In “Engineered to Succeed: Lessons From a Student Pursuing a STEM Degree,” Lydia Dobyns, President of New Tech Network, encourages us to improve the numbers of women entering STEM fields by providing positive role models and creating an educational system that gives women an unbiased opportunity to pursue these careers.
This first blog post in a series on the “Girls in STEM” Mentorship Program for The Huffington Post focuses on Cindy Arteaga (see They Should Make a New Tech College). Now a junior at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, Cindy is pursuing civil engineering and mathematics degrees. She’s currently vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter at SMU.
Visit the New Tech blog to learn more.
A confluence of recent events led me to write this post. First, I had the pleasure of attending International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL’s) symposium in Orlando last week. While I still have some unanswered questions about blended learning and its ability to serve all students, it was impossible not to get excited about the possibilities when you heard the passion of the speakers at the conference, specifically Susan Patrick and Maria Worthen. Agree or disagree with the content, to me there was no question that Susan and Maria believe blended learning is the best thing for students and, regardless of my own questions about blended learning, it was clear they were making student-centered arguments.
After the conference, I made the trip to my home town to be with my father in the hospital. Without going into any detail, this experience put me in a very reflective place. As someone who spends a lot of time reading reports and commentaries about education policy, some of the time was spent reflecting on the current education debate in our country.
Finally, I read this Washington Post article about the memorial service for former Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, a Democrat from Washington State. The article specifically noted the relationship the then-Speaker had with then-House Minority Leader Robert Michel, a Republican from Illinois. Michel told of a time when he and Rep. Foley “made things happen…found good ways to solve difficult problems and made the House a working institution.”
I write about these things because I think they are very applicable to today’s education debate. I don’t think the folks leading the discussions the national discussions lack passion, quite the opposite. I also trust that our edu-leaders are making decisions that they truly believe are in the best interest of students. Given that, isn’t it incumbent upon all of us to “make things happen?” If we can all agree the current system is broken, I challenge all of us to have the “courage and personal decency” that Rep. Michel spoke about to stop attacking each other and find “good ways to solve [the] difficult problems” our country’s education system is facing.
I believe that all young people can achieve their dreams. It’s just that they may require very different pathways to get there. That was part of the motivation behind the creation of EDWorks Fast Track Early College High School and Fast Track Academies for grades K-8. We are here and doing this work because we want every child to succeed, to reach his / her fullest potential, and to be prepared for any life choice they wish to make.
But I also think we – the team at EDWorks and at all groups working together on Early College High Schools – need to more boldly proclaim that the work we are doing addresses one of the most pressing issues facing our nation as a whole – the crisis in college completion rate at a time when our economy cries out for a more highly educated and skilled workforce.
We all know that college completion rates in this country are absolutely abysmal, especially for our target population. President Obama’s administration announced a goal for 50% of the United States population to have earned a higher education degree by the year 2020. And the Lumina Foundation is aiming for 60% by 2025. Currently, only about 39% of adults across the nation have college degrees; worse yet, only about 13-15% of low income and minority adults have college degrees.
This means that we’ll need about 300,000 more people to graduate college every year if we want to reach those goals. And the current, traditional college-going population is not enough. Projections show the U.S. will be a “majority-minority” nation by 2043. Given this reality, there is no way we can reach these higher education degree attainment goals without dramatically increasing in the number of first-generation, poor and minority students who earn degrees.
One of the primary reasons for such low college completion rates is the large numbers of students entering college underprepared. Higher education spends a great deal of time and resources recruiting students, only to see large numbers of them leave after the first year. In fact, more than 30% of all students drop out of college after the first year – and reports show that number can be as high as 50-75% for low-income and minority students. And the costs go beyond the higher education institutions themselves. Each year, states and the federal government spend a combined $1.8 billion – that’s billion, with a B – on students who don’t return to college for a second year.
Early College is a transformative enrollment and retention strategy. Our national data indicate that Early College High School students who earn 25-30 college credits while in high school are twice as likely to complete a 4 year degree as compared to their peers!
