students understand that at the end of this class, here’s what you should know.
So our work is sort of involving those three key constituencies — parents, students and teachers — to really understand what are the courses, but more importantly what are the learning goals that they need to achieve? And then when parents get report cards they could kind of connect the dots. When students get a program card, they know whether or not they’re in the right courses because they now understand that in the 9th grade to be on a path to college readiness, they should have taken these courses.
Delia Pompa: The whole family’s preparing for college these days.
Barbara Taveras: Absolutely, absolutely.
Delia Pompa: Nevin, as you know, there’s been an increase in the number of AP classes and the number of students taking AP classes and that’s been controversial at times. What’s the role of AP classes in preparing students for higher education?
Nevin Brown: I’d like actually to expand it beyond AP. I think part of it is what we’re trying to do with AP courses, dual enrollment courses — there are many different titles for these kinds of programs — is to bring more, in a sense, college level content into the high school classroom. I think AP…the reason it’s been controversial is one, that there’s a lot of professional development for teachers that is really needed for a high school teacher to be able to teach those courses effectively and two, a lot of colleges are still sort of on the fence I would say about their comfort with accepting the credits that AP actually offers.
One thing I would like to point to in that context is there are now a number of institutions around the country, community colleges in particular, that have worked in developing what they call, middle college high schools, where they’re actually blending the last two years of high school and the first two years of college.
And I think what they’re getting at is AP, dual enrollment, everything is trying to get at this issue the fact that high school is not very interesting for a lot of students and I think part of the reason is that the students are really in a sense developing beyond what high school was traditionally or the college campus environment seems to make a huge difference for those students and they’ve been very successful. There’s a national network now, these middle college/high schools and I would certainly recommend the viewers of this webinar, this webcast, to go the middle college national network website and they’ll find a lot of information about those kinds of models.
Delia Pompa: You know we talk a lot about holding standards high and differentiating instruction, what is the role or how do you infuse academic rigor for students who are struggling with reading and writing?
Nevin Brown: I think part of the issue is that we tend to segregate reading and writing into its own little box. That somehow reading and writing you teach over here and then somehow you teach literature, you teach history, you teach science over here and you never make the connection. I think part of it is helping students understand the connection between those. Also, secondly, teaching reading and writing is not simply about reading and writing.
You’re reading and writing about history or about science or about mathematics. There are actually different ways of reading and writing and actually I think if we were more sophisticated about helping students understand those differences, you might find that part of the issue is motivation — that if students who are really interested in science understood the role of reading and writing, they might actually take it more seriously when they’re studying this in high school.
It is true that there are many students, though, who have great difficulty with reading and writing. Learning the stabilities and lots of other things that are going on academically for those students and you can’t ignore those issues. But I do think it’s all too easy to say well we’ll spend all of our time trying to teach them reading and writing without teaching them anything else. When, in fact, if you worked on trying to teach them other stuff, they might actually learn much more about reading and writing than you would expect.
Delia Pompa: So Jennifer, following up on these students who are struggling, should they be encouraged to go to college?
Jennifer Glaser: Oh absolutely. I think we’ve touched on this multiple times throughout the webcast so far. Every student can be on a path to go to college and a student, whether he’s having difficulty in reading or writing or both or still trying to work through the challenges of a specific learning disability, that student can still achieve the preparation and the academic foundation to go on to study at the college level.
And I really do think it goes back to what we were just saying with Nevin. The teachers and the counselors and those in the school really need to infuse these college readiness skills, higher level thinking, analytical thinking and application as they’re also focusing on specific needs of the children who are struggling.
Delia Pompa: And you would say the same thing for English learners?
Jennifer Glaser: Absolutely. Again as we mentioned earlier with Barbara’s comment, English language learners do have the unique process that they are experiencing but they’re also coming with a great talent. Many of our students here in the United States who have gone through K12 are not fluent in two languages or three languages, as some of our English language learners are.
We really need to value their academic potential and help them through the difference steps for them, whether it’s taking the test or preparing through their English language classes, really working counselors and teachers and stakeholders together to help prepare them and go on to the next level.
