Falling Through the Cracks: Students Without High School Diplomas
Falling Through the Cracks:
Students Without High School Diplomas
Monica Almond, Senior Associate, Policy Development and Government Relations, Alliance for Excellent Education (@monicaralmond)
Robert Balfanz, Director, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University (@bobbalfanz)
Deb Delisle, President and CEO, Alliance for Excellent Education (@debdelisle)
Jemiah Williams, Policy and Advocacy Intern, Alliance for Excellent Education; Student, Howard University
Jason Amos, Vice President of Communications, Alliance for Excellent Education (@Jason_Amos)
U.S. high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high of 84.6 percent. However, as we celebrate this increase with pride, we must acknowledge the students who are not graduating from high school.
More than 2,000 of America’s public high schools are graduating two-thirds or fewer of their students. The majority of students in these schools, with an average graduation rate of 40 percent, are African American, Latino, and low-income.
Who are these students? What are the challenges they face that prevent them from a timely graduation, or cause them to drop out? Where do they attend school? Most important, what can we do to ensure they walk across the stage with their peers, diplomas in hand?
As the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) continues the conversation on the legacy and impact of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, this webinar shines a spotlight on the work still remaining and offer solutions to schools, districts, states, and federal policymakers on how they can advocate for students who are furthest from opportunity.
Panelists also addressed questions submitted by viewers from across the nation.
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Jason Amos: Hello, and welcome to today’s webinar, Falling Through the Cracks: Students Without Diplomas. I’m Jason Amos, Vice President of Communications at the Alliance for Excellent Education. Today’s webinar is part of All for Ed’s year-long Our Challenge, Our Hope campaign, to both honor the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case, and focus on the continuing needs of our most underserved students, 65 years after Brown was decided.
Throughout the campaign, we hope to ensure that the spotlight on this landmark case doesn’t dim until the next anniversary. You can learn more about our campaign and join us in our efforts at AllforEd.org/BrownvBoard. You can also tweet about the campaign in today’s webinar using the #OurChallengeOurHope hashtag.
Throughout June and during this webinar, we’re highlighting the difficult path to high school graduation facing so many of the nation’s young people, and how with the right supports, every student can walk across the stage on graduation day.
Today, we’re honored to have a distinguished panel of experts to help us in this effort. First, All for Ed’s fearless leader, Deb Delisle. Deb has worn just about every education hat imaginable, from classroom teacher and school principal to district and state superintendent to assistant secretary of K-12 education for President Obama.
Next to Deb is Monica Almond, a senior associate for policy development and government relations at All for Ed. Monica is the author of the All for Ed report, “Paper Thin: Why All High School Diplomas Are Not Created Equal.” For the report, Monica examined nearly 100 different types of high school diplomas that were awarded to the high school class of 2014. What did she find? We’re not gonna tell you at the start of our webinar, but stay tuned. The results are as discouraging as they are surprising.
Also joining us is All for Ed’s Policy and Advocacy Intern, Jemiah Williams. Jemiah is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in legal communications at Howard University. In addition to her studies at Howard, she has mentored elementary school students in Washington, DC, interned with the Howard University Students Senate Association, and co-hosted a radio show on student operated radio station.
Prior to joining All for Ed, Jemiah was the Texas State Juvenile Justice Chairman for the NAACP and created a career education program for incarcerated youth. In the summer of 2018, Jemiah spearheaded a plan for preparing local high school students for secondary education as an intern for Congressman Mark Vici.
Also joining us is Bob Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. Now, for my money, Bob has the best handle in the country on who is graduating from high school and who’s not. For more than a decade, Bob’s work has focused on the nation’s lowest performing high schools.
More than just a researcher, Bob is co-director of the Talent Development Secondary School Reform Model, and a leader and co-founder of Diplomas Now, an evidence-based school transformation model for high needs middle and high schools that combines whole school reform with enhanced student supports guided by an early warning system.
Welcome to our panel, and thank you for joining us. I also want to note that we’ll have some special guests joining us throughout the webinar to provide their perspective on high school graduation rates. One final housekeeping item before we begin our discussion. If you have a question for our panelists, ask it using the form below this window, or tweet it to us using the #OurChallengeOurHope hashtag.
Let’s begin. The US high school graduation rate is at an all-time high of 84.6 percent. We certainly should celebrate that progress, but we also know that challenges remain. We were honored to sit down with former US Secretary of Education John King to get his thoughts on the additional progress needed on high school graduation rates.
John King: It’s encouraging and exciting that we’ve reached the highest graduation rate we’ve ever had as a country, and yet, we know that there are still too many students who aren’t walking across the stage this June, too many students who aren’t getting the supports they need to be successful in high school.
We have examples of what’s possible. Think about the progress that Chicago is making, because of their freshman on-track indicator, paying attention to how ninth graders are doing in terms of attendance, and grades, and behavior, and using that information to inform smart interventions.
I think about the work of building assets and reducing risk, which is working all over the country to help teachers, counselors meet together in teams to best support their students identify their strengths and to build on those strengths, but also to figure out how to make sure every student’s connected to an adult who can provide that positive, supportive relationship that will help them get to graduation.
We have to approach this problem with urgency. We know that the life prospects for those without a high school diploma in the 21st century economy are bleak. We have work to do to make sure that all of our students have access to the full range of possibilities beyond high school, and to do that, we’ve gotta keep moving that graduation rate up, and we gotta make sure that when students graduate, they graduate ready for what’s next.
Jason Amos: Thanks to Secretary King for his thoughts on the issue, and his continued work on the issue as president of the Education Trust. We also know that much of the progress we’ve made in improving high school graduation rates is due to gains among African-American and Latinx students. Still, however, the national gap in graduation rates between Latinx and white students is 8.6 percentage points, while the gap between African-American and white students is 10.8 percentage points.
In some states, the high school graduation rates for African-American, Latinx and other students of color are more than 20 percentage points below those of white students. And although African-American students made up 15.6 percent of the nation’s total graduating cohort, they comprise 22.5 percent of the nation’s non-graduates.
As I mentioned earlier, we have one of the nation’s foremost experts on high school graduation rates with us today. On Monday, he was in our office for the release of the 2019 Building a Grad Nation report that describes the progress we’ve seen and the challenges remaining in front of us. The report includes high school graduation rates for each state, and offers recommendations for improvement.
You can download a copy of the report via the link at the bottom of your screen. Bob, from your experience, why do these gaps between students of color and white students persist even with an increase in the overall graduation rates?
Robert Balfanz: I’m gonna actually answer that by first starting with some good news, because I think it’s really important to remind ourselves that the big gains in graduation rates we’ve had from 71 percent to 85 percent, almost, and cutting in half the number of low graduation rate high schools was largely driven in improvements among African-American, Latinx students.
