President's Blog

The First Year Experience is about more than first-year student orientation

The First Year Experience is about more than first-year student orientation

In an era of rising student debt and increasing focus on outcomes in higher education, it is more important than ever that students are provided with a solid foundation upon which to launch their postsecondary education. Student success, year-to-year persistence and retention through to graduation are reliant on more than just a rudimentary orientation. Research shows that a for-credit first-year experience (FYE) offering is one of the best ways to get students off to a good start. I have three children in postsecondary education this year, so today’s blog topic is top of mind for me personally. Of my three children, only one them is at a school with a true Student Success for-credit course and is enrolled in it as a freshman. My other two children simply received rudimentary orientations in two different institutions. My exposure and experience in education has informed me as a father to be a strong proponent of mandatory for-credit first-year experience student success courses. Almost every postsecondary institution offers first-year students some form of orientation, including information on student codes of conduct and basic guidance on healthy living habits. Often these are one- to two-day events which all first-term students are required to attend. At the same time, the National Student Clearinghouse® Research CenterTM reports that overall student persistence rates from first to second year continue to hover at around 80-82%, essentially unchanged since 2009. You can download the center’s 2019 Snapshot Report here.  If the operating assumption behind the freshman orientation is to provide students with at least some of the support they will need to persist through to second year, then... read more
Revolutionary Ideas for School Counselors

Revolutionary Ideas for School Counselors

While the end of the academic year may be a hazy light off in the distance, it’s never too early to plan self improvement activities over the summer. One great opportunity is the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) annual conference June 29th-July 2 in Boston. Not only can you meet and learn from other engaged professionals, you can have the chance to earn CEUs, contact hours or graduate credits while attending the 2019 Revolutionary Ideas conference. ASCA is also the sponsor of ASCA Mindset and Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College and Career Readiness Standards for Every Student, an important new model for helping students develop the “softer skills” they need to thrive in school. Chief among ASCA’s goals is the “belief in the development of the whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being”. These kinds of tools are critical to helping these dedicated counselors serve the needs of an overwhelming average of 482 students they serve, nearly twice the recommended 250 student cohort. Complementary tools are available to help counselors assess each student’s mindset and behavior and map it to recommended areas of focus to help student’s work on areas that need improvement, and refine those areas where they excel. Our AchieveWORKS® suite of products not only maps to ASCA’s Mindsets and Behaviors, but also to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Core Social Emotional Learning competencies. In our opinion, both models address the foundation upon which successful educational and career planning activities can take place: building student self-awareness of softer skills that will help them build realistic goals while... read more
Career and Technical Education Has Never Been More Important

Career and Technical Education Has Never Been More Important

February is CTE Month®, honoring the administrators, teachers, counselors and other professionals who help students and adults identify career goals and make the educational and training plans to reach them. Given the anticipated demand for more highly skilled workers needed to successfully compete in the global economy, the efforts of today’s educational and career development professionals in developing tomorrow’s workforce have never been more important. In its 2018 state-by-state report, the Association for Career and Technical Education® (ACTE) outlines the range and scope of activities taken in each state during 2018.  And while an impressive 146 policy actions related to CTE were passed last year, this total is nearly 100 fewer than were passed in 2017.  These policy and funding initiatives are the foundation upon which every CTE professional is able to act, whether they are in the educational or career development field.  Keeping an eye on state legislature support for CTE, and ensuring your state is being proactive, is vital to making sure your state’s students and working adults can meet future labor demands.  Learn more about your States CTE systems here. At the opposite end of the spectrum from policy, we argue that professional efforts should focus on helping each student or client develop a personal, individually tailored plan that links insight into the person’s unique combination of personality, preferences, skills and talents to careers that leverage their individual strengths. Using individual insight as the foundation of a student or client career plan has several advantages: The individual’s insight can help focus career exploration in areas where the student or client is more likely to find satisfaction... read more
Guided Pathways for High School

Guided Pathways for High School

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times posits a potentially heretical idea: that the premise of our educational system, of promoting college attendance to all students, is misguided. The author’s assertion is that our society spends too much money on students who attend college and not enough on everyone else. The article cites increases of 133% in federal funding for higher education – combined with tax breaks, loan subsidies and state-level funding that totals $150 billion annually. Given the facts surrounding high school and college attendance rates, attrition and degree attainment, the author argues for investing some of this money in training high school students for work after high school, not college attendance. Whether one agrees with this radical idea or not, it begs an important question that deserves debate: Shouldn’t we recognize that not all students will go to college, and more actively prepare those students for satisfying and meaningful careers/work after high school? The idea of adapting the guided pathways concept that already exists in the postsecondary realm to the realities of the high school might make sense. Refocusing guided pathways at the high school level also assumes that everyone has a legitimate path forward, without the historical judgments between students who are – or are not – bound for college. Moreover, using the guided pathways lens as a means to shepherd students through high school doesn’t mean that STEM programs lose importance. In fact, they gain more importance as students understand the value of STEM programs to their vocational goals. The same can be said about the need for increased social-emotional learning. Shifting to... read more
Connecting current events to classroom lessons

Connecting current events to classroom lessons

One of the obvious benefits of a digital world is instant access to news and current events.  We are all set adrift on this sea of information, which also serves as the backdrop for those who walk into every school classroom in the morning. A recent article in the New York Times outlines how many teachers and their students are connecting current events with classroom lesson plans.  The Times asked both teachers and students how they connect what’s happening outside of class with lesson plans.  We think you’ll find their responses inspirational and insightful. We are left with a few observations that led to these successful efforts, including: Let the students carry the conversations.  Successful teachers are merely moderators in facilitating an honest and fair discussion. Just about any current event is fair game as long as the process engages students in open dialogue and debate.  The goal is not to solve the problem but to support engagement and exploration that can lead to consensus. There is no age limit to participation.  In the Times piece, teachers shared stories from elementary, middle and high schools. Everything from novels to poetry to interesting social movements has been used to motivate connections. Give students a stage.  Many of these efforts involved allowing students to give their own “Ted Talk” or use other means to share their thoughts. We believe Elizabeth Misiewicz, Ridgefield, Conn., Middle School, summed up her connection efforts best when she said: “As middle schoolers, my students are growing into their identities and trying to find their places in the world. This project essentially said to them, “Your opinions... read more
Appreciating Teachers requires more than just wearing red

Appreciating Teachers requires more than just wearing red

May 7-11 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Against this backdrop, we have seen several teacher walk-outs across many states since January, each imploring their state legislature to increase education funding in general, and recognize teacher efforts with higher pay. Gathered under the banner #RedforEd, these organized efforts point at the painful truths many teachers are faced with in filling this important calling. While they make a compelling case for addressing the issue at a political level, there is much that the rest of us can to appreciate teacher efforts without “taking it to the streets”. If you are a parent of a student make sure that you and your child go out of your way to let their teacher know you appreciate what they are doing. This shouldn’t be done one month every year, but every day, if possible. Band together with other parents in your student’s class and hold a “Thank You Day” that honors their efforts.  Extend this into important discussions with teachers about what they need to help them do their jobs, then raise money from other parents to cover this cost. If you are a student, take the initiative with your other classmates to honor your teacher. Remember, they are on your side and are dedicated to helping you learn, grow and succeed. If you are a friend of a teacher, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their calling in building our future. These people are truly unique…they are walking the walk and talking the talk about making this world a better place. We need to recognize them. Why not put together... read more