There are fewer than 300 early college high schools in the United States. Yet, there are more than 7,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S., of which approximately 3,100 are 2- and 4-year degree granting institutions. I am convinced that we can make a great case to them as to why they should embrace early college partnerships.
Two-year community colleges, some of whom are in highly competitive environments for enrolling students, should see early college as an attractive pipeline strategy; and others simply seek an innovation or differentiator that adds to their reputation or mission fulfillment.
Four-year private and selective public colleges and universities often struggle to attract and retain college-ready first generation, low-income and minority students, and should see early college as a potentially transformative enrollment strategy.
And of course nearly every public school district is expected to offer unique and high-quality choices for parents and students. Early college can fill that need. So I think there is a world of opportunity out there for us to dramatically grow this movement.
We’re aiming to lead the way to a new normal. We foresee a new normal where every high school student – and especially first generation, low-income and minority students – will experience college success and attain a meaningful number of college credits during their high school careers. More specifically, we want to be able to tell every youngster in grade school that if he or she works hard, stays with it, and takes full advantage of every available opportunity, he or she can complete 14 years of schooling in 12 years – and come away with an associate degree, up to 2 years of college credit, or perhaps a marketable certificate or accreditation that will lead to gainful employment. This needs to become our new normal.
When you consider that fewer than 15% of all low-income and minority students entering 9th grade actually earn a four-year degree, yet more than 87% of our early college high school graduates persist to a 4-year degree – this is perhaps the most promising strategy for moving those students, from those communities to college completion. And so, for anyone who wonders whether or not this work is “innovative” or worthy of further investment, the answer is a resounding, absolutely!
Brooklyn Pathways in Technology High School, or P-TECH, enjoyed a visit from President Barack Obama on Friday, October 25th as the President outlined an aggressive plan to bring high-speed Internet to every student in the United States.
P-TECH, which opened in 2011, is one of the 23 Smart Scholars Early College High Schools in New York State and was was mentioned as a national model during the State of the Union address in January. EDWorks, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, and the State University of New York (SUNY) are the intermediary and technical support providers for all 23 Smart Scholars Early College High Schools.
Today President Barack Obama will be meeting with students and visiting classrooms at Pathways in Technology Early College High School, P-TECH, in Brooklyn, New York. The President mentioned P-TECH in his 2013 State of the Union Address.
Beginning at 3 pm, the President’s remarks can be followed live at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live. You can also follow the reaction on Twitter with the hashtag #obama_ptech.
P-TECH, which opened in 2011, is a great example of how beneficial a strong partnership between a school and local business can be to school staff and students, as well as employees at the company. IBM partners with P-TECH and provides every student with a mentor.
“We are grateful that President Obama is recognizing the hard work by the leadership, teachers and staff at P-TECH,” EDWorks President Harold Brown said. “It is a national imperative that we equip our young people with the tools and skills they need, especially those who may be the first in their families to go to college or who may be economically disadvantaged.”
We received a great deal of feedback to the blog post “The Difference between Collaboration and Collective Impact”. The most common question is around whether collective impact is somehow superior or even counter to collaboration. To this I would respond with a resounding, “No!” There is a time and place for both. In fact, we could even consider that there needs to be something along the lines of an “Impact Continuum” that runs from Isolated Impact – our traditional method of operating in silos – to collaboration and on to collective impact (see figure: The Impact Continuum)
- There is a time and place for each point on the continuum. It could be that an organization needs to act individually on a specific pressing issue for the betterment of the community as a whole or a specific population. Similarly, there is a time for communities to use collaboration to rally the around a common cause and/or to promote the exchange of information broadly to inform practice on the ground. And then there is a time for communities to take a more purposeful and deliberate approach to achieve sustained improvements through collective impact. In the end, one is not better than the other, and all three are happening at the same time in any given community.
- We need to set a high bar and push each other to find real examples of collective impact. Over 50 communities contributed feedback to the StriveTogether Theory of Action for Building Cradle to Career Civic Infrastructure. This is our attempt to raise the bar. We will be working arm-in-arm with sites to assess their progress over the coming months. And we should only find very few examples that meet the true definition of collective impact (a “10” on the Impact Continuum) to a) ensure the concept continues to hold meaning and b) encourage the communities to reach high as they work to achieve not only significant impact on the population they serve, but sustained improvements in the systems that serve them.
