Black and Latino males start community college with lofty goals, but few achieve their dreams, reports Aspirations to Achievement. Black and Latino males are less prepared for college-level work than their classmates, the Center for Community College Student Engagement report found. They also face stereotyping that can undercut their confidence.
Eighty-seven percent of black and Latino males enrolled at community college are seeking an associate degree, compared to 80 percent of white males. Within three years, 37 percent of white men — but only five percent of black and Latino men — have completed a degree.
It’s not that black and Latino males aren’t trying. Compared to white males with similar GPAs, they are less likely to skip class and more likely to use tutoring, computer labs and study skills courses. They sign up for orientation, learning communities and first-year experience programs. But it’s not enough.
Helping students build relationships with mentors can increase persistence, the report stated. For example, Jackson College in Michigan raised the retention rate for black males through an intensive mentoring program called Men of Merit. At most North Carolina community colleges the Minority Male Mentoring Program, which provides academic advising, study skills courses and service learning opportunities, has raised retention rates.
Improving remedial education also can help minority males succeed. Austin Community College in Texas created Developing Mathematical Thinking to prepare students for college math or statistics. The course “emphasizes math skills that students will use in the future and increases their confidence.” Success rates increased dramatically for all students.
Colleges spend nearly $7 billion a year on remedial education, according to federal data. Eight states — and many school districts — are offering “transitional” math and English courses to help students catch up and avoid remediation in college, reports Education Week.
Seventy percent of Tennessee high school graduates place into remedial math in college. Only five percent of community college students placed in remedial math earn a two-year degree in three years.
Chattanooga State Community College developed the SAILS model, short for Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support. High school teachers and community college instructors developed a self-paced math course for low-scoring students with college aspirations. Students learn online in a school computer lab with a teacher on hand. College instructors come in once a week.
The idea is catching on, reports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia. Twenty-five states, and districts in another 13 states, assess 11th graders’ college readiness to give them time to improve in 12th grade. More than a dozen states are planning similar programs.
The transitional curricula being offered by states and districts typically consist of a course, a set of instructional units, online tutorials, or other educational experiences offered no later than 12th grade to students considered at risk of being placed into remedial college courses, according to the Teachers College report.
These programs are designed for students who don’t quite meet college-readiness benchmarks, but who aspire to college and need some extra instruction. Students take the transitional courses during the school day, usually for high school credit with the goal of entering credit-bearing college courses upon matriculation.
Tougher Common Core standards will reveal the “huge readiness gap,” said Megan A. Root, a senior associate with the Southern Regional Education Board. The SREB is piloting math and literacy courses for struggling high school students in seven states. The curriculum is available online for free.
Core to College, backed by the Lumina Foundation, Gates Foundation and others, is funding collaboration between colleges and high schools in 12 states. As states implement Common Core standards, they’re aligning expectations and assessments, so college-prep classes really will prepare students for college demands.
Collaboration between K-12 and higher education is very important, say school district and college leaders in an edBridge survey. However only a third say they collaborate effectively.
Pell Grants help low- and moderate-income students go to college, but graduation rates are low. In an Education Next forum, Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families and Brookings’ Budgeting for National Priorities Project, and Sara Goldrick-Rab, associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin, discuss what to do about it.
Target federal aid to low-income, college-ready students, argues Sawhill. Needy students who are likely to complete a degree could get more money, if well-to-do families gave up their tax subsidies and low performers weren’t eligible for Pell.
According to 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, only a small fraction of high school seniors are at or above proficiency in math and reading: 26 percent and 28 percent, respectively. This lack of preparation makes it difficult for them to do college-level work. For example, of younger students enrolling in college in 2003–04 with a high school grade-point average (GPA) below 2.0, only 16 percent had received a degree six years later, while 84 percent had not. The question we need to ask is whether taxpayers should foot the bill for students whose odds of success are so low.
Currently, Pell Grants are available to anyone with a high school diploma or GED. That doesn’t predict the ability to do college-level work, Sawhill writes.
Linking Pell to academic performance denies help to those who need help most, responds Goldrick-Rab. Instead, she proposes increasing the size of grants so low-income students can work less and study more.
While 54 percent of wealthy Americans complete college, only 9 percent of low-income Americans earn a degree, Goldrick-Rab writes. The college gap is growing.
The K–12 system remains overwhelmingly unequal, and chaining Pell eligibility to it even further ensures that both ends of the educational process remain unequally distributed. It transforms the Pell Grant from a policy aimed at transforming lives to one that simply rewards students lucky enough to be born into situations where their families are able to seize good high-school educations for them.
When it was first created, “the Pell Grant covered nearly 90 percent of the costs of attending a public college or university,” writes Goldrick-Rab. Today, the maximum $5,550 grant covers 30 percent of the average costs at state universities.
President Obama has proposed rating colleges and universities by “value.” One measure would be the graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients. Linking Pell to performance would make colleges look a lot better.
After growing very rapidly, the Pell program is running a $1.7 billion budget surplus this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Don’t give up on the longshots, writes Matt Reed. “Open-door public colleges exist to give people options.”
