In today’s world of advanced technology, preparation for employment after completing High School often means pursuing an additional course of study for a minimum of one to two years. Be this in a Technical School, Junior College, College or University, the bottom line is that our students generally need to further their education in order to secure employment. Readiness for college therefore is an important issue facing our schools. College preparation takes foresight and planning and involves more than college preparatory courses. How can we insure that our students are college prepared?
Planning and preparation for college needs to begin as early as sixth grade. Though many of our students do not have a clue about what kind of profession they would like to pursue, they can at this age be taught about the necessity of higher education in order to succeed. Advisors can help students identify their interests and talents and begin to plan which course selections with help them progress in these areas. No later than ninth grade, students should be required to research career possibilities based on these areas of interests and talents in order to provide them with more specific direction in their course selection and continued education. Most importantly, students need to be encouraged to excel beyond the minimum state standards for a basic education.
Charter School, Baltimore Freedom Academy, which reported in 2007 a 96% graduation rate with 69% attending four year colleges or universities afterwards, does just that. From their entrance into school, students are helped to discover their talents and abilities. They are graded on their capacity to master material not just meet the minimum state standards. The school uses graduate-level law students from the University of Maryland as instructors to introduce the students to concepts such as the U.S. legal system, social justice issues and the construction of persuasive arguments. Through these courses, students develop critical thinking, writing, research, oral presentation and contextual analysis skills, all important proficiencies to master in order to insure a successful transition to higher education. Twelfth graders are taught not college prep, but actual college level courses. In addition, there is a strong emphasis on giving to the community with the school requiring 125 hours of community service before graduation compared to the state requirement of 75 hours.
Another important aspect in our student’s college preparation is working with the local Junior Colleges, Colleges and Universities to define what constitutes readiness for college and preparing our students accordingly. College readiness being defined as the level at which a student needs to be functioning in order to succeed –without remediation at a post secondary institution. Generally speaking this goes way beyond the minimum state standards which basically requires a tenth grade level of education. If our students are held responsible for just these basic standards of knowledge, they very possibly have not yet acquired the critical thinking, advanced communication and research abilities which are important components of college preparation. Dialogue with the local post secondary schools about their criteria and expectations can help us prepare an appropriate college prep curriculum for our students.
College preparation is a process that must begin early in our students’ school careers. College preparatory courses are not the only component in establishing readiness for college. Our students must be given the encouragement and the higher level thinking and communication skills necessary to succeed in order fortheir college readiness to be complete.