Our Community Colleges.  Still at the center of the American Dream

Our Community Colleges. Still at the center of the American Dream

In case you weren’t aware, April is National Community College Awareness Month. And never have community colleges played such an important part in helping individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds realize their American Dream. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, its member institutions serve 45% of all college students and 41% of all first-time freshmen. However, that’s only part of the story. Over half of all African American college students attend a community college. Representation among Hispanic and Native American college students is even higher. And over one-third of students are the first generation in their family to attend college. Not surprisingly, community college students represent a wide range of ages, the average student being 29 years old. Community college students are also a hardworking bunch. Well over half of all full-time community college students are employed at least part time, and nearly 75% of all part-time students hold down some form of employment. In short, America’s community colleges serve students who are committed to a better life for themselves and their families, and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Perhaps most importantly, this group of students are at the vanguard of a drive to upgrade their skills and remain competitive in a globalized workforce. We also know that these students face greater challenges to graduation than most other college students. Nearly half fail to return for their second year of education. The reasons are many. In addition to attending to their studies, these students all have jobs to hold down. Seventeen percent are single parents. So, for these students, life has a way of... read more
Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Another National School Counseling Week passed by in early February and, with it, our salute to the great work being done by counselors in schools across North America in helping students succeed. But we all know that a one-week celebration isn’t enough. We need to keep at the important work of helping students gain personal insight, set goals, and make plans to reach them, all year long. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is hard at work on these issues every single day. It is at the vanguard of this effort, working with the public sector agencies responsible for educating students and advocating for increased emphasis on counseling services to help students reach their goals. ASCA is also hard at work developing tools for its members, most notably the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student. ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors is a bottom-up approach to helping counselors and their students better understand how changing mindset and behavior leads to improved student success. The Mindsets and Behaviors model goes much deeper than standardized testing to address the real factors that affect students’ performance—in school and throughout their lives. We have mapped our tools to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors to help counselors more accurately identify each student’s likely mindset or behavior to leverage their strengths and, more importantly, help them help the student address unrecognized barriers to their scholastic and life success. You can download a copy of our map here. This year, we celebrate our 20th year of partnering with school counselors in helping students chart their educational and career courses. Along... read more
A New Year’s Musing

A New Year’s Musing

While listening to a story on public radio the other day about the plight of unemployed workforce members over 50 without more than a high school education, I was brought up short by the reality expressed by the commentator’s guest. Asked about the opportunity for these workers to upgrade their education or retrain for a different occupation, the expert replied, “As I think about members of the workforce 50 and older, whose last experience with math was probably in high school, I find it hard to imagine them going back to school now.  There is too much catching up to do.” As disappointing as it was, the expert’s response was also enlightening about the reality these workers face — and how our educational system, in hindsight, may have failed them. When they were in school, the goal for many of these workers was to get enough education to fill the manufacturing jobs available at the time, while a select group pursued higher education. We didn’t foresee the need to provide them with the additional skills necessary to adapt to a world that would change right beneath their feet. A recent feature on Bloomberg.com illustrates the dramatic shift in skills required in the new world of manufacturing, with a focus on people skills and problem solving rather than repetitive tasks — or even computer programming. The continued rise of technology will intensify pressure on existing occupations as automation replaces routine jobs, many of which we don’t think of as routine.  Working Nation recently released a video called Slope of the Curve, which brings this challenge to light. Today, thousands of dedicated... read more
Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

A lot has been written about the challenges of helping first-year, postsecondary students persist to graduation.  Low persistence rates mean fewer students graduate and enter the workforce as skilled workers. In this sense, our ability to increase persistence has a direct impact on the quality of our workforce and our ability to compete in the future global economy. We’ve written a white paper on this subject, The Need for First Year Experience Programs, that summarizes research on the effectiveness of First Year Experience programs for those institutions still on the fence about offering a robust, accredited program to all entering freshmen. In short, here’s what we learned: According to the Lumina Foundation, there will be a consistent, and widening, gap between the millions of jobs in the future requiring at least a 2-year degree, and the supply of college graduates to fill those jobs. The economic opportunity glass, if you will, will be left unfilled if we do nothing. Filling this gap will require that we prepare more high school students to be “college ready” and increase their persistence on to post secondary graduation. A review of literature on robust, first year programs designed to support students and increase their persistence suggests that these programs are effective. A non-empirical review of the programs currently available to students reveals that many institutions offer a freshman orientation course, usually taking a single day of information on healthy living habits and reviewing the institution’s student conduct code.  Other institutions offer remedial courses in math or English and consider this enough. In our opinion, neither approach is completely adequate. The first year programs that have... read more
Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

We’ve all heard about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Usually they are considered augmentations to curriculum intended to improve standardized test scores.   However, there is growing empirical evidence that SEL programs can significantly impact student academic performance. In a recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development, the authors from Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago provide a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving 270,034 K-12 students. According to the analysis, “Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social emotional skills, attitudes, behavior and academic performance that reflected an 11 percentile-point gain in achievements.” Given the positive impact SEL has on student achievement, we believe more schools should be adopting robust, measurable SEL programs aimed at addressing the student’s social and emotional learning as a core to curriculum. TransformingEd, a nonprofit that supports districts and states in implementing programs to equip students with the mindsets, skills and habits they need to succeed,  identifies four factors in building strong emotional and social skills with students: Developing a Growth Mindset – students with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance and practice Self Management – the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations Self Efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal Social Awareness – the ability to take the perspective of, and empathize with, others from diverse backgrounds and cultures The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has developed its own SEL standards in its ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, aimed at building student... read more