College Shouldn’t Be the Only K-12 Goal

Higher education shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of K-12 education, writes “edu-traitor” Cathy Davidson, an English professor, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary.

Higher education is incredibly valuable, even precious, for many. But it is bad for individuals and society to be retrofitting learning all the way back to preschool, as if the only skills valuable, vital, necessary in the world are the ones that earn you a B.S., BA, or a graduate and professional degree.

Many jobs require specialized knowledge, intelligence and skills, but not a college education, Davidson notes. Yet our educational system “defines learning so narrowly that whole swaths of human intelligence, skill, talent, creativity, imagination, and accomplishment do not count.”

Schools are cutting art, music, P.E. and shop to focus on college prep, Davidson complains. (I’d say schools are cutting electives — especially shop — to focus on basic reading and math skills.)

. . . many brilliant, talented young people are dropping out of high school because they see high school as implicitly “college prep” and they cannot imagine anything more dreary than spending four more years bored in a classroom when they could be out actually experiencing and perfecting their skills in the trades and the careers that inspire them.

We need value “the full range of intellectual possibility and potential for everyone,” Davidson writes.

The brilliant, talented kid who drops out to pursue a passion for art, carpentry or cosmetology is a rare bird, I think. But Davidson is right about the college-or-bust mentality in K-12 education. Many students who are bored by academics could be motivated — maybe even inspired — by a chance to develop marketable skills.

Some 80 percent of new community college students say they want to earn a bachelor’s degree. They sign up for remedial or general education courses. Few succeed. Students who pursue vocational goals — a welding certificate, an associate degree in medical technology — are far more likely to graduate.

Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

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More California Latinos Are College Grads

More California Latinos are graduating from college, according to a state profile by Excelencia in Education. The number of Latinos earning undergraduate degrees grew by 13 percent in the state between 2006 and 2008, while other groups saw an 8 percent increase.

However, the college gap is large: Only 16 percent of Latino adults are college graduates, compared to 39 percent of all working-age adults in the state.

Some 75 percent of Latino college students are enrolled in community colleges, which have low graduation rates. Looking just at first-time, full-time college students, the Latino completion rate is 35 percent, compared to 47 percent for similar white students, the profile found.

Several pilot programs are boosting Latino success rates, Excelencia notes.

The group suggests that California policy makers focus on closing the gap through programs that provide institutional support for community-college students transferring to four-year institutions, like the University of California’s Puente Project, or peer and faculty mentoring, such as California State Polytechnic University’s Science Educational Enhancement Services.

Excelencia’s state profiles are funded by the Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Educationand the Kresge Foundation.

“A combination of low college enrollment coupled with low college completion rates spells disaster for Latinos and the California economy precisely at a time when we are predicted to face a shortage of one million more college graduates by 2025,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of Campaign for College Opportunity, in response to the Excelencia report. Read more>>

Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

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New Students Need Orientation

Orientation is critical for new community college students, said Arlene Arnsparger of the Center for Community College Survey for Student Engagement at the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors’ retreat in Washington, D.C. From Community College Times:

CCCSE data and focus groups show that recent high school graduates attending a two-year college often have difficulties in navigating the college system, from enrolling and registering for appropriate classes, to learning about available student aid.

“This is a new country to them when they come through our doors,” Arnsparger said.

Fewer than half of recent high school graduates participate in student orientation. As a result, many do not meet with an adviser. Orientation should be mandatory, Arnsparger argued.

However, students complain that advisers aren’t helpful, Arnsparger said.

Too often, the meetings focus on selecting individual courses to fulfill graduation requirements rather than on long-term goals such as career aspirations and pathways and short-term needs, such as time-management skills.

College leaders at the retreat how to strengthen advising and encourage students to reach out for help.

Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

Posted in Community College (13-14), Students. Tags: . Comments Off on New Students Need Orientation