And what’s critical about that is it shows it can be done, and real progress can be made, which really throws down the gauntlet to say, “Why do we still have gaps when we know we can make a difference?” And when we look at where these gaps are, it helps us understand why this is still happening, and it really comes back to the unfulfilled promise of Brown.
Because where these big gaps are are not in the South, where a lot of the focus of Brown was in the ending of official segregation, but in the Midwest, where unofficial segregation was just as ferocious, really driven by residential segregation, driven by redlining and subsidies moved to suburbs, and white flight, which created neighborhoods of concentrated intergenerational poverty, and under-resourced schools.
And if you want to create a recipe for low graduation rates, let’s create schools where all students need a good lesson every day, and they need something else, ’cause they live in poverty, then let’s under-resource those schools and staff them with a shifting set of adults. That’s what we still have in places like Ohio, unfortunately, ________, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, where the graduation rates for African-American students in 2019 are still in the ’60s.
How can we have this thing when you have to graduate high school now to be able to support yourself, and you have to graduate high school and have something else to be able to support your family, how can we have major states where barely half of African-American students are earning a high school diploma?
Jason Amos: Thanks, Bob. The Building a Grad Nation report also tells us that there are roughly 2,300 American public high schools that are graduating two-thirds of fewer of their students. The majority of the students in these schools, with an average graduation rate of 40 percent, are African American, Latino, and low-income.
Now, I’m gonna repeat that last statistic, because I think it’s so important. I’m also gonna ask our producer to put it on the screen so you can take a photo or a screenshot, and I encourage you to share it out on social media, if you’re so inclined. So, here it is. When a high school diploma is no longer the end point, but the jumping off point to the additional education and training needed to secure a good paying job, the nation’s 2,300 lowest performing high schools have an average graduation rate of 40 percent.
If you only take one thing away from this webinar today, I want you to remember that statistic. Who are these students? What challenges prevent them from a timely graduation or cause them to drop out? Where do they attend school? Most importantly, what can we do to ensure that they walk across the stage with their peers, diplomas in hand?
Bob, what can you tell us about these low-performing high schools?
Robert Balfanz: What we know is that there’s about 2,300 schools remaining that meet the asset definition of low graduation high school, which is a high school that has 100 or more students, and a grad rate below 67 percent. About half of these high schools are what we call regular neighborhood high schools. We tend to think of what a high school is.
Close to the other half of them are actually alternative schools, and that’s really a new challenge presenting itself, ’cause for many years, alternative schools serve as outside of accountability, and with this asset regulation, we now know there are many alternative high schools with very low graduation rates, often as low as 20 percent, and that’s really how we get that average of 40 percent.
Perhaps surprising to some people that across both types, alternative and regular high school, a quarter of the low graduation or high schools are charter high schools. And about six percent are virtual high schools. When we look inside these high schools, and this is data actually from just the regular high schools now, we find that on average, their grad rate’s about 57 percent, about 1 in 5 students is chronically absent, 1 in 10 is being suspended, not quite 1 in 5 is being retained in grade.
Twenty-four percent of teachers are missing ten or more days. They’re struggling, too, you can see from that, and they’re a high minority and very high poverty. A third of the students in basically the percentage of children living in poverty in the school district is 29 percent.
Now, that’s a big enough challenge, where you look at that, to understand some of the dynamics in play, and why these schools are struggling, and need good evidence-based strategies and the right resources and capacity building to turn it around. But when we look at individual schools, the level of need can almost get astronomical.
So, our first example is the medium-sized city of intense poverty, and this city, 47 percent of children are living in poverty. Think about that, basically one out of two kids in the city lives in poverty. This high school is pretty big for modern standards, 1,200 kids. It has a 30 percent graduation rate. Again, how could you be in 2019 and be – and this, in fact, is the only non-selective high school in this city. This is the only high school you can go to in this city if you do not have good enough grades in middle school to go to a selective school.
Absenteeism rate is 73 percent. The kids don’t want to be there. The teacher absentee rate is 80 percent, so both the kids and the adults agree this is not a place to be. Half the kids were suspended, a quarter were retained in grade.
A very different type of school that’s struggling, a suburban school that’s very big. We still have some very big schools in some parts of our nation. This is a school of 3,500. Again, it’s the only high school in town. It’s grad rate’s a little better than some of the other, 63 percent.
A quarter of their kids are chronically absent, but a quarter of 3,500 is 800 kids. Imagine a school with 800 chronically absent kids, how do they react to that? They’re also suspending a quarter of their kids. They have another 800 being suspended, or maybe some of their suspended kids are chronically absent, but it’s still a large, large – you see how they get overwhelmed.
And again, it’s all minority in this case. This, in fact, is a Latino school, so it’s 95 percent Latino and high poverty. And we also have rural schools. It’s not just a suburban/urban problem. Here again, we see some challenging stats, and again, which the one that almost pops out is the teacher absenteeism in a rural community. Forty percent of the teachers are missing two or more weeks of school.
We know how hard it is to get subs in a city; imagine how hard it is to get subs in a rural place, which many of these classes are almost unattended on some days.
To wrap this up, we know that these remaining low grad rate schools are located in economically and socially challenged locales. A third of the big cities, but that means two-thirds are actually outside of the big cities where in our popular imagination, we tend to locate struggling high schools.
So, most are actually now in inner-rig suburbs that have seen demographic shifts, struggling towns and small industrial cities, or de-industrialized cities, and rural areas. As we’ve seen, they have intense concentrations of student need, and they have limits of organic capacity to respond, because both the school, the district, and the community are struggling.
If a school is struggling, but a district has capacity, stuff can happen, or even if a district’s struggling, but a city has capacity, but if everybody is struggling, it’s hard to imagine where they within themselves can turn it around.
That’s balanced against the fact that these schools have very proud histories; again, if you’re the single high school in a town, the mayor went there, the founding fathers of the town may have gone there, or founding mothers. And it really resonates with a community, and this is actually a strength to build upon, because the community will rally around these schools if they’re given away in some guidance in some supports, because they know the importance of the school to the community, because they all feel a personal attachment to it.
Jason Amos: Thank you, Bob. That’s incredible data. I really appreciate all the work that you’ve done to gather it for us and share it with our audience today. One of the data points you had on your slide was about discipline, so I want to turn to a question we got from one of our viewers.
Greta in Washington, DC asked, “What do we know about the discipline in school climate data in the schools with lower graduation rates?” Any additional color you’d like to add around your data?
