Education Policy & Practice

Archive for December 3rd, 2009

My father graduated from the College of Charleston.  My mother attended Towson University (then Towson State University), but she didn’t complete her degree.  That makes me a second-generation college-goer. 

There was no question that my younger sibs and I were going to college.  It wasn’t drilled into our heads, but somehow, it was ingrained in us.  I don’t remember an explicit focus on “college readiness” (talking about college, college visits, early PSATs/SATs) in my K-8 years at St. Francis of Assisi.  But my sibs and I attended uber college prep high schools, and in that kind of environment, college was an expectation.

The one girl from my high school (that I can remember) who didn’t go to college has always stood out in my mind.  Unfortunately, for far too many students in our urban and rural public schools, college (or other postsecondary productivity, as I like to call it) is not a part of their psyche.

In my professional life in education research and evaluation, I’ve visited countless high schools across the country in such cities as Houston, Chicago, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Los Angeles, and Worcester, MA.  So much time and effort is put into establishing “college-going environments” and supporting and guiding high school students along that path.

There isn’t a consensus on when college readiness activities/efforts should begin.  Some say 9th grade, start as soon as they walk through the high school doors.  Some say earlier, and even some say 11th grade is a place to start.  I realize that college may not be for everyone, although, the more I think about what that means, the more I question why that belief is so widely accepted (especially given the shoddy k-12 education that is not uncommon in our poorest communities, but I digress).

I believe that a focus on college, academic excellence, discipline, perseverance, and continual improvement should be instilled in us from birth.  Yes, I realize that we’re all not going to get that.  As far as education goes, college should be an expectation from the first day of kindergarten.  So, by the time a student reaches upper middle school and high school, he/she won’t be shell-shocked when the counselor starts asking about college.  By then, that student has a pretty good sense of how “attainable” college is for him/her, which may be one of the most difficult challenges that counselor will face.

And sadly, minorities and low-income students are far too often deemed (at an early age) not to be college material. And so then does the self-fulfilling prophecy begin/continue.

Let’s remember, as vested members of our communities, to always engage students of all ages, in conversations about college, academic aspirations, and career goals.  Talk about your college experience with excitement and encourage young people to see themselves as college material.


Education Policy & Practice

December 2009

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