- We need to be very honest about where efforts we hail as examples fall on this continuum. As one national funder told me recently, “I see so many examples of proclaimed collective impact each and every day, I have no clue what it means.” Every time a case study or story is released in the field that claims to be collective impact, but fails to meet this high bar, we decrease the potential of sustaining this movement.
In the practice of collective impact, we have a foothold on changing how we do business in the social sector for the benefit of every child. We can move from focusing far too often on the interests of adults working within systems and institutions to the actual needs of those we serve. To take advantage of this moment, we need a rigorous definition of what this promising approach entails. Hopefully the Impact Continuum gets us a step closer to where we need to be to realize this powerful change.
We welcome any and all feedback on the Continuum and will look to refine it in the coming months and years as we learn more from partners working on the ground about how to best have impact on the lives of children every step of the way, from cradle to career.
Looking back at where we’ve come since the publication of “A Nation at Risk” thirty years ago from the perspective of looking ahead to the trends shaping learning ten years out provided, as my colleague Jesse Moyer anticipated in his related post, much food for thought and commentary.
Given my focus on looking ahead toward a vibrant learning ecosystem in which all learners have the opportunity and support to prepare to their fullest for college, career, and civic life – which would represent a profound system transformation from an industrial to an ecological paradigm – it struck me that the report’s authors wrote of “the task of rebuilding our system of learning” (14). More particularly, they envisioned a Learning Society at whose heart:
are educational opportunities extending far beyond the traditional institutions of learning, our schools and colleges. They extend into homes and workplaces; into libraries, art galleries, museums, and science centers; indeed, into every place where the individual can develop and mature in work and life.
Thirty years later, education remains so separate from other domains that I counted it as a big victory when I had the opportunity last month to join the American Alliance of Museum’s convening on the future of education. Because I work in education. K-12 education, to be exact.
Instead of generating creative possibilities for how schools might interact and intersect with many other kinds of community resources to create a diverse learning ecosystem that makes it easy for each child to engage in the rich and particular array of learning experiences that he or she needs to thrive, the standards-based reform movement has generally focused the national education conversation ever more narrowly on what’s happening in schools – including calls for spending more time doing more of the same even though it only works well enough for some students. This movement has attempted to clamp down on and further control an industrial system whose time has passed and which cannot possibly serve the needs of today’s learners because the era of factories and routines has simply ended.
In the emerging creative economy, there will be fewer full-time jobs. Those jobs that do exist will be relatively specialized. More and more of us will find ourselves creating mosaic careers and engaging in ongoing learning in support of continuous career readiness. Forecasts on the future of work suggest that the only constant over the next ten years will be change. Indeed, a recent Aspen Institute report highlighted dispositions related to managing change as being among the most important career-ready skills.
And we’ve all seen in recent weeks ample evidence of the dysfunction toward which U.S. civic society is sinking as strong opinions, strongly held increasingly fracture conversations about governance and threaten to bring not just the federal government but also the economy to a screeching halt.
We simply can’t keep tweaking the current education system and talking about incremental reforms. We can’t keep treating teachers as if they are cogs in an industrial machine and students as if they are empty vessels waiting to consume the kind of information that fits well into standardized tests. We must treat teachers and learners as creators. To have any hope of being more than a nation at perpetual risk, we must transform learning.
And we must do so with a clear vision for what we want to create, planning backward from the future instead of forward from today. “A Nation at Risk” attributed the decline of American education to a “weakness of purpose, confusion of vision, underuse of talent, and lack of leadership” (16). To transform learning for the future – for all kids’ futures – we must take a huge collective leap forward toward a shared vision for a diverse learning ecosystem that has the flexibility and resilience to adapt not just to individual learners but also to our ever-changing times.
Otherwise, the U.S. will be not just a nation at economic and civic risk; we will be a deeply inequitable nation in which only those with means are able to avail themselves of the very resources and tools whose emergence highlight the promise of an expanded learning ecosystem.
