College Access

Activity Guide

Improving College Access

In a global marketplace, students unprepared for college and career are sentenced to a lifetime of underemployment. Data confirm the growing achievement gap between inner city, low-income college-bound minority students and their suburban, middle- to high-income white peers. What escapes the scrutiny of many school educators is that the gap between both college-bound groups continues to increase after students graduate from high school and attend college. Therefore, just increasing college access does not guarantee long-term student success.

School leaders have a responsibility to change the paradigm and create a comprehensive school-based model that prepares students for life after high school graduation. Each student must experience focused academic preparation that incorporates long-range planning, elementary through secondary college and career touchstones, fiancial planning, postsecondary school selection, and programs for developing parent and community support networks.

This module provides school teams with the knowledge and planning tools to evaluate the current school culture, refocus the school vision and mission on student performance, and work to develop a three- to four year curricular and cocurricular plan that prepares and supports students for college and career success.

Reading I: Increasing College Access Through School-Based Models of Postsecondary Preparation, Planning, and Support; Educators for Social Responsibility, January 2009. Introduction (p. 1). Organizing Principles (pp. 3–4). College Access Program Practices (pp. 7–8). Appendix A (26–27). Educators for Social Responsibility, January 2009.

  1. Expert Group Jigsaw: This activity is designed to allow school faculties to:
    • Provide participants with copies of the Section 1 article excerpts.
    • Divide participants into groups of no more than fie members and ask each group to focus on Section 1 (Introduction, Organizing Principles, and Promising Practices).
    • Ask each group of participants to become “experts” on the concepts and recommendations offered in the article by:
      • Reading the article excerpts thoroughly, highlighting key concepts and recommendations.
      • Discussing and “fact checking” main ideas within their group for clarity.
      • Categorizing the ideas offered in the article as being most relevant to the Breaking Ranks core areas of Collaborative Leadership, Personalization, or Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. (Module 1, Reading I)
      • Offering one or more suggestions for implementing practices from Section 1 in your school.
      • Deciding on the best possible way to present their learning and implementation suggestions to the larger group. Possibilities include having one person from each group present a summary of their results or posting results on chart paper and allowing groups to participate in a carousel review.
  • Review best practices for increasing college access for students in their schools.
  • Determine what strategies would be most effective for increasing college access for their students.
  • Using the Organizing Principles to Create a Schoolwide College and Career Access Plan
    • Options for use:
      • Option I: Leadership team with grade-level and departmental representation
      • Option II: Full faculty

Step I: Establish the vision. Ask participants to record the answers to the following questions on chart paper.

Discussion Question Prompts:

What are the full college and career experiences/activities that each student in our school should have participated in before final graduation/promotion?

What rigorous academic courses must students participate in to be successful in college or career?

What career experiences must students participate in at our school to be desirable in the world of work?

What efforts can we provide as a school to support students who are excelling and/or struggling academically?

What efforts can we provide as a school to support students socially and emotionally both in and out of school?

How can we educate our parents so they will be better prepared to support their children in school?

What community resources might we utilize to better prepare our students for college and career?

Step II: On chart paper, discuss then record, “What experiences are we as a school currently providing for our students?”

Step III: Group participants by grade level teams. Ask each to review both the 12 Organizing Principles summarized on the left of the Grade-Level College and Career Access Matrix and the summary of the conversations recorded on chart paper from Steps I and II. Counselors, guidance staff, and/or social workers may be assigned to groups/teams or contribute to each group by floating to each grade level group discussion.

Identify a recorder to capture the group grade level discussion on the right side of the Grade Level College and Career Access Matrix. List the college and career ready experiences already provided for your grade level and any additional experiences, schoolwide actions, and events. Discuss events, programs, motivational speakers, completion of college/career plans, mentors, etc., appropriate for your grade-level students in the School Initiatives for Grade column of your Grade-Level College and Career Access Matrix.

Grade-Level College and Career Access Matrix
Organizing Principle School Initiatives for Grade
Make a postsecondary plan for every student and update it each year.
Build a strong college-going culture in which all adults support every student’s postsecondary plans.
Make adjustments to the college-going process to meet our students’ needs.
Establish a formal schedule of college and career labs, events, and college and career activities for every grade level.
Build the staff’s and counseling staff’s knowledge of postsecondary knowledge, skills, and expertise.
Provide every student with opportunities for regular and timely guidance and support throughout the college and career preparation process.
Provide continued support to students and families at every grade level and between high school and postsecondary school attendance.
Provide a key adult who can mentor each student through the college and career preparation process.
Provide opportunities for each student to participate in rigorous academic courses.
Provide a strong peer group for each student whose members share academic/college aspirations and can provide social and emotional support.
Provide opportunities for professional development for parents to improve family involvement and student support.
Build strong partnerships with community businesses and local university and community colleges to provide preparation resources, fiancial guidance, and student support.

Step IV: Compile a comprehensive school plan that includes initiatives and actions for each grade level. Putting the Grade Level Initiatives into the Grade-Level College and Career Access Matrix will help to identify unwanted duplications and missing needed experiences. Establish a formal schoolwide schedule of college and career activities, completion dates, staffig, etc., for each grade in your school by completing the Schoolwide College and Career Access Matrix.

Schoolwide College and Career Access Matrix
Organizing Principle School Initiatives for Grade ___ School Initiatives for Grade ___ School Initiatives for Grade ___ School Initiatives for Grade ___
Make a postsecondary plan for every student and update it each year.
Build a strong college-going culture where all adults support every student’s postsecondary plans.
Make adjustments to the college-going process to meet our students’ needs.
Establish a formal schedule of college and career labs, events, and college and career activities for every grade level.
Build the staff’s and counseling staff’s knowledge of postsecondary knowledge, skills, and expertise.
Provide every student with opportunities for regular and timely guidance and support throughout the college and career preparation process.
Provide continued support to students and families at every grade level and between high school and postsecondary school attendance.
Provide a key adult who can mentor each student through the college and career preparation process.
Provide opportunities for each student to participate in rigorous academic courses.
Provide a strong peer group for each student whose members share academic/college aspirations and can provide social and emotional support.
Provide opportunities for professional development for parents to improve family involvement and student support.
Build strong partnerships with community businesses and local university and community colleges to provide preparation resources, financial guidance, and student support.

Step V: Design a four-year school plan to increase college and career access and reduce roadblocks.

Consider the format of the four-year plan on pp. 26–27 in reading excerpt. Using the Matrix design (pp. 26–27 ), develop a four-year plan for your school including professional development for staff, parents, and the community.