Robert Balfanz: You can see from the data that what happens when both the students and the adults are feeling overwhelmed is oftentimes the thing, we just have to keep the lid on. If we do anything and ease off any kind of harsh consequences, the whole place might fall apart. Now, that’s a false perception, and we know from the data and the research that those zero tolerance discipline policies don’t make people feel safer in school or more connected; they make them feel less.
But you can see it as a human reaction that happens under stress and scarcity. We do know that in many ways, one of the first things you have to address when you’re trying to change these schools is you’ve gotta move to a thing where people, interactions are based on human relationships, and not rules.
And too often what happens is it’s very role-based. I’m a principal, you’re a teacher, you’re a student, we act according to our script. We all know it by heart. It often conflicts, and then you often know you’re in trouble when basically if you talk to students, teachers, and administrators, and each all blame the other, and then they’re all basically battling for respect. They don’t respect me, students don’t feel respected, teachers don’t. That’s when you know you’re in deep trouble, and what we really know is you need to take a much more restorative relationship-based approach to get out of that, not what has been the traditional fallback of zero tolerance, which just makes the matters worse.
But in many of these high schools, you will see high rates of discipline, and high rates of disproportionate discipline to students of color.
Jason Amos: Deb, was there something you wanted to add?
Deb Delisle: I couldn’t agree with Bob more. In a former role, I actually oversaw the school improvement grant process for the United States government in the US Department of Ed, and that program had mixed results, but I can tell you with a great amount of certainty that the schools in which those funds actually helped the folks in the school to gain greater access and opportunities for kids, they always focused on building this culture of trust and respect first.
Because you think about it, you do not want to go to a job every single day in which you feel demeaned, or you’re not accepted, or there’s a higher role model who’s gonna say, “Just go in your office, do your job, and shut the door, and don’t talk to people.” And they would do that to kids all the time, and in many respects, that is their job. Their job is to go to school and to learn.
So, the things that I’ve seen across the nation that really have helped me to make this great connection around relationships are absolutely vital, I’ve gone now to say even don’t pick up a book with a kid for the first two weeks; get to know them. Don’t immediately say we’re gonna cover the first five pages in algebra, and you gotta memorize these facts in your social studies book. Get to know what makes that kid tick, because you’re gonna find out so many elements of that kid’s life, and especially the complexity of the lives they lead outside of that school that can help you to help them become a better learner.
I just love the data you brought out on this and the fact you’re highlighting relationships. And people often ask me, what do you think is the greatest role of an educator, it’s to give kids hope. Give them hope for the next day. Give them hope that tomorrow’s gonna be better. And you can’t do that by making these demands on kids that don’t make sense in their own lives. So, building relationships is really at the heart of turning all of this around.
Jason Amos: The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires that states identify all public high schools failing to graduate one-third or more of their students for comprehensive support and improvement. Deb, you were a school district superintendent, as well as Ohio State Superintendent of Schools. You mentioned it just a minute ago, the program you oversaw in the Obama administration to address these lowest performing high schools in the nation.
Once states have taken the step to identify these schools, what can they do to help turn them around? You talked a little bit about it just a minute ago.
Deb Delisle: I think there are a number of issues; I think first and foremost, I was looking at the slide with the data that Bob presented, and he said it looks like it’s really overwhelming and challenging when you see all of the disparities that are existing among and between groups of students.
And it is overwhelming, but if you take a step back, and if you look at every school and ask yourself one question, which is “Is this the school that I would want my own children to attend?” And if the answer to that question is no, we absolutely have to do everything in our power, just as humans, to be sure that every kid in America has those same opportunities that we would want for our own kids.
So, you’ve got to start from this belief system that these kids deserve it, and I’m going to be a part of that solution. So, too often, we find that people just point to somebody else. It’s those universities, they send teachers who are ill-prepared, or it’s those parents who aren’t engaged in the schools, or it’s the teachers who don’t care about kids, when in fact, it has to be a true partnership.
So, when businesses come in and say, “You gotta do something about those low-performing schools,” we also have to turn the tables and say, “I agree. How can you help us to form partnerships?” Because those partnerships are absolutely so essential.
And the other thing I would say is we really have to understand the data that we use in school. So often, we’ll make these glaring, pretty much predictive outcomes, based on the data. So, if I’m an eighth grade teacher, and I’m looking at kids who may not be prepared to go into a rigorous class at the high school, I may easily turn around and say, “I don’t know what that fifth grade teacher did, or the third grade teacher wasn’t getting the kids to read on level.”
As opposed to thinking about what’s the real root cause of this. It’s a really good example of this, I saw in one school is where every adult in the school was an advocate for a child in the school. It could be the greeter in the morning, it could be the school monitor. It wasn’t by a specific role. You didn’t have to be a licensed individual.
And those adults took great care to know those students, so when Monica is not coming to school on time, I may go to her advocate and say, “What’s going on with Monica?” And I have to say to Monica, “Monica, we really need you here. You’re an important part of our team.”
So, first, they have to create this very caring and respectful relationship, similar to what you mentioned, Bob, but I also have to know what’s causing Monica to not come to school. It may be she has to care for her younger siblings. It may be because she’s working late hours.
So, therefore, if I know that, I may in turn be able to change Monica’s schedule to accommodate her needs, and not just throw her out of school, and actually add to the problems that are already facing her in a very complex home environment.
So, the relationships and the knowledge and understanding what is it that driving kids. And then, of course, you’ve said Bob, in high absentee rates, there’s some adults don’t want to go to school, let alone kids. You’ve gotta think, what makes our school tick every day? What’s fun about the work that we do here?
Because kids respond when they’re respected and they’re engaged in the actual work, and they find relevance and meaning in that work.
Jason Amos: That’s phenomenal. Thank you so much for that advice for educators. Bob, through your leadership of talent development in Diplomas Now, you’re also working to turn around low performing high schools, so you have a lot of research and data on what works. Can you tell us what you’ve learned?
Robert Balfanz: Yeah, we’ve learned a lot over time, and really by doing the work is where we got our greatest insights, and it’s really, it keeps evolving, but there’s really four key broad elements to this. One is that – and this is another good news – is over the last 20 years, we have learned a lot more about what works and what needs to happen, and there’s a much wider range of evidence-based strategies than there were 20 years ago.
So, first, it is understanding what the evidence base is, and what we do to help schools, we say, “Think about the things that are under your control, what you can do in your building, based on evidence to create better teaching and learning environments.” That centers around how you organize your adults, how you support your students, how you conduct teaching and learning, and how for high schools, how you create equitable access to post-secondary experiences, and learnings, and pathways.
