Teachers Can Make All the Difference

Yesterday, I outlined four key levers for building college-going culture in high schools. Today, I’d like to address how teachers can make all the difference:

A recently released Consortium on Chicago School Research study of the Chicago Public School district has found that among CPS seniors who were academically qualified to attend a 4-year college, and who aspired to do so, only 57 enrolled in a 4-year college.*

The research uncovered that teachers and counselors play the most important roles in helping students manage the college application process. The report concludes that “The single most consistent predictor of whether students took steps toward college was whether…the teachers and their colleagues pushed students to go to college, worked to ensure that students would be prepared, and were involved in supporting students in completing their college applications.”

The essential role of teachers conflicts with the norm in most high schools where counselors are asked to shoulder the entire college advising effort. Not surprisingly, students most often get their college information from the college-educated adult closest at hand, which in cities like Chicago is more often their teachers. As one of our partner principals puts it: “Kids are getting college information from teachers, whether we like it or not—and whether we’ve trained them or not.”

College culture depends on teachers being trained to be—in College Summit terms—”college-positive and college-savvy.”

There are three things school and district leaders should do, and policy leaders should support:

  1. Acknowledge that teachers are providing college support alongside counselors every day, in class, before school, during lunch, and after school;
  2. Provide a structured, credit-bearing period within the school day for this college planning work to take place;
  3. and Invest in training for their educators to provide effective and efficient support throughout the college planning process.

Here’s how the 150 high schools in the College Summit network do it:

  1. High schools from across the country send staff teams to our national College Summit Institute, which takes place each summer. The conference is designed to equip the teams to return to their schools and “ignite” a college-going culture.
  2. Educators from our partner high schools receive a local, full-day training on the implementation of our curriculum and web tools in their post-secondary planning class.
  3. College Summit staff provide educators with coaching, college access resources, and technical support throughout the school year.

*Interviews with Eliza Moeller, Lead Qualitative Researcher, and Vanessa Coca, Research Analyst, Chicago Postsecondary Transition Project.

–Guestblogger J.B. Schramm

One Reply to “Teachers Can Make All the Difference”

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