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This Week in PubHub: Education - College Readiness

May 20, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about teacher effectiveness and leadership.)

When you think about it, much of the debate over education reform comes down to a single question: How can we best prepare all kids to become happy and productive citizens in a fast-paced world -- in other words, how do we prepare all kids for college and careers in a global economy?

As Public Agenda notes in Can I Get a Little Advice Here?: How an Overstretched High School Guidance System Is Undermining Students' College Aspirations, students clearly need more in-depth, practical advice than the college guidance system currently provides. The good news is that many students continue to find teachers and coaches who are helpful in motivating them to continue their education. The report also suggests that "perhaps higher education, business and local civic and community groups could provide trained volunteers who could help high school graduates better understand the higher education choices open to them."

Policies Paved the Way: Early College Innovation in North Carolina, a new report from Jobs for the Future, describes a collaboration success story: joint programs involving school boards and community colleges, nonprofit support, and start-up grants to raise high school graduation and college-readiness rates. These "early college" high schools are designed to allow students -- especially those with traditionally low rates of high school and college success -- to graduate with an associate degree or up to two years of transferrable college credit. The key to the effort's success seems to be how state leaders took the initiative in partnering with philanthropies and businesses to spur educational innovation, which in turn suggests that policy makers may be able to remove the remaining barriers to streamlining high school and college curricula such as poorly aligned state-mandated end-of-course exams.

Another innovative approach to helping students graduate from high school ready for college and careers is Linked Learning (formerly known in California as Multiple Pathways), a college-prep curriculum that organizes and integrates challenging academics, technical skills and knowledge, work-based learning, and support services around specific industries. The James Irvine Foundation’s 2009 report Making Progress Through California Multiple Pathways: Findings From the ConnectEd Network of Schools Evaluation 2007-2008 found that the initiative resulted in higher graduation rates, more university requirements met, better test performance, and higher levels of student engagement compared with state averages.

One disadvantaged group often overlooked is rural students. The importance of rural schools to education reform, however, is not just an issue of equity. The Alliance for Excellent Education points out in Current Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing Rural High School Students for Success in College and Careers that "establishing and evaluating successful practices in rural schools can lead to quick replication in more populous areas." To that end, the report lays out the challenges facing rural high schools and calls on federal policy makers to ensure equitable and adequate funding for rural school systems, improve accountability, expand student supports and options, recruit and retain effective teachers, and set high expectations for college and career success.

What other promising approaches to getting students ready for college and careers should education reform efforts focus on? Let us know in the comments section. And don't forget to check out the many education-related reports in PubHub.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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