Aniya Cox is sure she wants to be a dermatologist. What she’s been less sure about is what she needs to do to get there — she’s just 16, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C.
She can remember, at various points of the past two years, desperately trying to navigate all that’s required to graduate high school and get into college.
“I was all over the place, I was frustrated,” Cox said. “I didn’t know what I needed to do.”
Cox said even the process of asking her teachers for advice — and finding time to meet with them — was confusing.
Today, D.C.’s public schools are rolling out an intervention they hope will address concerns like Cox’s. Twice a year through the fall semester of senior year, high schoolers in D.C. will now receive a document that tracks their progress towards graduation requirements and gives them information about college and career options. The district is calling it a “Guide to Graduation, College, and Career,” and it’s a PDF personalized for each student. The guides, which will be mailed and available online, are part of the district’s efforts to boost college and career readiness among its students — and part of a larger movement across the country to make education data more available and accessible.
The implementation comes just one year after D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education found 34 percent of D.C.’s high school graduates hadn’t actually met the requirements for receiving a diploma. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested the report days after NPR and WAMU published a story that found students had missed months of class at D.C.’s Ballou High School but were still permitted to graduate.
Last year, D.C. reported that its graduation rate for black and Latino students dropped. The Office of the State Superintendent said it used additional levels of verification to calculate graduation results as part of its ongoing monitoring of the school system’s graduation policies.
“It’s definitely an enhancement to our transparency around graduation,” said DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee of the guides. “It’s a way that we can monitor, along with families, where students are on their journey to graduation.”
Ferebee also said the guides are part of a larger strategy to boost enrollment at high schools that have been losing students. They will help promote more college and career-related programming, which parents have been asking for. He said the guides can be used “to connect those options with student interests and goals.”
Ferebee and Bowser announced the rollout of the guides, along with two new early college programs at DCPS high schools, at a press conference Thursday.
The DCPS guide is a 7-page document. It includes an unofficial transcript along with information about progress towards graduation requirements, likelihood of admission to area colleges and universities and a personalized guide for career opportunities.
If a student is not on pace to graduate, those sections of the report appear in red. If a student’s academic record says they aren’t on track with History credits, for example, the guide will say so. The packet also contains a map of college choices, categorized as “likely,” “match” or “reach” schools based on the student’s SAT or PSAT score and GPA. And it ends with a section on careers that contains personalized sample jobs — and projected salaries — for each student (Each DCPS high school student fills out a survey indicating future career interests at the start of each school year).
A few other school districts in the country — including Long Beach Unified, Orange County Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools — have already begun using similar guides.
In Long Beach, the public school district is in its second year of implementing them. Robert Tagorda, Director of Equity, Access, and College & Career Readiness for the district, said the guides are popular — and Long Beach is now planning to roll out a high school readiness guide for its middle schoolers.
Tagorda said the guides can’t be viewed in isolation. Long Beach partners with the University of Southern California on college advising and almost half of its 11th and 12th graders enroll in at least one AP course. Well before the guides were implemented, the school district was seeing increases in test scores, graduation rates, and college-attendance rates.
But Tagorda also said the guides themselves have value. Distributing them, for him, is a matter of equity, and has helped to ensure the quality of counseling and support for students is standardized across the district. In addition, he says, the guides are helping Long Beach make a complicated process digestible — and accessible to families of all backgrounds.
“Students are inundated with data,” Tagorda said, but, “What students and families want to know is, ‘What do I need to really understand that will make a difference for my student’s admission to college?'”
Back in D.C., the guides are a kind of insurance policy, explains Daniel West, who runs the college and career readiness program at D.C.’s Eastern Senior High School. Even if a student is not meeting with their counselor as they are supposed to, the school system is still equipping them with easily digestible information and advice.
“Even if that student doesn’t continue to engage with adults in the building who want to help provide them with resources, they now have a document they can work with by themselves,” West said.
D.C. officials say the guides will be made available in the three languages spoken most commonly among DCPS families — English, Spanish and Amharic. Translation help for additional languages will be available by request. Mailing a paper copy is also really valuable, explains Aniya Cox, the sophomore at Eastern High, since not all her classmates have consistent access to the Internet.
The most immediate concern, for Cox, is getting community service hours: on her guide, that section is highlighted in red because she hasn’t completed any of the 100 hours D.C. requires of its students. Her summer is open still, so she’s hoping to get her service hours in then.
“I really need to get that done,” she said with a chuckle, her eyes widening. “I really need to get that done.”[Read more at National Public Radio] Read More
Skills acquired by NYU teaching residents. (New York University)
New York University is expanding its novel teacher training program, which places diverse teachers into high-needs schools for an intensive, yearlong master’s program organized around the belief that all teachers benefit by learning to work with students with disabilities and those learning English.