Delia Pompa: Thanks. Nevin, we’ve talked a lot about academic knowledge and academic knowledge the students need for college. Are there other skills that aren’t particular to a course that students need to go to college, to be ready for college?
Nevin Brown: A fellow named Dave Conley has talked a lot about this. I hope those who are hearing this webcast will again look for Dave Conley’s writing on this topic. There’s a lot of time management skills, study skills, taking responsibility for one’s learning. There are a number of different kinds of, what one calls the soft skills that students need to have.
You can find a lot of this information on the Achieve website, on Dave Conley’s website. The Association of American Colleges and Universities has actually looked at this from the college perspective because more and more college professors are beginning to pay attention to these softer skills. One thing, for example, that many professors have learned is that one of the most effective ways for students to study is not on their own, but in groups.
And in fact, Ria Triceman, who has been one of our leading mathematics educators at the University of Texas…a lot of his early work was looking at how Asian students study versus students from other ethnic groups and seeing how Asian students spend a lot of their time studying in groups, whereas many other students have been sort of taught that you have to study on your own. And yet, the more effective way to learn much of the subject matter was in groups. And so learning some of those softer skills in high school, I think, would be a very important benefit to students who are looking to go to college.
Delia Pompa: You know, there’s so many things you have to do to prepare for college, Barbara. What can schools do to help students whose families either can’t or don’t support them in their college readiness?
Barbara Taveras: Well, we know in high schools that New Visions works with that many students come from different family settings. And they may or may not have the support that one would wish that they had at home. So one of the encouraging things that we have seen that happens actually in the school by guidance counselors, as well as teacher mentors, is developing a self agency of these students.
So really beginning with something that Jennifer touched on, which is what’s their motivation? What are their dreams and aspirations for post secondary education? And using that to really begin to support them in how they themselves can become knowledgeable about the courses they need to take, as well as the college access piece of getting ready for college so developing a self agency because these young people are going to have to be self directed.
The other piece that is absolutely critical we’ve seen that in our schools — and I’m sure you have seen it in the schools where you are — which is an adult mentor or teacher mentor. Many schools don’t have advisories for — at the high school level they don’t have advisories, but we find that even in schools where there are no advisory classes, if there is an adult that really knows the student well and is able to inspire, motivate and support and guide that student that makes an enormous difference.
And when that may not be present in the school, then what are external organizations, community based organizations, professional associations that can really identify with mentors. Mentors are critical for many of our young people who may not have family supports or even those with family supports that are coming from low income communities or immigrant communities where they may not have the role models or the guidance that they may need to really prepare for college. So I would say those two — self agency of the students themselves, as well as an adult mentor to guide them through the process.
Delia Pompa: The whole community effort isn’t it?
Barbara Taveras: Absolutely.
Nevin Brown: Can I pick up on that? What’s interesting about that comment, too, is that it’s pertinent to college, as well. One of the reasons that many students in the first year of college drop out is that they never make a connection with an adult in the college.
And so it’s equally relevant, especially for students who may be coming from first year backgrounds where nobody else in their family has gone to college, to have an adult at the college who knows them, who actually can ask questions about how they’re doing, is following their progress. And so one of the points here I think is that many of the techniques to help students be ready for college are also important for college success once they get to college.
Delia Pompa: Backing up to the high school, meeting those adults, what happens in schools… Jennifer, where there aren’t enough counselors?
Jennifer Glaser: It’s a great question and unfortunately, there are many states and districts in the country that have incredibly high student to counselor ratios that make it near impossible for a counselor to sit one-on-one for half an hour with each student, even in the course of the year. But the best thing to do for counselors is to really work with teachers and other stakeholders within the school, community members, mentors, representatives such as these two, to infuse college readiness, career preparation and college preparation in general into the curriculum.
The counselors really can work with the other members of the school so that the students are being reached and so that these factors are being worked into the daily functions of the school, even if it’s not coming directly from the counselor. The counselor can be part of the development and the training for the teachers and other members who see the students on a daily basis.
Delia Pompa: You know some of this falls to the student themselves to get themselves ready for college. What kind of guidance do you give students?