If you break it down like that, it seems more manageable, than if you help people understand, within that, there’s a series of evidence-based steps you can take. Now, that’s the part that doesn’t seem that complicated, but we’re all humans. And we’re not computer programs that can take the algorithm and just put it into place and make it work.
And so, really, the next thing is there often has to be significant mindset shifts, because really, people grew up and oftentimes, succeeded in high schools that were designed for the 20th century. Really, when the high school was the end point for most.
And now, high schools has got to be the jumping off point for all, and that’s just a big shift in the – it’s built into the DNA of a high school, and we don’t even recognize it. It’s why we have certain ratios of counselors to students, why we have certain bell schedules. It was all built for another era, and you don’t recognize it, but it shapes your day to day.
And the key thing is what we talked about again, but I want to hammer it again is really this shift from a role-based or relationship-based perspective. If you’re trying, as we were in the 20th century, to scale high schools quickly, you needed a level of standardization, just to scale.
But now, you’re trying to have good outcomes for all kids, it’s gotta be driven by relationships and not a role. The next element to this is that we need to provide substantial capacity building. As we saw, there’s a high challenge. There’s been high adult turnover. The evidence base is pretty rich and there’s some degree of complication, because the interactions matter. It’s not – and localization and customization matters, local circumstances.
So, we really have to invest in capacity building of the adults, and often, that means partnering them with nonprofit partners, with external partners, who can help from our town’s _____ secondary group to students of ___ providers to a range of things. Based on the school’s needs, we have to inject that capacity, and also invest much more professional development and learning for teachers, and give people a runway to do planning and training, capacity building, not say, “Here’s your plan, start tomorrow.”
You have to really invest, often, it’s a year-long period in that capacity building and mindset shifting. And then, finally, we gotta network schools. It’s really hard to reform alone. It’s really hard to reform alone when you’re isolated by yourself in a school in a single high school town. And we’ve seen again and again, when you connect people and they’re allowed to have professional dialogue with others like them, it makes them come alive. It helps answer that, why I’m here.
And it also makes them feel not alone, that they’re not the only one that hasn’t figured this out, that it’s just really a tough problem, and they have to work together to figure it out. So, on one hand, I think we can have a pretty good understanding of some steps that have to happen. On the other hand, I hope you can get from that, there is a complexity to it, and that’s why this often takes time, and the final element is people gotta be willing to stick with it.
You need some quick ________ but then you gotta realize, you gotta dig in, and give yourself the time and the runway to have a comprehensive change.
Jason Amos: That’s great. So, that was a really interesting look at turning around the whole school. I wanna get in a little bit deeper to some specific groups of students. We learned from the Building a Grad Nation report about some specific challenges facing homeless students. So, we want to show you a video – this is Barbara Duffield, executive director of the Schoolhouse connection, an expert on the early care and education of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
She talks about the challenges facing homeless students and African-American students in particular, in their pursuit of a high school diploma. Take a listen.
Barbara Duffield: Students who experience homelessness have many challenges to earning their high school degree. The very fact of their homelessness means they don’t know where they’re staying at night, they have many traumas in their life, the result of being homeless, why they’re homeless, the experience they face getting to school every day, let alone being able to focus in the classroom and be successful.
In fact, we know that the graduation rate for students who are homeless is 64 percent, which is well below the graduation rate for students who are low income. In other words, students who are housed and poor. So, homelessness has that impact over and above.
At the same time, we know that high school diploma, high school degree is a way out of homelessness permanently, a way out of homelessness and poverty. Youth who don’t have a high school degree are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness as young adults. So, education is that protective factor.
We know that some young people are more likely to experience homelessness by virtue of their race. High school students who are black are 2.67 times more likely to be homeless than their white peers. So, the issue of racial equity is one that we must talk about, not only within high schools but also within the context of homelessness.
Jason Amos: To add greater perspective to the data that Barbara cites, we want to also let you hear from Elaine Williams. She’s a young adult leader at Schoolhouse Connection, and she’s gonna talk about the trauma that occurs as a result of being homeless, as well as the trauma that remains and how, if left untreated, it can continue to impact students even after they secure more stable housing. Here’s Elaine Williams.
Elaine Williams: Homeless students face a lot of obstacles trying to achieve their goal of graduating from high school, and like me, many of those obstacles were due to failures of the system, and obstacles that prevented me, such as transportation, access to healthcare, access to educational equity, and other barriers that made it really difficult for me to really even be able to be successful in school.
I would say trauma was one of my biggest barriers that went untreated until I was an adult, and able to name that, and get the needed resources. So, some services that I believe is vital is really educating our communities and schools on trauma, and how it impacts young people on a day to day basis, in order to be able to meet their needs and have them actually obtain a high school diploma that they need the needed resources that will help them cope with the challenges and trauma that they’ve dealt with that prevented them from being successful in the first place.
Jason Amos: We heard Elaine talk about how the trauma of being homeless impacted her education. We have a body of work here at All for Ed on the science of adolescent learning or SAL as we call it. It’s meant to do some of the things that Elaine mentions in her video, informing educators about the research on how students learn and develop, the impact of trauma on their learning, and also, the steps that educators can take to support students in their learning.
Our SAL reports have highlighted how trauma and stress not only impact physical health, but can also both directly and indirectly disrupt learning processes in still-developing adolescent brains. Specifically, trauma and stress can lead to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety, delinquency, attention problems, and poor physical health, each of which can affect school attendance, academic engagement, and learning.
To learn more about this research and other things that students can do, we’d encourage you to visit the webpage for All for Ed SAL work, at AllforEd.org/SAL. So, earlier, I mentioned that the national graduation rate is 84.6 percent, but the average graduation rate for students enrolled in career and technical education is actually 93 percent.
Additionally, 91 percent of high school graduates who completed at least 2 to 3 CTE courses enrolled in college. So, Jemiah, I want to get your take on this topic. You were a 2017 graduate of a CTE high school. Can you tell us about your overall experience in a CTE high school and the factors that you think helped you and your peers successfully graduate from high school?
Jemiah Williams: Thank you. In 2017, I graduated from a CTE high school, and I remember my freshman year, we received a paper, and it detailed our path throughout ninth grade, tenth grade, 11th grade, throughout our high school journey. And it said what classes we could take within our pathways, and it also stated the job opportunities offered for this career path.
For example, my freshman year, I wanted to be in the health science pathway, so a list of opportunities were pharmacist, and it had the level of education I would need, and how much my salary would be. And I think this was really great, because I didn’t jump into high school not knowing what to expect.