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) promise to democratize higher education, but it’s not clear that promise can be kept for underserved and underprepared students, writes Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.
According to large-scale studies of online learning conducted in two different community college systems, students who enroll in at least one online course are quite different from those who opt for an entirely face-to-face schedule. As one might expect, students in online courses are older, more likely to have dependents, and more likely to be employed full-time. Yet they are also more advantaged: they are less likely to be ethnic minorities, less likely to be low-income, and less likely to be academically underprepared at college entry.
Most community college students who take online courses take only one or two per semester, writes Jaggars. Many say it’s harder to learn online; few say it’s easier. In a survey of Virginia community college students, online learners said “they received less instructor guidance, support, and encouragement in their online courses; as a result, they did not learn the material as well.”
For highly confident, highly motivated, and high-achieving students, this relative lack of interpersonal connection and support may not be particularly problematic. However, low-income, ethnic minority, or first-generation students—that is, most community college students—are often anxious about their ability to succeed academically, and this anxiety can manifest in counterproductive strategies such as procrastinating, not turning in assignments, or not reaching out to professors for help. . . . online courses need to incorporate stronger interpersonal connections and instructor guidance than most currently do.
Skeptical about the “massive” nature of MOOCs, some community college leaders are experimenting with using online content within a “flipped” classroom model, writes Jaggars. Students study the material online on their own, then review and apply the material in a small, face-to-face, instructor-led class.
MOOCs may “improve access to college-level learning among technology-savvy working adults who hope to upgrade their skills,” concludes Jaggars. But there’s no evidence that online courses can “improve both access and success” for community college students.
Maryland’s college readiness and completion law is shaking up the state’s education system, reports Paul Fain in Inside Higher Ed. The comprehensive law, passed six months ago, affects the K-12 system, community college and state universities.
The measure requires high schools to test students on their college readiness — in both math and English — before they finish their junior years. By 2015 high schools will need to create “transition” courses for students that are deemed unprepared for college-level courses in those subjects.
On the higher education side, public institutions in the state must require students to complete at least one credit-bearing, non-remedial math and English course as part of the first 24 credits they earn.
Community college leaders are optimistic the measures will help improve student success rates. Nearly all their “suggested amendments were adopted in the final version,” writes Fain.
Some 44.4 percent of Maryland adults held an associate degree or higher in 2009. Legislators hope to raise that to at least 55 percent by 2025.
The legislation requires public, four-year institutions to accept more credits that students earn at Maryland community colleges. And it will make both community colleges and four-year institutions be more thrifty with their programmatic degree requirements. Under the law, four-year institutions must set a limit of 120 credits for bachelor’s degrees, with some exceptions. Likewise, most associate degree programs will be 60 credits.
In Maryland community college graduates were accumulating an average of 75 credits to earn a degree in 3.8 years.
The law requires high schools to pay most of the cost for up to four dual enrollment courses. That’s expected to boost the number of high school students taking college courses.
New college students will enter a structured program, reports Community College Times. Even high school students in dual enrollment programs will be encouraged to enroll tuition-free in a pathway that leads to a technical or bachelor’s degree.
The system also used research and analysis to identify and address “momentum loss points”—points where students become bogged down and too often pulled off course in their goals toward completion. In community colleges, that usually happens in a student’s first semester or first academic year, particularly in developmental education programs.
“We found too many students entering developmental education without exiting, which is why we have completely redesigned our efforts in North Carolina,” Ralls said.
The colleges tapped expert math and English faculty members across the state to re-engineer curriculum to shorten the length of courses and to develop modules to let students get the courses they need.
The state system also worked with high schools to align career and college readiness testing. Now students will know early whether they’re on track to take college-level community college classes.
Eighty technical programs in in transportation, energy, manufacturing, environment and construction now offer “stackable” credentials. A student can earn a certificate, leave college for the workforce and return later to add an advanced credential.
College readiness is low for students whose parents weren’t college educated, reports ACT in First-Generation Students. Only 9 percent of first-generation students meet all four college-readiness benchmarks. Half weren’t prepared for college in any subject; two-thirds passed zero or one benchmark.
Overall, 26 percent of high-school graduates who took the ACT in 2013 met all four readiness benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics and science. Thirty-one percent didn’t meet any.
The benchmarks predict a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher or a 50 percent chance of a B in a college-level first-year course in the subject.
Nearly all first-generation ACT takers — almost 94 percent — hope to earn a college degree, the study found. Fifty-two percent want a bachelor’s and 28 percent hope to earn a graduate or professional degree. Only 14 percent are aiming for an associate degree.
Two-thirds of first-generation students took the core college-prep courses ACT recommends.
The Council for Opportunity in Education collaborated on the report.
Linked learning academies are expanding in the troubled Oakland school district, reports Kathryn Baron on EdSource. Forty-two percent of students in grades 10, 11 and 12 are in programs that link schoolwork with internships and job shadowing. Gary Yee, acting superintendent, wants to raise that to 80 percent.