Jennifer Glaser: Well, I like what Barbara was saying. A student really needs to be a self advocate and we, at the high school level, try to start working on self advocacy skills from the start of 9th grade on. The student needs to start exploring what possibilities are out there before high school even, but then also starting to really take advantage of taking trips to colleges once they’re in high school, starting to get a feel for what a college campus is and what’s required in a curriculum.
The students these days are so savvy with the internet and there is so much information out there. Every college has a website that could allow them to explore requirements for admission, curriculum components and other interesting activities that are available for colleges. So really the student needs to start to research and expose themselves to college information at a very early age.
Delia Pompa: Barbara or Nevin, what else would you add that students can start doing or need to learn to do?
Barbara Taveras: We include students in all of our work with families, as I mentioned at the beginning, and the reason for that is that students are now subjects of what we adults do to prepare them. In fact, it works a lot better when they are active participants in their own learning. In the end in many instances, a family may want a student to go to college and he or she may not want to, so in the end they will make the choice to go.
To the degree, that we could really develop the advocacy skills, motivate them, inspire them and really then support them. I think that when they have to make that choice in 11th or 12th grade, they’re really going to be ready to choose the right college or to choose the right pathway. So student engagement is absolutely critical in this process of getting them ready for college and careers.
Nevin Brown: And it doesn’t end when they graduate from high school. I would say also that students who go on to college in a sense have a responsibility and should be encouraged to think of themselves as mentors back to high school students. These are students who’ve gone to college. We hope that many of them have been successful, but they need to be able to go back and they should be going back to the high school and saying, “I made it at X college. Here’s how I did it. Here’s some of the things you need to know.”
So I think part of this, too, is again it doesn’t end at the high school graduation level. It’s really helping instill in these students that you still have a responsibility to come back and be sure that you’re helping communicate to the students, not that you left behind, but those who are coming behind you, about what it’s like, what it’s gonna take and that you can succeed because I’m succeeding, too.
Delia Pompa: Thank you all for this critical information. There’s still more of this discussion to come. Please join us for part three of Ready for College when we’ll move beyond the classroom and discuss other skills and support students need to be successful in college. You can learn more about college readiness and watch the other segments of this webcast at www.AdLit.org.
Narrator: Funding for this AdLit.org webcast was generously provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional funding for AdLit.org was provided by the Ann B and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation.
Delia Pompa: It takes more than academic knowledge to succeed in college. Learn what else students need to succeed. Please join me for Beyond Academics, part three of the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College.
Hello, I’m Delia Pompa. In the previous segment of Ready for College, we discussed the academic knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college. In this segment, our panelists will discuss other elements that are important for college readiness. Welcome, Nevin Brown, Barbara Taveras and Jennifer Glaser.
Nevin, I’m going to start with you. In the previous segments, we’ve talked about academic prerequisites for college. We’ve talked about critical thinking, academic knowledge, teamwork, research, that kind of thing. What are some other skills that students need to be ready for college?
Nevin Brown: Time management clearly is one. When you go to college, you’re going to be much more responsible for your own learning as a student. And so learning how to manage many different tasks at the same time will be an important element of that work.
Secondly is study skills. As I mentioned in an earlier segment of this broadcast, one of the pieces of evidence that I think many people should know about is research that indicates that group study is probably actually, in some disciplines, a very effective way for a student to learn the content in college. And so not just isolating yourself in your room, but really studying with your friends and colleagues will be an important thing for you to know how to do.
I think also, to some degree, self assertiveness, the ability to ask questions, if you don’t understand something that’s being asked or you’re describing your classroom to be willing to raise your hand and ask questions. And also to seek out adult assistance and adult help when you feel that you don’t understand what’s going on in the classroom or when you really feel that college is kind of a mystery. The ability to reach out and find the help that you need is very important.
Delia Pompa: We focus so much on academics. How do you develop those skills? And I know you wanted to jump in, Jennifer.
Jennifer Glaser: Oh, that’s okay. I actually just wanted to reiterate something that Nevin had said. Time management, for college, is huge. A student must know how to organize a variety of activities, but then also effectively use the time for study skills and preparation for classes.