30 years of education reform have left gifted education pretty much where it was when A Nation at Risk was published in 1983. Then the ultimate goal for excellence in education was “to develop the talents of all to their fullest.” A Nation at Risk also acknowledged that perhaps we were hanging too much on the shoulders of our Nation’s schools and that the drive to provide solutions to “personal, social and political problems that the home and other institutions either will not or cannot resolve” had caused us to lose sight of the basic function of our public school system – education. The report referenced many troubling outcomes directly related to this neglect of focus on high education expectations – many of them which deeply effected students of high academic ability (“over half the population of gifted students do not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school.”)
At the national level there has been very little progress. The only federal program in support of academically gifted students, The Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act (originally passed by Congress in 1988 as part of ESEA) was de-funded by Congress in 2011. At the state level we are greeted with a patchwork of education policies ranging from: no/services no/funding to some/services some/funding – all of which are subject to the whims and interpretations of current legislators and funding mechanisms. Undergirding all of this at the district and school level is a popularly held belief that gifted kids are somehow impervious to academic neglect and will be just fine if left to their own devices.
Parents of gifted children who are engaged in their child’s school experiences may discover the discontent revealed by falling grades, lack of interest or behavioral problems and act to discover solutions or accommodations. In this they have much more information and options at their fingertips than existed in 1983. The internet and social media have provided the gifted advocacy community an opportunity to connect and create a network of support. Online schools have proliferated, and can be part of a blended learning environment in a popular move toward homeschooling for this student population. Charter, independent and exam schools are other alternatives to the traditional lock-step schooling that still exists in much of the country.
But what about the parents who are not engaged in their child’s school experiences? Or who cannot afford to seek out independent school options? Or who do not have the time or confidence in their ability to homeschool a gifted child? What about the child who has never been identified because the state did not think grade-level testing was appropriate and the child didn’t “present” as gifted? Or the student who had other exceptionalities, spoke another language or had parents who were absent or not engaged in their schooling? These are the children that have been hurt the most by lack of federal or state mandates for identification and funding.
- High-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds, when compared to their more advantaged peers, are twice as likely to drop out of school; more likely to lose ground as they move forward in their schooling; and are less likely to attend or graduate from college. (from The Achievement Trap: How America is failing millions of high-achieving students from lower income families)
- 44 % of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds who are considered high achieving when they enter school are no longer high achieving by 5th grade. (from Mind the (other) Gap: The growing excellence gap in K-12 education
What can we do now for this student population? From a grantmakers perspective continued funding for research is critical (both of the above cited studies were privately funded and more research is desperately needed on the effectiveness of interventions designed to keep these students engaged and learning.) From an education reform perspective, competency education provides many promising alternatives for high ability kids. Grouping kids by skill level rather than age has long been one of the greatest acceleration strategies in the gifted advocates’ toolkit.
Why expect a child to sit through a year of instruction on a subject they long ago mastered when we know gifted children are more likely to mislearn math and science when forced drill and review more than 2-3 times?
Competency education should be viewed as more than an alternative pathway for remediation or a measure of proficiency for performing arts or leadership. As an alternative education strategy for children with academic abilities beyond their age-mates, competency education can provide advanced content knowledge organized around key ideas and principles applied in a meaningful way. It strips the last vestige of seat time away and offers the freedom of rigorous intellectual pursuits to high achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds within the support framework of our public schools. Study what you love and then prove what you know or learned. Providing gifted students with this kind of option just might begin to undo 3 decades of indifference.
As someone who reads a lot of edu-research, I was excited to find out KnowledgeWorks was doing a mini blog series on A Nation at Risk in honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of the report. Honestly, it gave me a really good reason to finally get around to reading it.
I was eager to read the report until I actually read it and had a chance to digest the content. I came away thinking, in 30 years absolutely nothing has changed in the edu-reform world. The seminal report calls for several reforms including a “Learning Society” and changes to content, expectations, time, and teaching.