I had an outline and I knew what I wanted at that time. And I was telling Monica that my freshman year, I was in health science pathway, and I thought I wanted to be a forensic scientist. And after my freshman year, I learned that I did not want to be a forensic scientist –
Deb Delisle: You didn’t want to look at those bodies, probably.
Jemiah Williams: I didn’t want to do anything dealing with drawing blood or anything of that nature. It was just too much for me, personally, and I think that this was really great, because I didn’t have to wait until I went to college to know that health science wasn’t for me, and I didn’t waste money on classes, and that was, I feel extremely blessed to have had that experience within my high school.
And I think what makes my high school unique is that we were almost 70 percent of the students came from low income backgrounds, and it was about almost 76 percent Hispanic, nearly 9 percent African-American, and we had a 99 percent graduation rate.
And I really think it was because we had purpose. We knew why we were going to school every day. It’s because I want for the cosmetology students, it’s because I want to get my cosmetology license, I want to gain hands on experience in high school, and while maybe being a barber isn’t the salary I want, so I want to even further my education, and become a manager of my own hair salon.
I think that that’s what made my school so special, is they really gave us a path, and it helped us along the way.
Jason Amos: That’s really great, Jemiah. I wish more high school students had the opportunity that you did to be able to be exposed, like you say, to a career before you get to college, while you still are forming your opinions. You see something on CSI, and you’re like, “That looks really exciting,” and you’re like, “I don’t like blood.” You have to do a shift pretty quickly, so that’s really great to know.
So, we know that students drop out of high school for a variety of reasons, from wanting to get a job to support their families. Sometimes, a lack of interest or poor grades, or sometimes just life gets in the way. How do you think CTE programs are successful in helping individuals develop their personal, academic and career development, and in what areas do you think high schools could maybe improve to help more students get their diploma?
Jemiah Williams: Thank you. so, after I changed from the health science pathway, I went to the business pathway, and I learned a lot of essential tools. I learned business dress and I gained hands-on experience because I worked at a credit union my senior year, and that was extremely helpful. But one thing as I made this transition into the workforce and my college experience as a whole, I wish – since my school had such a large group of minority students, I wish we were learning about things that we would need for our social and emotional skills, like stereotype threat, and learning about the wage gap, and how to have those difficult conversations with your boss about when you realize you’re not being paid fairly.
And my school understood that maybe college wasn’t everyone’s path, and they stressed that our freshman year, but when senior year came, there was so much excitement about students applying to school, and getting into colleges that I realized that there was a lot of silence for the students that knew that college wasn’t their path.
And freshman year, they’re like, “There’s trade school options, and we can help you get these opportunities.” But senior year, they weren’t helping them with that. And I really think that trade schools and colleges should be equal, and we should be giving students the resources no matter what path they take, because college in a four year university is not everyone’s journey, but everyone deserves the same support.
Jason Amos: It’s very well-said, giving students the skills they need to choose their own path. That’s wonderful advice. Monica, I want to get to you. We know graduating students from high school is a priority, so is making sure their diplomas mean something. You’ve done a lot of work on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that Congress just rewrote last year.
Are there elements in the bill that you think will make a difference for underserved students?
iE: Sure. We’re super excited that Congress worked pretty diligently to get the ball passed last year. CTE is usually something that folks on both side of the aisle can agree on, and your experience in your CTE program is really unique. I think CTE is still trying to work on improving its reputation, and so, this idea of students going to trade school vs. a four year university, they still don’t carry equal weight and equal value, so you have very good points there.
Our work as an organization’s really on amplifying equity and quality within the law, so really making sure that historically underserved students were included in the law. Historically, Perkins has not required accountability for students of color. It’s not a whole lot of money. It’s about $1.2 billion that goes to states, but when you divvy it out it’s about 5 percent of the state’s CTE budget.
So, that’s been the argument about states in school districts aren’t really getting a whole lot of money, so providing additional accountability for subgroups can make it challenging, but we still think it’s important for subgroups to be considered when developing programs of study when looking at performance gaps between subgroups.
And so, there’s a new provision in the law that requires states and school districts to continually make meaningful improvement for subgroups, and it’s a new portion of the law that didn’t exist before. And it doesn’t necessarily require states to set specific goals for subgroups, but it requires them to be thinking about how can we really improve gaps in a meaningful way, and in an ongoing effort?
Because even though we’ve heard that CTE graduation rates are higher than the overall graduation rate for students, there are still gaps between subgroups. Our goal with the law was to really making sure that, one, subgroups of students were not being overlooked, and now that the law has been passed, having conversations with states about the specific equity provision, and making sure that they don’t forget that it exists, and that something really needs to be done for subgroups in this law, even though in the past, it wasn’t a requirement.
And then, second, quality is super important to us, ’cause it sounds like Jemiah had a pretty high quality and robust CTE program, but that’s still – I wouldn’t say that is the norm happening across the country. I think states and school districts are getting much better at it.
But VocEd still exists in America. And so, quality and making sure that the limited amount of resources in Perkins are going to implementing high quality programs is super important to us. And so, there’s a new – the accountability system has changed, also, in a way in which now states have to basically decide what’s called a program quality indicator, where they can measure the percentage of high school graduates that graduate having earned a recognized post-secondary credential, they can measure the percent of graduates that are in post-secondary credit through dual, concurrent enrollment, and they can measure the percentage of students that graduate with work-based learning experiences.
Now, from our perspective, all three of those are important measures of quality, and so, we really want states to think about how can we overtime, if we can’t implement all three of these indicators at once, how can we look at maybe starting out with providing more opportunities for students to earn dual enrollment credit while they’re in high school and using that as a measure of quality in their accountability system, but also high quality CTE programs include the connection of high school with the connection of employer and industry with the connection to community college.
And so, we have long advocated for those three entities to work together to produce seamless transitions from high school to college then to career. Those were the two pieces, equity for historically underserved students and quality, that are really important.
Jason Amos: You talked about alignment, and ensuring that the high school path leads to something that’s high quality. In your Paper Thin report that I mentioned at the start of the webinar, it examined more than 100 diploma pathways across the United States. Tell us what you found when you examined all those different pathways.
iE: The Paper Thin project really came out of conversations that we were having internally about the value of a diploma. And one thing that I thought that Bob, you said on Monday, was very interesting is that people often conflate college and career readiness with high school diplomas.
As you said, the system hasn’t really shifted from this idea of creating these same – this system that really doesn’t exist anymore, the industrialized system of seat time and everyone taking the same path, master calendar is usually pretty much traditional. Now, we have innovative things happening with block schedules, but really, I think holistically, the high school diploma is really not considered the same as college and career readiness, which necessarily should not be the case, but that’s kind of where we are.