At Life Academy of Health and Bioscience, students intern in hospitals, medical offices, retirement homes and elementary school programs for at-risk children.
Linked learning students have more access to college-prep courses required by California universities, concluded Education Trust-West after a two-year study at four high schools. In addition, linked learning students were more likely to graduate than similar students at high schools that don’t offer the program. African American, Latino and low-income students in linked learning programs had graduation rates 9 to 29 percentage points higher than the statewide average.
Oakland Unified’s analysis found fewer absences, lower suspension rates and higher test scores for students in linked learning academies.
The district, the city of Oakland and Peralta Community College District plan to collaborate on creating pathways from high school to college to career.
Most Oakland Unified graduates enroll in community college. However, high school and community college systems aren’t aligned, said Laurie Scolari, who oversees the California Community College Linked Learning Initiative at Career Ladders Project, a nonprofit in Oakland.
The new collaboration will make it possible to follow high school graduates who enroll in community college, writes Baron. “That will give a clear picture of whether high schools are doing a good job of preparing students for college-level work and where the gaps are between academy and community college programs.”
President Obama’s visit to Brooklyn’s P-Tech spotlighted the idea of combining high school, community college and job training, reports the New York Times. After six years at P-Tech, graduates are “first in line” for jobs at IBM, which helped create the school. Some have earned an associate degree.
Is P-Tech the wave of the future? asks the Times‘ Room for Debate blog.
Very few U.S. students attend “high-quality vocational programs tightly aligned with industry needs,” she writes.
In Switzerland, Norway and Denmark, vocational students spend half to three-quarters of their schooling in work placements.
That kind of vivid experience helps kids see into the future; they can connect the dots between what they are doing in school and how interesting their lives can be.
. . America abandoned vocational high schools for good reason, decades ago: too many were second-rate warehouses for minority and low-income kids. But now that all decent jobs require higher-order skills, there’s an opportunity to get this right. American employers want higher-order skills, and American teenagers want more interesting work. The sooner they get together, the better.
“Aiming at a moving target like the job market is dangerously short-sighted,” warns Zachary Hamed, a computer science student at Harvard.
IBM’s Stan Litow calls for P-Tech-like options for students on the Shanker Blog.
“Young people who enter the workforce with only a high school diploma are expected to earn no more than $15 per hour, and many will earn less,” he writes. Yet only 25 percent of high school graduates who enroll in community college complete a degree in six years.
IBM analyzed a community college freshman class. “Nearly 100 percent of community college freshmen who required two remedial courses—with one of them being math—failed to complete even one postsecondary semester,” Litow writes. A majority of these students dropped out of college within two months.
Every public school student can afford college in Syracuse. Say Yes Syracuse, a citywide collaboration, has promised full-tuition college scholarships, reports Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic. Support services start in kindergarten.
Syracuse’s scholarship promise —designed by nonprofit Say Yes to Education — is the most ambitious in the nation, writes Quinton.
Most of the city’s public school students come from low-income non-white families. In 2011, only 13 percent scored high enough on state tests to be deemed college-ready.
Since the fall of 2009, over $11 million in scholarships has been awarded to more than 2,000 SCSD graduates. The first class of 47 Syracuse Say Yes graduates earned degrees at Syracuse University in May.
Across Syracuse, stakeholders have pulled together to support students academically and help needy families access social services. SU offers free SAT tutoring, for example. Say Yes to Education and Onondaga Community College run a precollege summer orientation for high school graduates. And a grant from the Wallace Foundation helped Say Yes extend the school day for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Say Yes Syracuse has established free legal clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys, made it possible for families to get health insurance advice on school sites, and, along with the school district, established a “parent university” to provide parents with classes on everything from diabetes prevention to understanding the SCSD code of conduct.
Excluding the cost of scholarships, Say Yes Syracuse has cost more than $88 million in the last five years. The school district, county, and city have provided about $56 million. Is it worth it?
While preserving funding for Say Yes, in recent years SCSD has reduced the number of teaching assistants, cut spending on special education, increased class sizes, and reduced art, music, and physical education programs, according to a report from Say Yes to Education.
While the ninth-grade dropout rate is down, it’s not clear whether Say Yes Syracuse has boosted higher education attainment. Few Say Yes Scholars qualify for competitive colleges. Forty-one percent go to Onondaga Community College, where only 34 percent of students graduate or transfer to four-year colleges within three years.
Abdi Ali, who attends Onondaga Community College, is grateful for the support provided by Say Yes.
“Say Yes is the best program I have ever participated in because they don’t just help high school students go to college, but they help us while we’re in college as well. All of my siblings are in the Say Yes program at Frazer. I am happy that they will have the same opportunities that I have had through Say Yes. Say Yes has and will make future students want to achieve more in life because of their support and willingness to do anything they can for you.”
In its success stories, says that for 2011-12, 89 percent of scholarship recipients enrolled in four-year private colleges, 67 percent attending four-year public colleges, and 66 percent in two-year colleges made it to their sophomore year, compared with national persistence averages of 67 percent, 65 percent and 56 percent.