I don’t want to say a lot about the Learning Society here, as I have a hunch my colleague Katherine Prince might have something to say about that, but I do want to get into the other findings. The report calls for changes to student expectations “in terms of the level of knowledge, abilities, and skills high school and college graduates should possess.” This all sounds pretty similar to the Common Core State Standards. Same fight. Different decade.
The report calls for three reforms around time, including: the amount of time students spend on school work, time spent in and out of the classroom being spent ineffectively, and students not having the study skills, or willingness to develop those skills, to use time outside of the classroom effectively. If you read any op-ed comparing schools in the United States to schools in Finland, Singapore, or other high achieving countries, you’ll find people pushing for students spending more time, or optimizing the time they are spending, on education. Same Fight. Different Decade.
The commission responsible for A Nation at Risk also examined teaching, specifically the type of students being attracted to the field; the improvements that needed to be made to our teacher preparation programs; and the quality, or lack thereof, of professional life teachers must deal with. Again, you don’t have to look any further than our friends with the blue and white flag to see people calling for similar reforms today. Same fight. Different decade.
The one thing that has changed, I would assume as a result of this report, is the content taught in our schools. While our curriculum still might not be perfect, as someone who graduated high school in 1998, I can attest to you that I was not offered classes in “bachelor living.” Further, it was drilled into my head at an early age that in order to go to college I needed to take four math classes, four science classes, four humanity classes, etc. I think that fight was won.
My point is, it seems like very little has changed since 1983. While I certainly don’t have all of the answers to the questions outlined in A Nation at Risk, as someone who is relatively new to the edu-reform scene, I am pretty disappointed that those who have come before me have done so little to at least advance the conversation.
In Houston next week Grantmakers for Education will host its 17th annual conference “Philanthropy Rising to the Challenge: Leading a Nation More at Risk.” The framework for the conference is A Nation at Risk, the report published 30 years ago which exposed a great weakness in the American education system: its failure to meet the national need for a competitive workforce. The Commission made 38 recommendations in support of the imperative for education reform. 25 years later a report card issued by Strong American Schools stated that few of these 38 recommendations had actually been enacted.
Now, 30 years later and with a strong national focus on improving education outcomes, have we successfully stemmed this “rising tide of mediocrity?” Can we assert that our society and educational institutions have reinvigorated the central purpose of schooling? Have we raised our expectations in keeping with our desire to sustain a vibrant and secure democracy?
Join us next week for a series of blog posts exploring progress (or not) made these past 30 years beginning Monday with Jesse Moyer’s “Same Fight. Different Decade.”
Lillian Pace, senior director of national policy for KnowledgeWorks, recently published “A Pathway for the Future of Education” in Education Week. Weaving together the forecasting trends in education that KnowledgeWorks is known for with competency or proficiency-based education, Pace declares that the transformation has begun.
Over the next decade, our education system will experience the kind of deep disruption and reconfiguration that Amazon, iTunes, and Zipcar brought to their respective industries.
Two of the Amazons of education? Casco Bay High School for Expeditionary Learning in Portland, Maine and Boston Day and Evening Academy in Massachusetts. You can read two previous posts about the work at BDEA from the World of Learning blog: Boston Day and Evening Academy and Making Competency Work for Dropout Recovery.
New Tech Network, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, recently released data from College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) demonstrating high school students from New Tech schools outperformed some college freshman on key indicators of higher order thinking skills. The 2013 academic indicators show significant student growth from freshman to senior years:
High School seniors attending New Tech Network (NTN) schools outperformed 68% of 4-year college freshmen with similar backgrounds and abilities on key indicators of higher order thinking skills according to the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA). The CWRA gauges student growth and attainment of skills such as analytical reasoning and evaluation, writing effectiveness, writing mechanics and problem solving. Between freshman and senior years of high school, New Tech students grow in these measures of higher order thinking skills at a rate 77% greater than comparison students who participate in the CWRA.
To link to the full report visit “New Tech Network Releases Data Demonstrating High School Students Outperform College Freshmen on Key Indicators of Higher Order Thinking Skills” on the New Tech Network website.