The Jens

The Jens
jen b & Jen P

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yikes! Our high school students are already in college!

While reading Dr. David Conley's book, College Knowledge: What It Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready (2005), the following quote particularly struck a chord:
Given that close to 90 percent of incoming freshmen state that their goal is to go to college…high school…should align itself better with post-secondary success…Perhaps the key focus in all classes should be life after high school.
Because our Middle College students are already IN college (while also taking three high school classes on the college campus) it seems extra-imperative that we prepare our students for the differences they experience in their college classes (versus previous high school classes). And of course, by the nature of the program itself we have been acting as a bridge for students in making this transition from high school to college for years. 
But now there's such emphasis and (yay!) validation for what we've been doing that we now have this opportunity to grow, contribute, lead, and learn even more. So, let's tackle this year by setting goals for professional development and document our progress in the hopes that it might keep us more focused and so that others may follow along and perhaps even contribute to our learning throughout the year.
So, Jen P., Conley has identified concrete actions schools can do to make 21st Century skills a priority in the curriculum (well, he's identified many, but here's a few). In which area would our efforts best be spent among these ideas?

  • Better align curriculum toward post-secondary coursework/skills
  • Be able to articulate the role of college readiness skills embedded in curricular program
  • Pay particular attention to underrepresented students’ program of study, as they are least likely to have resources and help outside the school environment
:-) jen b.


Thanks for getting us started, Jen B J  I’ve really enjoyed reading both of Dr. Conley’s books, College and Career Ready and College Knowledge, and I’m sure we will keep coming back to these texts throughout the year.  He’s clearly articulated exactly what we’ve been working on and framed the whole discussion in a way that really helps me focus on the skills and behaviors that will help our students into, through, and beyond college.

You’ve picked three great areas for us to focus on.

Better align curriculum toward post-secondary coursework/skills

I’ve been trying to make curriculum more relevant to students, to show them how they may transfer the skills or knowledge from an assignment in my class to real life, but I don’t do this as consistently as I should.  A good goal for me this year is to explicitly show students how they might apply the skills we practice in class to life outside of school.  One way I could do this is vary the kinds of assignments I give and extend those assignments to show how the same format/skills could be used for something other than a response to literature.  I could see us teaching the inform-explain format in English with a piece of literature and then use the same format in our College and Career Readiness class with more of a job-related assignment, such as writing an inform-explain piece to explain a product or operating procedure, or creating a brochure to highlight a university they might be interested in attending.

Be able to articulate the role of college readiness skills embedded in curricular program

This is something we haven’t done well enough at all.  I think back to a conversation we had with our previous superintendent who urged us to “market our value-added.”  Reading the two Conley books really helped me see our “value-added,” particularly the section on contextual skills and awareness and the differences between high school and college courses (pages 40-52 in College and Career Ready). Helping students make the transition to college should be our strength and explicitly teaching students these skills and behaviors instead of hoping they’ll catch on (sink or swim!) is what makes the MC program different from any other college-prep program in the area.  We can highlight how we do this in our monthly newsletters and our PTSA news blurbs, as well as in our informational presentations.  I really liked having graduates at our presentations to talk about how MC helped them once they moved on to “real college.”

Pay particular attention to underrepresented students’ program of study, as they are least likely to have resources and help outside the school environment

Well, one of the goals of the Middle College model is help underrepresented students into college and be successful there so this has to be a focus for us.  I think the ones who make it to us have good support at home – families who are aware of the program and how it can help their students, families who expect their students to continue in college.  Certainly, I think we can always do a better job of supporting students and helping them access resources, but I think our challenge remains getting more underrepresented students into the MC program in the first place.

~Jen P

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