Many students will come back to me at the high school after a year of college or two years of college, and they’ll say, “Oh, my gosh. I’m only in class four hours a day, and then I can do whatever I want.” So to really reach the students at the high school level and say, “You’re not going to be in class for eight hours a day or six and a half hours a day and then go to practice for two and a half hours a day and then have one hour to do your homework. Instead, you’re going to have ten hours that you need to manage and fill with activities and homework is crucial at our level.” So to really start to prepare them, at the high school level for that, is key.
Delia Pompa: So the tough question is…how do you do that?
Nevin Brown: Well, I think one way that you do it is to look at what we would call often extracurricular activity in high school. Volunteer activity, service learning activity, other kinds of things the students and I were doing, often spending many hours doing these things in college. But being more intentional about using those opportunities to identify and lay out the kinds of skills that you’re learning and those kinds of activities that may, indeed, contribute, for example, to the ability to manage time better.
Because many students, actually it turns out, are spending a lot of time. And then probably learning how to manage time in a way, but nobody’s really identified it for them or help them sort of look at it and say, “Oh, yeah. I’m learning that skill by doing this activity.” So I think looking at the extracurricular activities at the high school level might be a very effective way of helping teach or at least identify those skills for students.
Delia Pompa: Jennifer, how prepared are teachers to answer students’ questions about college requirements?
Jennifer Glaser: It really depends. There’s no set formula that is used in every school to teach students about college readiness. So again, that’s where the different stakeholders come into play. As counselors, we need to work with teachers to prepare them, not to take on our role of academic advisors, but to be prepared to recommend the appropriate classes so students can have appropriate and challenging rigor in their course schedule. And also to know where to find out the information.
The teachers should not feel that they have to have the answer to every question. Rather, if they can be a catalyst for having students ask those questions, and then also help point them in the right direction to counselors within the school or to outside research so the students can get the answers to those questions is really important. So it definitely depends on how infused the curriculum is with college and career readiness, about how informed the teachers are.
Delia Pompa: Thank you. Barbara, in other segments you’ve talked about the importance of family support. What can schools do? How can they communicate effectively to parents about college readiness?
Barbara Taveras: As I mentioned earlier, I think really helping parents understand what the benchmarks that students need to achieve in every grade, not just what they need to do in every class, but in the ninth grade, this is what we’re aiming for and really making that clear, as well as the expectations for college readiness in this school.
I think many parents don’t know that the schools really have college, the preparation, preparing students for college as a goal. So making sure that parents know what are the expectations. And then I think very, very important, as I mentioned earlier, is what are the learning goals for classes, as well as for the year? I attend a lot of curriculum nights or meet-the-teacher nights. And one thing that I noticed that is a common is the emphasis on I’m the math teacher, as I mentioned earlier here, how your students could, you don’t need to do your homework or get the grades. But no conversation about the learning goals.
At the end of the year, what is a student in my classes prepare in algebra look like? I think that will be fantastic for teachers to begin to help parents understand what does it look like? And most importantly, what can you do and what can your student do to really meet those benchmarks? And in addition to that, what are the supports that exist in a school and out in the community? If you need to tap into those supports to keep your student going. So definitely communicating expectation, communicating learning goals.
And one thing that I’d like to emphasize with teachers, when we do sessions with them, is that parents look to teachers as a resource. As a parent, I have a child who just finished college, and when he was in school, I always looked to his teachers, not just to tell me how well or not so well he was doing in class, but to say, what do I need to do? So I think that if teachers can begin to see themselves as a resource to parents beyond your child is failing or passing my class, but here is where Barbara may need to improve, and here are recommendations that I’m making for things that you need to do. So that relationship of parents and teachers, as a support to one another, I think is absolutely critical.
Delia Pompa: Jennifer, what special supports do first generation college-goers need?
Jennifer Glaser: Well, there is a rising number of first generation college-bound students in this area and across the country. And those students really need specific attention and extra attention as they go through high school and even before high school to prepare for the college application process and to really improve college readiness. First, they need to know that there are high expectations for them. Just because their parents did not go to college does not mean that they cannot attend college, number one.
