Beginning this school year, the Houston Independent School District is implementing a new program that allows teachers to track student progress and to improve parental communication. By distributing high-speed laptops to all of its teachers, the district is giving its teachers access to a “Teacher Toolbox,” which also allows teachers to view district curriculum and improve their planning and classroom instruction. New initiatives like Houston’s can allow teachers and counselors to better track individualized student progress and initiate student plans.
The Alliance is calling for a national college preparation plan that promotes student planning and support while increasing parental involvement. The plan ensures that students not only have access to the highest-quality literacy instruction and educators, but also to the courses and support structures necessary to succeed during and after high school.
Building on current federal programs, a personalized plan to prepare students for college would include the development of a six-year academic and support plan for every entering ninth grader. The plan would be facilitated by an academic counselor who would also be responsible for ensuring that students receive the services identified in the plan and transition smoothly to college or a career.
The federal government can also help fund needed college counseling and individualized student learning by increasing funding of the GEAR UP and TRIO programs. These programs have strong track records for helping disadvantaged students progress through the academic pipeline from middle school through college but serve only 10 percent to 20 percent of eligible students. Under the Framework for an Excellent Education, annual follow-up meetings would be held to make sure students remain on track and to provide an opportunity for them to catch up through extra help, academic enrichment, and other supports.
Similarly, before- and after-school programs-funded through the 21st Century Learning Community Centers-extend students’ learning time beyond the regular school day and allow them to get academic tutoring and participate in enrichment activities (including music and art), mentoring, counseling, and other support services (e.g., drug or violence prevention) outside of the regular school day. Extra help would be geared toward helping low performers develop the comprehension strategies, learning methods, and study skills that more successful students have already mastered.