We are looking at data and looking at the national assessment of academic progress where 35 percent of high school students are proficient on the reading, on the NAAP, and yet, 85 percent are graduating from high school. And so, those two things don’t align, and so, we’re trying to figure out what does a college and career diploma really look like, and I’m not gonna say that we have the best system for this.
But we looked at the way that states were measuring college and career readiness in a standard fashion, and by and large, the majority or states were implementing the common core state standards or something like it, and so, we are kind of a unit of measurement for college and career diploma was looking at basically English coursework and math coursework, and seeing how many diplomas were offered in states that required students to graduate with four years of English, and three years of math or Algebra II.
And so, what we found is that overall, holistically, like you said, there are about 100 different pathways to a diploma, which is a lot of pathways, and not all of those pathways are created equal. We found that about half of those pathways were a true college and career ready pathway, meaning that a student would graduate with this diploma and be on par, and be better prepared to succeed in their first year of college coursework.
We found that there were 18 states that had no college and career ready diploma, and so, it’s an issue if you’re a student in one of these states, and the bar is set for you so low that you’re graduating with less opportunity than your peers.
Jason Amos: What does that mean exactly? Can you just talk – they graduate with a diploma, and they’re no pathway. What does that –
iE: Those 18 states that did not offer a college and career ready aligned diploma, that doesn’t mean that those states didn’t provide rigorous coursework for those students. It just meant that the state, if you go to the State Department of Education website, and you look at their graduation requirements, they did not require things like graduating high school with Algebra II. They didn’t require things like two years of a foreign language, which we know most four year universities require for admissions.
And so, even though they made the courses available for students, they didn’t require it as mandatory for a high school diploma. So, some of our other findings were basically that the college and career ready graduation rate is much lower than the adjusted graduation rate in many of the states that we looked at.
For example, in the state of California, they had an 81 percent graduation rate for the class of 2014, but they had a 42 percent graduation rate for students who were meeting A to G requirements, which in California are college and career ready coursework.
So, you had a significant disparity there of students who were graduating college and career ready in California. Another interesting finding is that overall, historically underserved students were less likely to graduate with a college and career ready diploma than their peers, and that’s not shocking, because we know that students of color and students in other historically underserved groups are pretty much not graduating on par with their peers, and that they have less access to rigorous coursework.
But we wanted to see in the data how many students from these underserved groups were on these particular, non-rigorous, low quality paths. And other findings were that this was a really interesting finding in the report that for the states that required all students to graduate with a college and career ready diploma, there were very small gaps, gaps less than 10 percent between students of color and their white peers for those students who are graduating with a college and career ready diploma.
And in some states, there was a negative gap, so in the state of Arkansas, there was a gap of -0.2 percent but African-American students in Arkansas were graduating with college and career ready diplomas at higher rates than their white peers, because they required all of their students in the state of Arkansas to graduate with a college and career ready diploma.
It’s just really interesting to see in data and on paper that we really and truly are putting students of color, low income students, and other historically underserved groups, on these lower level paths to graduation.
Jason Amos: Thanks, Monica, for that data. You say it’s not shocking, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept it the way it is. It sounds like there are some states –
Monica Almond: I agree.
Jason Amos: Doing some positive things to ensure that my students get that college and career ready diplomas, that’s great to hear. Deb, I see this data from Monica, and I wonder, why would states even offer a diploma that doesn’t lead to college and career readiness? Is it they don’t have the data that we’ve seen or there’s something sinister going on, you don’t want to assume there is?
I wonder in the time and Monica mentioned this report’s a couple of years old, what have you seen maybe more recently from states responding to these findings about maybe what else they should do to ensure more students are getting that diploma?
Deb Delisle: It’s 2019 and we’re asking this question, and with all the data that we know, and researchers have, it’s just shocking to me that we would say to kids, “You have 100 pathways, choose 1, and fingers crossed, that 1’s gonna be college and career ready.” We put kids’ lives in this – throw ’em into a bowl and say, “Hopefully, you get the right ball to catch,” and then you go off on your way.
And so, I think a couple of things have happened, and I think it can be changed and switched around. I do believe that graduation rates are important to desegregate and to publicize. But I feel in some respects that states and even districts have been paralyzed by that, and they get so focused on that number on which they’re going to be judged and perhaps even given a letter grade in their district itself, and the way that funding is pursued along the local level lines. They get so focused on that number that they haven’t taken the time – it’s not out of ignorance of data, for sure, but whether it’s the resources available or the opportunity to step back and say, “Even when you get this piece of paper, what does it really matter?”
And one of the biggest movements I’ve seen, which has been very helpful is one that I believe is very transparent in communities that have actually developed what I refer to them as grad to grad statements. And basically, the community comes together with businesses and families and even students to say, “What do we want our graduates to look like, sound like, act like when they graduate from high school,” hence the grad to grad statement.
And those are very powerful, because what you include in there is not just the academic knowledge and content and coursework that kids have to take, but it’s also one of the dispositions you’re giving, so I know you mentioned earlier that you were learning about dress and how you approach a boss, perhaps, if you’re a supervisor, if you’re not getting the right pay that you believe you deserve.
Those are all essential life skills, so I resist this notion that there are soft skills. They’re essential, and so when we consider creative problem solving, for example, a soft skill, I’m thinking there’s nothing soft about that. You have to use a lot of tools up in your brain in order to think through and analyze a situation and the best response.
I do believe that while graduation rates are important, I think we paralyze our country by just saying that this is the more important number you can come by. And in many places I’ve seen kids give up home because they can’t meet that number, so they feel that they’re being judged on this particular number, and then they accept the fate that’s been given to them by somebody else, go down pathway A as opposed to B.
So, I think we have to push this whole notion on the meaning, and I’m really excited and optimistic that this may now become the social justice conversation in our time. It’s now beyond high school graduation. It’s what does that piece of paper mean when you walk across that stage?
Robert Balfanz: And Jason, just a thought to add to that is that in some of those 15 states that don’t have a college or career ready pathway at the state level, do that because they leave it to local discretion, and this actually gets us back to Brown, that we’ve learned from that, when you leave certain core, really important things for everyone’s progress to local discretion, a lot of our worst tendencies and bad biases find their way into that.
And one thing that just shocked me in the data that was presented was that it showed that 75 percent of white and 75 percent of non-low income students were getting the college and career ready path, which would include through those 15 states. But for low income and minorities, it was 50 percent or less, and I think that’s just clear evidence of what happens when you leave it to local discretion, and don’t have a statewide policy that all our students have got to graduate ready for college and career.