Number two, we really need to educate the family as a whole. As Barbara has been saying, we have to bring in the parents and educate them about college and the opportunities that come with college as well for their students. And we also need to get students thinking about college early so that they’re visiting the college campuses, getting on those websites, doing the research, learning about what it means to go to college. When it’s time for them to apply, they, again, need special, careful consideration.
Most of the families have never filled out a financial aid application or a college application. So really, they’ll need a lot more one-on-one attention than a family who is on their second or third child who’s going to college, and they went to college, and have experience here with the process. So really, it takes a lot of careful consideration.
And I encourage the schools to look at those groups of students as they continue to increase and really find ways for the school counselors and mentors, community members to work with them and find the time to sit with them, not only expose them to the college process, but also give them those high expectations and make them know that it’s a reality to go to college.
Delia Pompa: Are there unique supports for other groups, like English language learners or students who have a GED?
Jennifer Glaser: There are, as well. Students who have a GED still have the potential to go onto college. English language learners, of course, have the potential to go onto college. And again, there’s a lot of individual attention that’s needed. I know there are challenges with high caseloads throughout the country from students to counselor ratios. However, there’s always a way to both train other educators in the profession and also bring in other stakeholders to really give the individual attention to other learners. And again, help them know that it’s a reality for college.
Delia Pompa: And also for English learners.
Jennifer Glaser: Right, right.
Delia Pompa: Nevin, it seems that more women than men are going to college and are graduating from college. What explains the gap? And what kind of supports do men need, as the only man on this panel.
Nevin Brown: As the only man on this panel, that’s right.
Delia Pompa: What supports do men need?
Nevin Brown: Actually, more girls than boys are graduating from high school, as well. I think it’s not just an issue of support for men in college, but also what are we doing to support boys, specifically, in high school. Where again, the dropout rates are very high, especially among some ethnic groups for boys. Girls, too, but I think boys even more.
I’m not an expert on this issue. I know it’s a deep concern, especially to minority communities right now. For example, I’ve heard of a number of historically black colleges and universities where the ratio of women to men is 70 to 30 at this point. Even in the Roman, much less, graduation rates. I think we spent a lot of time — and I hope I don’t get into trouble for this…we spend a lot of time, legitimately, I think, looking at opportunities for women in mathematics and science, title nine, lots and lots of supports we provided for women in federal policy and a state policy around the country.
It may be time for us to take a look at, because I don’t think we know a lot, what kinds of particular supports may men need in order to be successful in a post-secondary environment? How much we know, I don’t think we know very much. And I hope some of our viewers, in fact, may be people who can contribute their own knowledge in this area. Because I think it’s one that is of a great concern, and the fact there is even now the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, in fact, is going to be taking a look at this issue, great concern about the number of men dropping off so significantly.
Jennifer Glaser: I also want to jump in and say, I think it’s really important to analyze which groups of men are having the most trouble attending and completing college. We really need to find where the gaps are. If there are trends in different ethnic groups or in low income groups or in first generation college-bound, how can we really isolate where the gaps are so that we can effectively address the needs?
Delia Pompa: Barbara, after all this, how hard should you push, if a student says he really doesn’t want to go to college?
Barbara Taveras: I think that it’s not a question of pushing hard. It’s a question of helping students see the range of options that exist for them. So, for example, it may be that, for a very legitimate reason, a student cannot consider going to college right after high school because perhaps they have to work to help the family and those kinds of things. But to always help them understand that they may want to go into a job that has opportunities for coming back and going to college or technical schools. So that there are many different entry points to college.
I don’t think the only option is to go to college right after high school, but really helping them understand that college is a way for socioeconomic advancement — that they will be citizens and parents. And therefore, that how their education and how they later could support their families, be engaged citizens, that college is not just to get a job, but it’s also to become an active citizen, a parent, a family person. And that there are a range of options, and that college is always an option for them. So that’s what I communicate to students who are in that position of saying, I just cannot consider going to college right away.