The Steinhardt’s Teacher Residency program combines online academic preparation with full-time classroom placements in districts and public charter schools in four states. Now completing its third year, it has grown from serving 10 interns to 75. The program’s goal is to have at least 40 percent of each class of teacher residents be candidates of color, according to an NYU spokesperson. More than half of members of the first three groups have been people of color.
A recently announced $481,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation will support the program going forward. Here are three of its big strategies.
1. All teachers will learn special education and English-language-learner strategies.
The NYU program has taken a signature approach to training new teachers to work in classrooms where students have diverse and intense needs. All teacher candidates in the program learn not just to teach in a content area such as math or English, but also to adjust their instruction to reach all students.
“All of our interns are going to be in inclusion settings,” said Diana Turk, the program’s director of teacher education, referring to classrooms where students receive special education services alongside general ed students. “They’re going to be more effective teachers for all students, not just for their students with [disabilities].”
As U.S. classrooms become more diverse, teachers are increasingly required to tailor instruction to students with vastly differing needs. The methods employed by special education teachers in particular can help fill this gap.
It’s a unique way of addressing a long-standing problem. Traditionally, colleges of education have treated teaching students with disabilities and students learning English as specialized skills needed only by those who will work intensively with those groups, often in a separate classroom. General education teachers-in-training may get brief exposure to strategies for meeting those students’ needs, and in some places an extra degree or credential is required.
Among other factors, this has compounded shortages of special ed and English-language-learner teachers, even as demand for them has risen.
From 2005 to 2015, the number of special education teachers in the United States fell by 17 percent, while the number of students in need of their services decreased just 1 percent, according to Education Week.
In 2016, 32 states reported shortages of teachers of English language learners, even as the number of students needing their services climbed by 1 million between 2000 and 2015 to 4.8 million.
2. Including “emergent bilinguals” and students with disabilities will be the rule, not the exception.
At the same time, schools increasingly recognize the value of serving both groups of students in mainstream classrooms, where their increased numbers now make them as common as any other student demographic group. Arrangements for meeting their needs in general education classrooms, however, range from “push-in” services, where specialists pop in to offer support, to placing two teachers, one with the requisite skills, in a single classroom.
NYU’s graduates will have all three sets of skills, said Ayanna Taylor, a professor in the program.
“We wanted to make it such a central part of our curriculum that that there was no segmenting off,” she said.
3. New teachers will demonstrate their abilities before getting a classroom of their own.
After teaching for a year in New York, California, Florida and Pennsylvania in settings as varied as San Francisco Unified School District and a number of small charter schools, some with a focus on including students with disabilities, NYU’s residents will earn a master’s degree. If trained observers rate them as effective or nearly so, they will be recommended for a New York state teaching credential.[Read More at The 74]
The Metro Nashville Public Schools board welcomed the district’s new interim director at its April 23 meeting.
Adrienne Battle, who officially began the temporary position April 15, replaced former Director Shawn Joseph following the board’s April 9 vote to buy out his contract.
“This is a great opportunity, and it is even a greater responsibility,” Battle said.
During her first meeting as interim director, Battle outlined her three main goals for the district: prioritizing students, eliminating “distractions” and setting high expectations for students, teachers, staff and administrators.
“Students are at the core of what we do,” she said. “Everything we do must benefit them and their pursuit of a diploma … this begins as early as pre-K and kindergarten.”
Battle said she also believes in setting high expectations for the district’s 86,00 students and more than 11,000 administrators, staff and teachers. High expectations must be met with support, Battle said, adding she plans to prioritize employee compensation during her tenure.
“As an administrator, part of my job is to make sure our teachers and the other MNPS employees have everything they need to provide a high level of support to students,” she said. “Employees take care of our students, and I want to take care of them, because when you combine high expectations with high support, you get great student outcomes.”
With the last day of school for MNPS set for May 23, Battle said she encourages the district to “eliminate the distractions” by focusing on tasks such as end-of-year testing.
“The third thing we must do is eliminate the distractions, especially as we are currently in testing season … it’s what the system requires and what our students deserve,” Battle said. “We need better listening. We need more informed decision making. We need to keep more of our focus on the students and less of it on the things that distract us from our goals.”
Before accepting the position, Battle worked as a community superintendent overseeing all schools located in the district’s southeast quadrant. The board has not determined the details of Battle’s contract or the duration of the position as of April 23.[Read more at Community Impact Newspaper] Read More
Less than three months into the job, Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn has filled six of her nine cabinet positions with a mix of new hires, retentions, and promotions as she begins to restructure one of the state’s highest-profile departments.
