President's Blog

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
Community Colleges: Working Hard to Build a Bright Future for Students

Community Colleges: Working Hard to Build a Bright Future for Students

When we think of postsecondary institutions, we usually have our own 4-year state institutions in mind.  What many don’t understand is that our country’s community colleges serve another 12.7 million students[i] at the same time…nearly 50% of all college-going students. And community colleges typically serve these students with half the annual budget per student than their 4-year counterparts[i]. Given that an estimated 63% of jobs available in 2018 will require at least a two-year degree[i], it is easy to see that community colleges play a key role in educating tomorrow’s workforce. Yet, according to the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) report, Empowering Community Colleges to Build the Nation’s Future, fewer than 46% of community college attendees have completed their degree[i].  Why the low figure? According to available data, community college students are more likely to be the first members of their family to attend college, are more likely to be single parents, are older and occupy lower economic categories, and are more likely to attend part-time. In short, the deck is stacked against them.   But there is hope…. there’s a lot being done to address this challenge. According to the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCSE) at University of Texas, well over 75% of all community college students attend part-time, or vary between part-time and full-time students during their community college careers[ii]. In Even One Semester, the CCSE’s 2017 report on student engagement and success, the importance of attending even one semester of community college full time has been shown to dramatically improve student engagement in persistence[ii]. As a result, the CCSE is advocating for major changes... read more
Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

New Year’s is always a time when we set new goals, clean out old thinking and start new. It’s also a time when some new reading can help to shift thinking to the future. There’s lots to choose from!  To help, we have a couple of fascinating books to recommend that are sure to present some new perspectives. Our first recommendation is Why We Sleep – Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker, PhD. Despite the title, this book is not about dream interpretation; it represents the latest learning about sleep and its importance to humans and our general health. The author explores the latest understanding of the mechanics of sleep while also explaining the importance that each phase of sleep plays in developing our short- and long-term memory, making sense of the experiences we have during our waking hours, especially traumatic stress. Walker also explains how we are not meeting our daily sleep requirements (at least eight hours per night for adults), and how our need for this amount of sleep has evolved over the millennia as a means to optimal wellbeing. He presents compelling evidence, arguing that not recognizing our need for sleep, or sleep preferences, can lead to serious personal health problems and loss of productivity in society. As educators we’re already aware that sleep deprivation is a real challenge for adolescents, who require more sleep than adults—ideally nine to 10 hours—to promote brain development and wellbeing. In fact, the author found the research around the negative impact of sleep deprivation in adolescents so compelling that he advocates moving start times for K-12... read more
Helping students own their own future

Helping students own their own future

It’s common knowledge that the growth jobs of the future will require, at minimum, constant learning and skill upgrading, plus at least an associate’s degree or higher.  As a result, the push is on to increase postsecondary graduation rates. But the issue runs deeper than obtaining a postsecondary degree. In the New York Times, columnist and author Thomas Friedman describes the life challenge for today’s students as  “owning their own future”.  He notes that technology has disrupted the traditional workplace and the nature of work, such that “the notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge over the next 30 years is over.”    So, “owning their own future” will require graduates to change the expectations they bring to the workplace.  Success in the future will be more about personal initiative than ever before, including: Taking personal responsibility for developing the skills and attitudes to support lifelong learning. Understanding how an individual’s unique blend of personality, skills, talents, preferences and knowledge can be constantly adapted to take advantage of new opportunities. Taking the initiative to update knowledge and skills through training or further education throughout life. Simply put, learning — and the self-motivation to keep learning — will be the most important life skill. It is our fundamental belief that the foundation of lifelong learning is built through giving students deep insight into their personality and an understanding of their emotional intelligence and other intelligences, along with their learning and productivity preferences. We all know that putting your innate skills and talents to work in areas where you are more comfortable and... read more
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