Delia Pompa: Jennifer, is there a downside to taking a year off before you go to college, a year off to, say, work, or to be in some special program like City Core or something like that?
Jennifer Glaser: I don’t think there has to be a disadvantage to that. But the students must remain actively involved in the learning process through that year or two years that they’re off, in my opinion. They need to stay engaged so that the college readiness that they’ve built in high school doesn’t drop off and they have to start over with the learning curve or possibly remedial courses when they get to college.
More and more students are considering taking a year for money, for financial reasons, to work. Some are considering taking a gap year to explore, to travel abroad. There are many options for students who are looking at a possibility of taking a year off, but they must remain actively engaged in order to continue the upward trend in the progress with their academics.
And again, they also have to be educated about what that means for the college admissions process. Will the school allow them to defer their admission to college for a year? Or will they have to reapply? So before making that decision, the students really need to consider all the factors and have a plan for staying actively involved in learning.
Nevin Brown: And this, too, is where it seems to be, again, colleges have a responsibility. It seems to me that the idea of a gap year, which, for example, in the United Kingdom, is quite common, is probably a good idea for quite a few students, if they remain engaged, as you said. But in turn, a think colleges and universities need to rethink their admissions policies to allow for that possibility. So that a student, for example, might actually be admitted, but then have a year to do something else, and then start college a year later. So, again, there’s a responsibility for the college or the university. It’s not just the high school’s responsibility.
Barbara Taveras: We at New Visions, in our communicating with parents and students, we really talk about post-secondary education, to broaden that a little bit to say, technical schools, nine-month programs, something else. I think picking up on what you alluded to which is after high school, how do you stay engaged in the learning process?
Even when you go to work, you may still be learning many things that subsequently will allow you to perhaps be a more successful candidate at applying to a college or actually finishing college. So we say, just think about post-secondary education options for you, as opposed to none at all, because, you know, two-year, four-year college may not be an immediate option for them.
Delia Pompa: Thank you, everyone. Those are the last of my questions. But in part four of our webcast, the panelists will answer questions from our audience. I hope you’ll join us. You can learn more about college readiness and watch other segments of this webcast at www.AdLit.org.
Narrator: Funding for this AdLit.org webcast was generously provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional funding for AdLit.org was provided by the Ann B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation.
Delia Pompa: Is middle school too soon to start talking about college? What is being done to keep students in college? For the answers to these and other questions from our audience, please join me for segment four of the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College.
Hi, I am Delia Pompa. Welcome to the AdLit.org webcast, Ready for College. In previous segments, we have discussed academic rigor, as well as the social supports that increased student success in college. Now, let’s get to your questions. Welcome Nevin and Barbara and Jennifer. I feel like we are old friends after these four segments.
We are going to go to our first question and it is from Paula in North Carolina and Paula asks, are there special considerations for guidance counselors who work with students who have learning disabilities? Jennifer, let’s give that to you.
Jennifer Glaser: Yes, I think there are special considerations that counselors need to use when working with students with their learning disability. First, I would like to point out that in some cases the students choose not to disclose their learning disability in a college application. So, the counselor really needs to be familiar with the student and the parents’ wishes for writing that letter of recommendation, and for the planning for college applications, but also as the counselor sits down to work with the student who has a learning disability, the counselor really should consider what school might be the best fit for that student.
And there are special factors that go into those decisions, including sometimes class size. If it is a large institution, how much support is available through a learning services department at the college, the location, distance from home, all the factors that we consider with students who do not have learning disabilities can sometimes become more pronounced as you work with the student individually who has a learning disability. So, counselors really need to help students learn that there are differences in what is available at the college level, as higher support systems for their learning disabilities. And we need to help guide them to the best fit school for them.
Delia Pompa: Thank you. Francis in Pennsylvania actually has a question about the jargon we use sometimes. She says, I see the term P-16 council mentioned in articles about college readiness. Can you explain what these are? And Nevin, take that one.