Deb Delisle: I was at a conference once, and a colleague said, we were talking about high school transformation, which really needs to begin earlier, such as in middle school, but this person slapped – it was a professional slap, I thought, which was, “High school is the end of nothing and the beginning of everything.”
I was like, “Oh my gosh, that summarizes exactly what we’re talking about.” And if kids don’t see that that’s meaningful and it’s gonna lead to something better, and that’s generational. They don’t see their older brother or sister or their mom was not successful or auntie wasn’t successful, they’re already arriving at school feeling, like, “What’s in it for me?”
But when the person said that at the beginning of everything, it was like, “How do we get our kids to believe that every school, every grade level is so vital to them, and not necessarily worry about the next one? Make that grade level the best it could be for that moment in time.”
And it’s especially important when you see high transient rates among students, because I would always believe that if I’m teaching seventh grade, if that kid’s with me for three days or three months, or hopefully not 30 months, but if they’re there with me for that amount of time, it’s gonna be the best experience they have that I could possibly give to them.
So, this whole notion of establishing credentials and being sure that perhaps even every state ought to come up with a grad to grad statement, saying, “Our graduates in the state of – ” Name a state, Vermont, Wyoming, Oklahoma, this is what they’re going to be, because our kids are now global.
So, we now have to ensure that kids across every single state have the skills and attributes necessary to take their productive role in an increasingly global society.
Jason Amos; I think you’re all making a very important point around we have some of the data that tells us what kids need and there’s not some secret formula out there. There’s hard data that tells us how to put kids on a path to success in college. And Bob, you’ve done a lot of work in Massachusetts to identify the components that lead to success in college. Can you just tell us a little bit more about that?
Robert Balfanz: Yeah, we did some work recently – we had to build a longitudinal data set in Boston, which let us look at a graduating class of students in Boston and follow them seven years post-graduation, so you can really give them a long window, which we need, because we know a lot of people don’t take the very traditional path to graduate high school and earn their degree in two and four years.
We don’t have a long enough runway; you miss kids. We had a long runway, and we wanted to see could we predict college success like we’ve been able to predict high school graduation with early warning indicators. And we found actually was that it was almost easier to predict a four year degree attainment than high school graduation.
Kids had just four things, 80 percent of them got a BA in 7 years, and those 4 things were they came to school at least 94 percent of the time over all of high school, which means they could miss about 2 weeks a year. They had a GPA of 2.7 or above, which just meant more Bs than Cs. It’s decent performance; it’s not spectacular.
But here was the – this was the next piece, and if you can follow the charts, you’ll just see – and they took the sequence of courses required for admittance into the University of Massachusetts system, which was the career and college ready pathway, and they took an AP class, which gave them an exposure to college level work, so it wasn’t such a shock when they got there.
Did all four of those things, you’re on a very strong pathway to a BA, and this is Boston, this is a high poverty city, high minority city. This is not a suburban, affluent area.
On the flipside, graduates that had none of those, and 40 percent of graduates had none of those indicators, only had a 10 percent chance of earning a BA. So, you went from a 10 percent chance to an 80 percent chance by coming to school regularly, getting decent grades, taking challenging courses that let you into the university, and some exposure to college level work.
And I think that just really drives home what was found in your story, that it’s just almost unconscionable that we don’t provide that for everybody, when now the evidence is so strong. That’s just a very solid pathway to college success.
Monica Almond: And we should be able to do that for every student.
Deb Delisle: Not only provide, but demand it.
Monica Almond: Demand it, so it’s not how you perform on the SAT or the ACT. It’s taking rigorous coursework and being exposed to college ready coursework.
Robert Balfanz: And we think about the reason for that is that how you succeed in college is you take challenging classes and you do decent in them –
Monica Almond: Show up –
Robert Balfanz: And you show up. And if you do that, you will get a degree, and you take the right sequence of courses. So, those kids that show they know how to do that, it’s not surprising that they keep doing it, and those kids that have not been able to do it or exposed to it, or given the opportunity, or developed the wherewithal, it’s not surprising that they’re gonna struggle.
Monica Almond: Such good data.
Jason Amos: Jemiah, we mentioned earlier that you work with the NAACP in Texas on a program to help students transition to college. What challenges do you see students facing as they go from high school to college, and what support should we providing these students, and particularly, talked about first generation college students?
Jemiah Williams: My work with the NAACP, I was State Juvenile Justice Chairman, so my goal was to create a program for Texas juveniles, and my goal was to – because there’s a large number of incarcerated youth that go back to prison, my goal was to prevent reincarceration, and I thought that this would be helpful by implementing mock interviews for college interviews or job interviews, SAT prep, and test-taking strategies, and awareness options, because there’s so many options for people, and sometimes, they’re just not aware. So, I wanted to make them aware of those options that they have, and I wanted to let them know that their only option isn’t just to go back to what they were doing before, because they thought it was the only way for survival.
But no, you have so many different ways to succeed, and for first generation students specifically, I’ll never forget, it was one of the last weeks of school my senior year, and a first generation student that I had known throughout high school, he walked in and he told our advisor, he said, “How do I fill out FAFSA,” which came out in the application opened in October.
And he asked, “How do I fill it out?” And she was like really stressed, she was like, “I don’t know if you’re gonna have enough time to do this.” He was like, “Well, I didn’t know how to do it. I guess I’ll go to college another year, not this upcoming fall.” And I think it’s really important that we have FAFSA simplification, because it’s so difficult for no reason, and even as a college student, whenever I have to apply every year, I’m calling my mom and saying, “Hi, mom, what does this mean?”
Because it’s so difficult, and for a first generation student that doesn’t have the chance to say, “Hey, mom, what does this mean?” What does that do to them? Does this mean, “I don’t know how to do it, so I’m just not gonna apply for FAFSA. And I’m not gonna get a Pell, so I can’t pay for school this year. I can only do part time and pick up more hours” and maybe they end up dropping out.
I think that’s very critical.
Jason Amos: Thank you. We’re running a little low on time, but I want to try and sneak in a few more things before we finish. I wanna sneak in another special guest here. John Bridgeland, who is CEO of Civic Enterprises, a social enterprise firm in Washington, DC. John’s work on high school dropouts began more than a decade ago. He helped bring the issue national attention, thanks to a cover on Time Magazine about dropout nation. I think there were two Oprah Winfrey shows, and he also did a survey of high school dropouts called, “The Silent Epidemic.”
So, we were able to film him earlier this week, and I just want you to hear what he learned about some conversations he had with high school dropouts and one young woman in particular.