Schwinn, who took the helm of the 600-employee education department in early February, said she wants to have her entire team of top advisers in place by July 1, the start of a new fiscal and school year.
For her chief of staff, Schwinn has picked Rebecca Shah, who worked at the Texas Education Agency where Schwinn served as deputy commissioner of academics before Gov. Bill Lee hired her to be Tennessee education chief.
“She ran performance management for me in Texas, so she really knows what I’m looking for in terms of data collection and holding us internally accountable,” Schwinn said of Shah.
Her deputy commissioner will be Amity Schuyler, soon departing as the superintendent’s chief of staff in Palm Beach County, Florida, the nation’s 10th largest school district.
Schwinn is still hunting for a chief district officer and an assistant commissioner of communications and engagement. But atop her list of vacancies to fill is chief academic officer.
“I am picky,” Schwinn said of that role, “because that’s when you think about what goes in front of our kids every day, and the instructional materials that they use, and the teacher in front of them. The chief academic officer is really leading in terms of executing that vision.”
The jobs are among a dozen high-level openings listed on the state’s website, including assistant commissioner of school improvement.
Sharon Griffin, hired last year to run the state’s highest-profile school turnaround program, will keep that role at the Achievement School District, Schwinn told Chalkbeat this week. However, under a revised chain of command, Griffin will report directly to a new chief schools officer instead of to the commissioner, as she had under Candice McQueen, Schwinn’s predecessor.
While reorganizing is common for a new commissioner, Schwinn’s hires thus far show she is leaning on some experience and institutional knowledge from within Tennessee’s education department while also recruiting a few key outsiders.
Retained from McQueen’s cabinet are Christy Ballard, the department’s general counsel, and Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Fiveash, who oversees legislative affairs and policy and maintains a daily presence on Capitol Hill when the General Assembly is in session.
Promoted from within are Eve Carney, who as chief schools officer will oversee school improvement initiatives including the Achievement School District; and Sam Pearcy, who as chief operating officer will look after finance, information technology, procurement, and school services.
Carney joined the department in 2008 and previously administered federal grants programs. Pearcy, who has been with the department since 2013, has focused most recently on improving state efficiency to support school districts.
Schwinn said her new organizational chart, which is slated to go into effect on May 1, was developed with feedback from district superintendents.
The restructuring shrinks the commissioner’s cabinet-level advisers from 11 to nine and also scales down the number of people reporting directly to Schwinn. Below is the organizational chart from last fall, before the change in administrations.
The arrivals under Schwinn coincide with some high-level departures.
McQueen’s chief of staff, Laura Encalade, left along with former communications director Sara Gast to work for their former boss in McQueen’s new role as CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, a nonprofit organization focused on attracting, developing, and keeping high-quality educators.
Chief Financial Officer Chis Foley was dismissed by Schwinn.
Lyle Ailshie, who as deputy commissioner stepped in as the department’s interim leader before Schwinn started, is expected to retire mid-year and return to East Tennessee, where the state’s 2005 Superintendent of the Year oversaw districts in Kingsport and Greeneville.
Meanwhile, Schwinn has moved her family to Tennessee after commuting on weekends to Austin during her first months on the job. The oldest of her two daughters is a student in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.[Read more at Chalkbeat] Read More
As a research and advocacy organization, SCORE frequently checks the pulse of voters regarding various education issues. From public opinion surveys to focus groups, understanding what is on the minds of Tennesseans is important as we work to improve education for all students in our state. You can reference a few of our previous public opinion surveys here.
SCORE’s most recent public opinion survey was conducted March 29-April 1 by our partner, Public Opinion Strategies. We surveyed 500 registered Tennessee voters from across the state and asked them about the most important and talked about education issues in 2019.
The survey found that education continues to be a top issue among voters in Tennessee. When asked about what is the top issue facing Tennessee, education was second in the minds of voters. Tennesseans placing a high priority on education policy is understandable given the tremendous progress our state has made over the past ten years, including the designation as fastest-improving state in student achievement from 2011-2015.
The state-level policies that enabled that success also have high levels of support among voters.
Accountability has been at the center of the education policy conversation for the past several years. In this poll, voters were asked about policies related to accountability as a whole. When asked whether or not voters favored more accountability in schools, including assigning letter grades to schools, state intervention, teacher evaluation, and transparency, voters overwhelming said they wanted more accountability-related policies: 81 percent favoring more and 15 percent opposing more. This support cut across political parties and geographic regions of the state.