Nevin Brown: P-16 or P-20 or K-16 or K-20 councils or initiatives had been around for about 20 years now. They exist both at local or regional levels and also with state levels. For example, in El Paso, Texas there is the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence. It involves all of the post secondary institutions, three of the school districts, leaders of the local community organizing agencies, parent organizations and others.
Long Beach has a similar kind of organization. The state of Georgia has a P-16 state wide council that includes many of the state’s education business and political leaders. Hawaii has a similar council, as well. You see this all over the country. In various states of activity I would point out, but at their best what they do is help communities and states focus their attention on college ready, career readiness and all of the policies and strategies we have been taking about here today, coordinating them and focusing them on improving student’s success in their states, in their localities.
And I think places like El Paso, for example, I think Georgia, I think Hawaii and some other locations are good example of communities and states that have come together through these particular structures and have actually been able to make some real progress in encouraging and also seeing success of students through the P220 pipeline, educational pipeline.
Delia Pompa: Phil in California asks this — what do you say to parents who tune out any discussion about college because of the cost? And Barbara, what are your thinking about that?
Barbara Taveras: As we all know, there is a lot of money out there that is available for college. What I find often in working with parents is that they do not know how to access those resources. And sometimes that is because they started planning for college so late, so that you know the early point about — yes, as early as possible to start thinking about college and planning for college.
So that if you are the parent of an elementary school student, middle school, ninth grade, really looking at what are the career interest of your students, what are the talents, where did they excel academically, and other scholarships for that, and what are the requirements of those scholarships. If you were doing that in elementary school or middle school, you may be able to support your students in that direction than if you are looking at that in the eleventh grade or the twelfth grade. It is difficult to access scholarships at that point in time, because they are usually have high academic performance attached to them.
The same thing with even public dollars that are available for college which is you really need to know what are the disclosure requirements, the income level requirements that are attached to that. So, I usually say to family, become informed. First. have a plan, then really become informed about what are all the potential sources of funding that maybe available that are public, private, as well as college saving.
For the fact — college savings accounts that the families maybe able to start with minimum amount, but over the years they really accumulate. Students themselves, college savings accounts over the summer that they may save some. Over the years, they are really accumulate, but it only makes a difference if you start early.
Delia Pompa: Would you add anything Jennifer and Nevin?
Jennifer Glaser: Actually at my high school, we have a program that is pretty common in this area. It is a free program for parents and it is run at least once a year…it is Financial Aid Night. And at this program, it is no cost to the school, either. We invite a financial aid represented from a college to come in and talk to the parents about the process for applying for financial aid and scholarships.
The process can be so confusing, especially if it is the first time that a parent is going through it with his or her child. So to have a representative from the field come in and talk to parents is really powerful. And again that is something that any school can do. Many college representatives from the financial aid offices will come in at no charge, and it is so beneficial for the parents to get that type of support.
Nevin Brown: I would also want to draw the viewer’s attention to the fact that the Pell Grants, which are a federal grant really now available to almost any student who comes from the low and moderate income family have been increased, the amounts have been increased, and it really is now on entitlement for any student who wants to go to college. And so it is important that people know that there are actually now guaranteed federal funds. They do not cover the entire cost of college, but there are significant — so sources support especially if you want to go to a community college where indeed they will cover quite a bit of the cost.
Delia Pompa: And Nevin, while we are with you, the next question is from Stacy in Seattle and she wants to know what we do to keep students in college and graduates. She says we focus a lot on getting students ready for college, but what about keeping them there and helping them graduate?
Nevin Brown: Well, I want to come back first of all to the importance of colleges focusing on getting more students into and through first year credit-bearing courses, because those are the ones that get a student going on his or her general college career and especially into his or her discipline or her major over time.
Secondly, there is a whole world now of first year experience programs around the country. In fact, there is a national consortium of this experience, of these programs. And I think there is a lot of attention being paid, again it is kind into the soft skills we have talked about earlier. What else, what are the kinds of supports do students need? What other kinds of skills do they need to develop in the first year and again how do we build those adult connections for students who are going to college for the first time in the first year.
So, I think all of these first year experience programs are also sources of real opportunity and I think of promise actually and sort of again, linking, tying the students to the institution, getting them connected. I think the issue of connection is the most important issue here.