John Bridgeland: We discovered that while there was data dating back to 1870 on high school graduation rates that no one had ever talked to the customers, to the young people themselves who had made this extraordinary decision to drop out of high school. And so, we did in 25 communities across the United States, and I found myself in Philadelphia, listening to a young woman named Monique, an African-American who was 18-years-old, who had dropped out of high school, literally gone out and signed out of high school at the age of 16. And we asked her what her dreams were when she was young, and she said she wanted to be an astrophysicist. She was inspired by the NASA space program, and wanted to learn to become an engineer and go into astrophysics.
And when we asked her 20 minutes later what she was doing, she was literally a prostitute on the streets of Philadelphia, and learning about her life, and how she went from a set of dreams as a young person and felt like nobody in the school knew her name, knew what she wanted to be, and she didn’t see a relationship between what she was learning in school and what she wanted to be in life, it brought to mind to us, and it became a very emotional experience that there was so much lost potential left on the table, a generation of young people, often students of color, low income students, students with special needs, whose potential would not be unleashed, and that was not only a harm to them, but a deficit for the nation.
Jason Amos: In the video, we hear Bridge talk about the importance of relationships and relevance to academic success. That leads to a question we received from Juan in Oregon. He wants to know how we engaged students who seem uninterested or unchallenged in the classroom, and I’d open this up to anyone in the panel who’d like to respond.
Deb Delisle: Get rid of the textbook. Our textbook publishers. No, seriously, when we throw textbooks in front of kids, and we demand that every student go from page two to 29 in a certain number of things, many of the textbooks, and we’ve heard testimony from many students across the country, their textbooks have listed Richard Nixon as the most recent president, or they don’t cover the Civil War. They’ll cover it in two sentences, and then they move onto something else. Everything seems to happen historically, as opposed to – think of how different a classroom is when you pose guiding questions to students.
This is a really good example; I saw this fourth grade teacher who was with a large class of 36 students once, and she knew the science standard had to be – kids had to understand how volcanoes erupted. So, rather than just saying, “Give me all the steps along the way,” she said, “I want you to get in groups, and tell me, could a volcano be suppressed?”
That’s a pretty high level question for kids. So, they had to learn the basic information, but then she created this contest in order to bring it to a local community grouping of people to say, “Which one has the potential to be a real solution to a problem?” It’s engaging kids.
Another time, I saw a high school social studies teacher not give a textbook out to students, but just got newspapers every week from countries around the world; it happened to be during a time of a presidential election. And they were trying to figure out how did China view the US president’s election, and how did another country, and another country, and then even different parts of the country itself. How did Arkansas view it vs. Massachusetts?
People really need to think strategically. It doesn’t cost money to do this. What it costs is a will to look at learning through the eyes of a student and how do you engage them? And what’s more, how is their interest actually generated into those particular lessons? I’m just really passionate about this, because I’ve seen so many people do it so well, and then other people, and these pacing charts the schools have done, every third grade teacher on the same page, at the same time, and yet, they have different groups of kids. Those absolutely drive me insane.
And I apologize if I’m offending somebody who uses that; that doesn’t engage kids. It just sees them very, it allows them to see learning as very rote and predictable and prescriptive.
Jason Amos: Great. Thank you, Deb. So, we’re again running out of time, and before we close, I want to thank our panel, and just let them know, I’m gonna go back to them for their final thoughts if they have one to offer here in just a couple minutes. So, while they’re mulling their final thoughts, I want to thank you, our audience, for joining us today. If you missed any of today’s webinar, you can watch an archived version at AllforEd.org/Webinars.
We also encourage you to visit our Brown vs. Board page for Our Challenge, Our Hope, the campaign that we’re running to make sure that people are thinking about Brown vs. Board of Education, and the continuing challenges that remain unmet 65 years after the court case was decided, not just on the anniversary date, but really year-round.
We talked a little bit today about the transition from high school to college, and making sure students have the skills they need to succeed in college. In a later webinar, we’re gonna be focusing more specifically on that transition between 12th grade and college, and what we can do for students who are maybe a little ahead of the curve on being ready for college, but also those who might be a little behind, and what extra support we can give them to make sure that they can succeed in college.
Bob, let’s go to you for any final thought you wanna offer.
Robert Balfanz: What I would say is to make good on the promise of Brown. We have two distinct challenges we have to solve, and what we need to recognize is that folks are solving them. It’s being done, so it can be done, and that really challenges us to where it’s not being done, to get it done.
And really, what they are is one is this structural challenge, which is to complete this transition in a high school jumping off point for all, and really build strong, as you have – a great example – strong and structured pathways from high school to post-secondary in adult success.
And not just go find something, but really strong pathways and strong guidance along the way, so there’s a clear path for you to follow. And the other challenge is place-based. It’s really the places that are still left behind that we talked about earlier. The places where there is a single high school in a town that’s lost its economic base, and doesn’t have any means to tax itself anymore to get a resource base, and is really stuck until we rally around that and help them get the resources to implement the reforms we know, and they know will work.
Jason Amos: Jemiah, any final thoughts you want to offer or advice for high school or college students?
Jemiah Williams: My advice for high school students would be never forget to advocate for yourself, and don’t be afraid to do it. If your school counselor is telling you the only thing you can do is go to community college, and that’s not what you want, research, talk to people in the same field that you’re pursuing, advocate for yourself. That’s it.
Jason Amos: Great advice. Monica?
Monica Almond: Yeah, my thoughts are, where there’s a will there’s a way, and it’s really a matter of believing in all kids, and not just your kids, but all kids. We’ve seen some – one of the main issues that we have with the transition from high school to college is kids who need remediation when they get to college, and we know that they struggle with academic preparation and supports in high school, but we also know that remediation has been another thing that’s precluded kids from being able to earn course credit on time and graduate from college within four years or two years if it’s a community college.
But we’ve seen states like the State of California, the California State University system has, for the most part, eliminated remedial coursework, and required multiple measures of placing students in courses. So, instead of just focusing on placement exams, they’re looking at grades, as Bob talked about, some of these other indicators that are important, that determine success.
So, finding ways to – I think it’s important for states, university systems, to find ways of looking beyond test scores, and measuring different avenues of kids’ ability to place them in school and to give them a leg up so that they can go to college and be successful.
Deb Delisle: I guess as I sit here and I think about it all, I guess my closing comment is that really has to deal with how we perceive students. It really is around this notion that behind every piece of data, every number is the heart and soul of a child, a kid who just wants to be respected and wants to succeed, and we need to see beyond the number that we’ve associated with them.
In line with that, I would say kids deserve the best we have to give right now. We know what to do, so we need the will to make sure that we embrace every single kid in our country.
Jason Amos: That’s a great way to end it. Thanks to our audience again for watching. Have a great day.
Robert Balfanz: Thank you.
[End of Audio]
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