School choice is one of the most-discussed policy areas of 2019, and voters are clearly paying attention. After defining a public charter school as “public schools operated by independent, nonprofit governing bodies that receive state and local funding similar to other public schools,” the survey asked whether voters have a favorable or unfavorable view of public charter schools. Voters have an overall favorable impression: 51% of voters having a favorable view of public charter schools and 35% having an unfavorable view.
With new leadership in Tennessee following the 2018 election cycle, voters’ impressions are always an interesting data point. Governor Lee began his term with a focus on education, and his first major policy proposal was the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) act, followed by the Future Workforce Initiative. When voters were asked if their state legislator supported Gov. Lee’s education policies would it make them more or less likely to support them, the results were overwhelming: 57% said it would make them more likely, 14% said less likely, and 18% said no impact.
These are just a few of the most interesting questions from SCORE’s most recent public opinion survey. You can see additional results here.[Read More at SCORE] Read More
Months after the approval process for all states’ consolidated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plans wrapped up in September 2018, each state has identified its own set of indicators and has been working to implement the federal law. However, as this shift takes place, there’s still an underlying question: How well do these plans aim to support struggling schools and ensure equity?
On Wednesday, the National Urban League (NUL) released its ESSA equity review grading the plans of 36 states and the District of Columbia along 12 indicators. Using metrics including resource equity, educator equity, and supports and interventions for struggling schools, the organization assigned a rating of “excellent,” “sufficient” or “poor,” with these evaluations serving as a “preliminary indicator” of how states plan to implement the policy, the report says.
“The genesis of this report was really to elevate equity in this conversation knowing that these plans represent a blueprint for action,” Susie Feliz, the vice president for policy and legislative affairs in the NUL Washington Bureau, told Education Dive. “They represent promises that state leaders intend to make to ensure that every student does, in fact, succeed.”
Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, states have been charged with revamping each of their strategic plans to evaluate student performance. Instead of one-size-fits-all standardized tests and uniform accountability measures, the move from No Child Left Behind to ESSA made room for more flexibility for states and a heavier emphasis on individual student progress.
ESSA also aimed to tackle the achievement gap and address inequities that exist between and within states. Since its implementation, some states have made efforts to increase equity through initiatives including implicit bias training, issuing annual equity reports and hiring “equity specialists” to work with teachers.
In assessing these efforts, the NUL’s report card deemed nine states “excellent” in incorporating equity, while 20 were graded “sufficient” and eight were rated “poor.”
Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Rhode Island got “excellent” ratings, meaning their ESSA plans “were off to a strong start making the most of opportunities to further advance equity, with some areas for improvement,” the report says.
The bulk of states surveyed in the report — 20 in total — got a “sufficient” grade, which the NUL report defines as plans being “adequately attentive to opportunities to further advance equity, with several missed opportunities, and a few areas deserving urgent attention.” Among these states is Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland. The District of Columbia also falls in the “sufficient” category.
Roughly 22% of the states, or eight in total, evaluated in the NUL report were deemed “poor” — that is, their plans “missed opportunities to further advance equity in a majority of areas with several areas needing urgent attention.” Several high-population states — including California, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Arizona — landed in this category, along with Kansas, Missouri and Michigan.
In assigning grades, the NUL used 12 metrics that span a wide variety of issues in educational equity, including breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, resource equity, educator equity, and supports and interventions for struggling schools. Each state, plus D.C., was rated “excellent,” “sufficient” or “poor” in each of these indicators, which helped calculate its overall score.
In many cases, regardless of what overall grade a state earned, there were clear trends in performance in each area. NUL rated the majority of states as excellent in the goals and indicators category — defined by the organization as “having ambitious academic goals for all students and for each student subgroup” — as well as stakeholder engagement, equitable access to early-childhood learning, equitable access to high-quality curricula, and equitable implementation of college and career standards.
Additionally, in two-thirds of the categories, such as resource equity, educator equity, breaking the school-to-prison pipeline and out-of-school time learning, states were most often graded as “sufficient.” The top three “poor” categories were supports and interventions for struggling schools, resource equity and subgroup performance, which measures how much state ESSA plans include all student subgroups across all grades.
Feliz said her organization is “optimistic” about the results.”We are optimistic in the sense that there is certainly an opportunity for growth and improvement for every state, and in particular, the states that were rated ‘poor,'” she said. “We certainly hope that they revisit their plans with a new look, and that they engage their stakeholders in a collaborative process to work together to identify a better road to achieving equity in those states.”
As part of its recommendations, the NUL urged Congress to revisit state plans and hold hearings on the issues highlighted as a means of paving the way for improvement. It also suggests that at a state level, leaders take notes from their peers, and from a budgetary standpoint, reevaluate spending to ensure it is distributed equitably – which a report issued in April says is not taking place.
Another key takeaway, Feliz said, is for communities to discuss and advocate for their states to make any needed changes to strengthen their school systems.
“ESSA represents a historic opportunity to meaningfully engage local communities, families and parents that are directly impacted by the law, but also by states’ interpretations of the law and the policies and practices they put in place,” Feliz said. “There’s a real opportunity for administrators and principals to have meaningful conversations and involve community stakeholders … and solicit their input on these ESSA plans.”[Read more at Education Dive] Read More
Principals who’ve had attention at every point in their development as a school leader—including selection, preparation, hiring, placement, and coaching after they are on the job—were linked to stronger reading and math achievement and to longer tenures in their jobs at the helm of schools.
Those clear findings—from a new study of six school districts that made heavy investments in strengthening their cadre of school leaders—underscore the key role principals play in their schools’ academic success. The report, by researchers at RAND Corporation, looked at the six-year, $85 million “principal pipeline” initiative supported by the Wallace Foundation. (Coverage of education leadership in Education Week is supported in part by the Wallace Foundation.)
Schools that got new principals in 2012-13 or later as part of the pipeline initiative outperformed other schools in their states that were not in the program by 6.22 percentile points in reading and 2.87 percentile points in math three years after the new school leader was hired, researchers found.
RAND also found that new principals in the pipeline districts were 5.8 percentage points more likely to stay in their schools for two years than new principals in non-participating districts, though there was variation among districts.
Perhaps most significantly, the report found statistically significant academic growth in the schools that were among the lowest-performing in the pipeline districts that had gotten new principals. And while new principals who were products of the initiative posted the most growth, other school leaders in the pipeline districts also saw gains.
That specific finding exceeded the Wallace Foundation’s original hypothesis on how effective principals could boost achievement when it launched its initiative to work with districts to thoughtfully prepare, select, place, and support principals.
“What these results say is that principal pipelines are a strategic and systemic approach to create districtwide student achievement” growth, said Jody Spiro, the director of the foundation’s education leadership program.
“All principals in the district benefitted…,” she said. “They benefitted from having clear leader standards. They benefitted from these more rigorous hiring procedures, from being better matched to their schools, from having evaluation systems that the research tells us the principals perceived as fair and useful. It became bigger than…a ‘training program’ for principals. It became a whole system approach.”
‘Bang for the Buck’
The districts in the program were Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; New York City; and Prince George’s County, Md.
Their results mirror what’s happened in Chicago, where school leadership has been an improvement strategy for 20 years, said Heather Y. Anichini, the chief executive officer of The Chicago Public Education Fund.
One of the validating findings in the RAND analysis was the academic gains among the lowest-performing schools—those most in need of effective principals, Anichini said.
“That’s something we’ve been seeing here for a while, too, but it isn’t necessarily something that’s focused on a lot in the literature,” she said.
“If it is the kind of strategy that can really make a difference, not just generally, but specifically in places where students are struggling, then it’s something we must pay more attention to.”
That finding may seem to fly in the face of research and conventional wisdom suggesting that newly minted principals shouldn’t lead struggling schools, said Doug Anthony, an associate superintendent in Prince George’s County.
But in the pipeline districts, new principals went through rigorous selection, got relevant training, and were matched based on their strengths and the school and community’s needs, and they were provided with mentor and other support systems, said Anthony.
“I think this actually dispels that to some extent, and that if you actually equip people and build leaders who have already come with a certain skill set and sharpen that skill set and are particular about how they are developed and identified and supported, you can actually see bang for the buck in student achievement even in your toughest schools,” Anthony said.
Prince George’s County made dramatic changes to its school leadership program. It revised its standards for leaders which guide how it evaluates and supports aspiring and sitting principals. It created data systems to track principals’ performance and expanded partnerships with university-prep programs.
The RAND researchers said they know of no other districtwide improvement strategy that yielded such significant academic results on such a large scale.
Collectively, the districts in the pipeline initiative serve nearly 1.7 million students.
The effects of the pipeline were evident early, another key finding, Spiro and others said.
And districts can start reaping the gains right away.
While setting up a preparation program takes time, districts can get early wins by sharpening leader standards, matching principals’ skill sets with the needs of schools, and retooling the work of administrators who manage principals.
“Every district has something of a pipeline because they all hire principals, but it’s a matter of if it’s systemic,” Spiro said.
The program was also relatively affordable for districts, the report found. Over five years, the initiative cost $210 per student if looking at its impact districtwide and $373 if looking solely at students in schools with principals who received the full “treatment” of the initiative.
RAND’s research did show varied results. Math scores in one unnamed district, for example, were negative and researchers found positive but not statistically significant effects in math achievement in two others. There was also variation in the study’s findings on principal retention.
Return on Investment
Glenn Pethel, an assistant superintendent in the Gwinnett County schools, said that districts and state education agencies should pay attention to the report.
“It should cause districts to stop and reflect and think about where they are making investments,” Pethel said. “I hope that it would cause them to see that investing in a principal pipeline does have a significant return on investment.”
That’s not always an easy pivot for districts, which tend to focus, understandably, on teachers. District leaders also gravitate to programs that can yield quick results. And building pipelines relies on relationships, which pose a challenge in a sector susceptible to frequent turnover.
Cultivating leadership has always been a district priority in Gwinnett County, Pethel said. The district’s superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks, has been in his position for more than two decades, and the district is always looking to spot and shape new talent.
When Pam Williams moved from Palm Beach County, Fla., to Gwinnett County in 2006, she was not looking to become a principal.
But her principal quickly spotted her talent in the classroom and her knack for team-building. He brought her onto his leadership team and steadily supplied her with books on instruction and leadership.
He urged her to apply for the district’s aspiring principals program.
Williams is now principal of Bethesda Elementary School, which was among the bottom 20 percent of the district’s schools when she took over in 2013.
In the last two years, it’s consistently landed in the top 20 percent of the district’s schools and among the top Title 1 schools in Georgia.
Williams credits the district’s two preparation programs in which she participated—which were developed during the pipeline initiative and featured experts from the district’s curriculum staff, sitting principals, and other building leaders, and the superintendent as lecturers.
Her mentor during her first two years on the job was “priceless,” she said.
While she had her own ideas on how to turn around the school, its success is mainly due to the preparation program and district support, she said.
“Anything that I’ve implemented was definitely not straight from my brain, that’s for sure, she said. “It was definitely ideas that I learned from the program.”[Read more at Ed Week] Read More
Can scholarship dollars help solve the college ‘undermatching’ problem? This charter network wants to find out
Amy Christie has seen it many times. A student gets into a great college and heads to admitted students’ weekend, excited to explore their academic future.
Then they start examining financial aid packages — and the numbers just don’t add up.
“Realizing you can’t make that choice is really hard,” says Christie, the senior director of college access and success at the Achievement First charter network. “You’ve earned your spot and you just can’t go.”
The result: Instead of enrolling at that school, the student ends up somewhere less expensive and less selective. Researchers call the phenomenon of enrolling in a college that doesn’t line up with academic skills “undermatching,” and it’s more common among students from low-income families.
Achievement First, which operates 36 schools across three states, is about to try a new way of addressing the problem. The network’s Brooklyn board approved a plan last week to offer scholarships to students who opt to attend a more expensive school with a higher graduation rate for black and Hispanic students.
“We believe that fairly modest amounts of scholarship money (~$3,000-$7,500/year) could have a significant impact on the matriculation decisions that a subset of our scholars and families make,” the proposal says.
It’s the latest attempt by a charter network serving mostly students of color from low-income families to help their graduates make it all the way through college — something that the schools acknowledge is a challenge. One reason is the financial burden college can put on students and their families.
“What our counselors are saying is that sometimes it really is just a modest amount of money,” Achievement First CEO Dacia Toll told board members.
Here’s how the scholarship will work: To be eligible, a high school senior must be choosing among colleges, including one that is more expensive but has a substantially higher graduation rate among black and Hispanic students. Students would be selected based on their financial need, academic track record, and other qualities like motivation.
Roughly 20 students who graduate this year from one of its Brooklyn high schools would be eligible for an average scholarship of $5,000 each year of college. The charter’s board approved allocating $100,000 annually for the program, money that will come from general funds the network receives from the state of New York. If the program proves successful, Achievement First hopes to expand it, perhaps by raising philanthropic funds.
“I think it’s really interesting,” said Matt Chingos, the vice president of education data and policy at the Urban Institute who has studied undermatching. He said he hadn’t seen scholarship programs as specifically targeted as Achievement First’s.
“For an individual student, there’s nothing inherently wrong with going to a less selective college,” he said. “The reason folks are concerned about it — and the reason I think it’s a problem — is because it’s a pattern in the data we predominantly see from lower-income families.”
“That matters, because more selective colleges aren’t just fancier and give you a better sticker on your car. They come with more resources and have better graduation rates.”
There’s also research, consistent with Achievement First’s approach, suggesting students benefit from attending a more selective, better resourced school. “People are more likely to graduate from places where more people graduate,” Chingos said.
Two studies in New Mexico and Tennessee do offer a note of caution, though, suggesting that scholarships may not end up helping lower-achieving students complete college. But even in these studies, relatively high-achieving students do benefit.
This scholarship won’t directly help college students with unexpected costs or living expenses. A 2016 KIPP survey of its alumni found that 43 percent reported missing meals while in college for financial reasons. Achievement First also maintains an emergency fund of $67,000, according to a spokesperson, which between 12 and 24 alumni tap into annually. KIPP recently expanded a similar program it started in Washington D.C. in 2014, with four of its regions starting their own funds with about $40,000.
Christie hopes the extra funding could help reduce the anxiety of students who do opt for schools that might put financial strain on their families.
“When there has been a student who actually has chosen the more expensive institution for all the right reasons, and the family hunkers down and says, ‘OK, we’re really going to make this work,’ but it’s at a level of stress — there’s this sentiment of living semester by semester or just being kind of on edge a little bit because you know that bill is coming,” she said.[Read more at Chalkbeat] Read More
Pellissippi State, Cumberland University saw higher enrollment, degree completion with Tennessee Promise
Pellissippi State Community College and Cumberland University saw higher enrollment and degree completion since Tennessee Promise was launched four years ago, according to a new study.
Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship and mentoring program that gives high school graduates five consecutive semesters of free tuition at an eligible Tennessee community or technical college. The program was launched in fall 2015.
The reports, done by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Postsecondary Education Research Center, are the first two in a series of reports that are looking at the impact of Tennessee Promise at specific higher education institutions in Tennessee.
Interim President Randy Boyd, who previously served as Gov. Bill Haslam’s adviser for higher education and helped create the Tennessee Promise program, said the program has helped to change how Tennesseans think about education.
“Because of Tennessee Promise, because of UT Promise, those programs, we’re beginning to change the culture,” Boyd said. “We’re beginning to have a state where students can be born in a family in a state where they can believe in the future because they’re going to have the opportunity to go on and get a higher education and have a more successful life.”
Pellissippi State saw increased minority enrollment
Pellissippi State Community College, the largest community college in Tennessee, had a 25% increase in first-time, full-time freshman enrollment during the first semester of Tennessee Promise. Additionally, first-time, full-time freshman enrollment had increased by 40% by the fall 2018 semester.
“The study shows that Tennessee Promise both increases accessibility to college and provides incentive for more students to stay the course. At Pellissippi State we are happy to play a role in helping a larger group of Tennesseans earn a post-secondary credential,” said PSCC interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathryn Byrd.
Since Tennessee Promise launched, Pellissippi State also saw an increase in the number of African American and Hispanic students enrolled.
Pellissippi State Community College, the largest community college in Tennessee, had a 25% increase in first-time, full-time freshman enrollment during the first semester of Tennessee Promise. (Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)
The number of African American students grew from 5% in the fall 2015 freshman cohort to 6.4% in fall 2018. Hispanic student enrollment grew from 4.4% in the fall 2015 freshman cohort to 5.9% in fall 2018.
In total, Pellissippi State had 10,894 students enrolled for the fall 2018 semester.
At Cumberland University, a private university in Lebanon, Tennessee, the number of students enrolled in Tennessee Promise grew from 68 in 2015, when the program started, to 414 in the fall of 2018. Cumberland University has 2,405 students enrolled, according to the school’s website.
“Among the first cohort of Tennessee Promise students at Cumberland University, 44.9 percent completed their associate’s degree in the first five semesters, compared to 23.6 percent across the state,” according to a news release from UT.
Cumberland University President Paul Stumb said the school’s focus on retention has helped drive students to complete their degrees, including a free tutoring program and student retention center.
“Our faculty and staff are devoted to keeping these students in school and getting them to the goal,” Stumb said.
Cumberland University also retained a higher percentage of Tennessee Promise students each semester than statewide averages.
Jackson Decote chose Cumberland University in Lebanon because it is one of the few four-year institutions that accepts Tennessee Promise students. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
Like at Pellissippi State Community College, the number of minority students at Cumberland University also increased under Tennessee Promise.
Enrollment of Hispanic students grew from 1.5% to 5.6%, African American students grew from 4.4% to 5.1%, and Native American and Asian student enrollment grew from less than 1% each to 1.7% and 1.2%, respectively.
In total, over 1,000 Tennessee Promise students have attended Cumberland University. Stumb said the Tennessee Promise students “are bringing a lot of life to our campus.”
“Our mission is to change the lives and transform lives of young students, and this has allowed us to do that for students who otherwise might not have the opportunity to go to college,” Stumb said. “They certainly would not have had the opportunity to go to a four-year college like Cumberland without the Tennessee Promise.”
Tennessee Promise students take more credit hours
The study also found that students enrolled in Tennessee Promise take more credit hours in their first semester and are more likely to complete their degree or certificate than students not enrolled in the program.
In the first group of first-time, full-time students, 23% completed their program in five semesters. Of students not enrolled in Tennessee Promise, 7.6% completed their program in the same time period.
Interim UT System President Randy Boyd speaks at a news conference about Tennessee Promise on April 2, 2019. (Photo: Monica Kast/News Sentinel)
Students in the first Tennessee Promise cohort had a three-year completion rate of 30.1%, whereas the year before the program started, the three-year completion rate was 23.5%.
UT Promise to launch fall 2020
Last month, UT announced it will launch a last-dollar scholarship program similar to Tennessee Promise that will allow students to attend a UT school free of tuition and fees.
University of Tennessee Promise: What students need to know to get free college
The program, called UT Promise, will launch in fall 2020 and will cover tuition and fees for Tennessee high school graduates with a household income of less than $50,000 a year and who are recipients of the state’s HOPE scholarship.
UT Promise will be available for undergraduate programs at the UT Knoxville, Chattanooga or Martin campuses.[Read more at Knox News] Read More
America’s community colleges serve as entry points to opportunity for millions of students.
Regardless of an applicant’s background or circumstance, these institutions provide programs of study that prepare students with valuable credentials to secure living-wage jobs or with the credits necessary to pursue further study at bachelor’s degree-granting institutions.
As president of Nashville State Community College, I am committed to the vital role community colleges play in Tennessee’s higher education system. I believe we exist to serve not just the current but the emerging needs of our workforce. Through the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs, the state has recognized that community and technical colleges are critical pathways toward increasing the number of Tennesseans with a credential beyond a high school diploma.
However, increasing access to postsecondary education is not enough. Completion is the goal. Yet far too many of our students arrive on campus only to find their institutions are unprepared to support their success.
Nashville State serves a challenging population. Census data show 29 percent of Nashville’s children live in poverty. Metro Nashville Public Schools have a high school graduation rate of 80 percent, yet only 61 percent of those graduates go directly to college. According to the ACT college entrance exam, only 24 percent are ready for college-level work.
Although Nashville’s college attainment rate has increased in recent years, rising to 47.6 percent in 2017, the percentage of good-paying jobs that will require at least a technical certificate or associate’s degree is also growing – and at a quicker pace than our attainment rate. It is concerning to know that a significant number of people who live in Nashville will not have the education and training necessary to fill many of the new jobs being added to our economy.
At Nashville State, a significant number of our first-time enrolled students drop out before returning for their second year. We know we can and must do better for the sake of our students, our community and our economy. One thing I know is we cannot do this alone.
We are thankful for the support of many partners such as Complete Tennessee and others who are helping the college identify why students drop out of college. One significant outcome of this work is Mayor David Briley’s proposed Nashville GRAD program. Nashville GRAD will not only provide the financial support beyond Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect to cover expenses such as textbooks, transportation and certification exams for Nashville State and the college of applied technology in Nashville, but equally as important, is providing the resources for the college to pilot a new holistic approach to student support.
At the very heart of it all is my desire to change the narrative around students being “college-ready” to one where our colleges are ready to serve the students we receive. My dream is to find the resources that equip us to design a holistic support system to meet the individual needs of all students. As the data continue to show our students have a diverse range of challenges and many do not have the resources or support to complete college.
In Complete Tennessee’s latest State of Higher Education report, the nonprofit rightly calls for a deeper commitment to addressing the state’s persistent equity gaps. According to the report, “Without an aggressive, comprehensive approach to increase graduation rates for all students while simultaneously narrowing graduation rate disparities for historically underserved populations, higher education attainment rates will continue to have a strong relationship to income and race and run the risk of perpetuating cycles of poverty.” This kind of approach involves financial support, but it also requires institutions provide the highest level of service to each student, ranging from course advising and mentoring to creating welcoming campus cultures where every student knows they belong.
By being more student-ready, our colleges can better meet the mission to empower people for careers and community involvement that makes life better for everyone.
Dr. Shanna Jackson is the fifth president of Nashville State Community College. She previously served in leadership roles at Columbia State Community College and Volunteer State Community College.[Read more at the Tennessean] Read More