Delia Pompa: You all talked about you cannot start early enough. Mike in Michigan wants to know what we can do to help middle school students feel college-worthy. Do you want to take a stab at that, Barbara?
Barbara Taveras: Sure, and I always think that motivation and inspiration are such key ingredients in the early years of the educational continue elementary and middle school. And in middle school, particularly identifying what are the talents and interests of students and then inspiring them, motivating them to explore those.
So, career exploration, which could take many different forms from taking students out in the field to look at different professions, bringing in folks from different professions into the school. Online, there are many career exploration programs that are accessible to students.
So, I think that getting them to think of maybe not college because they are maybe too overwhelming for them, but what are your career interests? And then time those career interests to what are the educational requirements of that. I know that that worked for me in the eight grade. I had one of those early career exploration experiences which really in my mind put me on the path to say now I know why I want to go college.
And work towards that, through high school and beyond, when I went to college to graduate school. So, inspiration, motivation, and supporting students in middle school through career exploration, I think it is a very important thing to do.
Delia Pompa: Let us bring in all back to Washington, D.C. where we have a question from Anne and Nevin, I think you can answer this. What is the federal government doing to encouragement college readiness?
Nevin Brown: Let me talk a little bit about something that is very current. In the stimulus package put together by the President and Congress, there is now funding for something called the Race to the Top initiative. These are funds that are focused very much on trying to build in a variety of areas basically a culture of college readiness on our, in the schools of our country.
And in fact we are today, November 12, we are having this particular webcast and today the regulations are being released for states to apply for these funds. And they are very much focused on trying to encourage innovation, and college readiness and a variety of areas of the state level. So, the Race to the Top funding I think is one opportunity, again I will be focusing on state policies, and so one of the challenges will be for states, then to translate this into actual activity, and actual evidence of activity in classrooms and in school districts in their particular locations.
I think also, that we have other federal programs, the reauthorization of what was called No Child Left Behind that is now going to be re-titled again as it was before. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act which includes, for example, title one, which is one of the major funders of high poverty schools and I think there is going to be a lot more attention there too to try and to focus more of that particular federal legislation on programs that get students more ready for next steps in their lives whether it be college or career. So I think there are some federal opportunities.
I would also want to point out though that there are a number of states that are taking major steps in this area and I would point to a recent initiative involving 48 states, 2 territories in the District of Columbia called the Common Core Standards and that is also moving along at the state level.
Delia Pompa: Thank you so much all of you for your very thoughtful answers. Now, we have covered an awful lot in this webcast, but I want to get one more thought from each of you and I would like to know of everything we covered. What is the one take away you would like for people to remember, and I will start with you, Jennifer.
Jennifer Glaser: Okay. I would like everyone to remember that it is never too early to start thinking about college preparation and college readiness. From crib to college, from cradle to college we can start talking to students and preschool and elementary school, middle school and continuing through high school as we set high expectations and help all students realize that college is an achievable goal.
Delia Pompa: Barbara.
Barbara Taveras: And I would say one thing that I hope the audience takes away is that preparing students to enter and succeed in college or in the job…
Delia Pompa: The market.
Barbara Taveras: The marketplace is really a shared responsibility of families, educators and community stakeholder and that I think that if we could pull all of our resources together, then our students will have a much better chance to enter and succeed in college and beyond college. So I would love for the audience to take that away.
Delia Pompa: And finally, Nevin.
Nevin Brown: Like it is building on both comments, this is about providing opportunity to our students and our future citizens. We want to open doors, we do not want to close doors and so college readiness, whether it be immediately after high school or ten years from now is about ensuring that all of our citizens, all of our young people will always have opportunities to improve their lives and be productive successful citizens.
Delia Pompa: Thank you very much. And thank you for joining us for Ready for College. To view all segments of the webcast and for more information about how you can help the middle and high school students in your life, please visit us on the web, www.AdLit.org. Again, thank you for joining us.
Narrator: Funding for this AdLit.org webcast was generously provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional funding for AdLit.org was provided by the Anne B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation.