US Dept of Education Announces Pilot Expansion of PELL Grants for Dual Enrollment Programs

It is with great excitement and optimism that we share this hard won opportunity for Middle and Early college high schools to tap into a new Federal opportunity to support more college for more of your students. We have worked tirelessly over the last four years in partnership with Jobs for the Future, National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, and Bard Early College to move legislation to this end. Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Dr. Chery Wagonlander and Dr. Scott Jenkins have made multiple testimony in Washington to make this possible on our behalf. Please meet with representatives from your college as soon as possible to avail yourselves of these important resources. For specific information contact at: (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

 

The Department of Education is announcing the launch of an experiment that will expand access to college coursework for high school students from low-income backgrounds. For the first time, high school students will have the opportunity to access Federal Pell Grants to take college courses through dual enrollment. Dual enrollment, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while also enrolled in high school, is a promising approach to improve academic outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds.

The Department of Education has taken into consideration that earning a college degree is an increasingly important step towards entering the middle class. By 2020, approximately 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and another 30 percent will require at least an associate’s degree or some college. [  1  ] However, many high school students—especially those from low-income backgrounds—lack access to the rigorous coursework and support services that help prepare students for success in college.

A Federal Register Notice invites postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country. As you read from their statement, below, you will recognize their findings rest, in great part, on the work we have been doing for years.

Promoting College Access and Success Through Dual Enrollment

More than 1.4 million high school students took courses offered by a college or university for credit through dual enrollment. [  2  ] A growing body of research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to improved academic outcomes, especially for students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students. [  3  ] Research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to better grades in high school, increased enrollment in college following high school, higher rates of persistence in college, greater credit accumulation, and increased rates of credential attainment.[  4  ] [  5  ]

Early college high schools, a type of highly structured dual enrollment program, have been shown to significantly increase the chances of high school completion, college enrollment, and degree attainment for students from low-income backgrounds. [  6  ] [  7  ] [  8  ] [  9  ]

While dual enrollment models have shown promising academic outcomes for students, cost can be a barrier: at nearly half of institutions with dual enrollment programs, most students pay out of pocket for tuition. [  10  ] Under the experimental site authority of section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act, which allows the Department to test the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for postsecondary institutions that disburse federal financial aid, the Secretary will waive existing financial aid restrictions that prohibit high school students from accessing Federal Pell Grants. Through this experiment, the Department hopes to learn about the impact of Federal Pell Grants on low-income students’ participation and academic success in dual enrollment programs.

Candidates for Participation

Title IV-eligible institutions of higher education, in partnership with one or more public secondary schools or local education agencies, are encouraged to apply. Promising candidates for this experiment would:

  • Require dually enrolled students to enroll in a title IV eligible postsecondary program as regular students
  • Provide that students will receive Federal Pell Grants only for coursework that applies towards completion of a postsecondary credential at the participating institution. Such coursework may, but is not required to, apply towards a secondary school diploma. Participating institutions should ensure that dual enrollment arrangements do not impede participating students’ academic progress and persistence in secondary school
  • Offer students the opportunity to earn the equivalent of at least 12 postsecondary credit hours while also enrolled in a public secondary school.
  • Ensure that students are adequately prepared academically for postsecondary-level coursework. This may include ensuring that students meet any relevant requirements that may apply for enrollment, such as grade point average, placement tests, and course prerequisite requirements.
  • Prohibit the use of Federal Pell Grant funds for remedial coursework taken by students who are enrolled in a public secondary school.
  • Provide appropriate student support services, such as academic tutoring, high school to college transition support, guidance counseling, or other comparable services designed to increase student preparation for and success in postsecondary education. These services may be provided by the public secondary school, the institution, the LEA, or by another entity.
  • Provide assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This assistance may be provided by the public secondary school, the institution, the LEA, or by another entity.

Building on Efforts to Make College More Affordable

Supporting Community Colleges

By allowing students to take college courses for credit to cut costs and time-to-completion, the dual enrollment experimental site builds on President Obama’s efforts to make higher education more affordable and to support community colleges to ensure they are gateways to economic prosperity and educational opportunities for American families. Community colleges offer over 70 percent of dual enrollment courses taken by high school students nationwide, and the Administration continues to place a strong emphasis on offering responsible students the opportunity to pursue an education and training at community colleges for free. [  11  ] By offering Federal Pell Grants to eligible public high school students enrolling in college courses, the Administration is expanding opportunities for students to enroll in high-quality dual enrollment programs with robust systems of student support.

Over just the past four years, this Administration has invested approximately $2 billion for 700 community colleges to partner with employers to design education and training programs that prepare workers for jobs in-demand in their regional economies, such as health care, information technology, and energy. These programs are promising—by the end of 2014, more than 1,900 new or modified training programs had been launched. In addition, 85 percent of the more than 176,000 individuals who had enrolled in these programs either completed a program or continued the program into a second year.

Building on Evidence to Expand Access, Keep Costs Down, and Strengthen Quality

The dual enrollment experimental site also builds on the Administration’s efforts to support innovative solutions while building the evidence base to identify and promote promising strategies that improve educational outcomes.

The Department’s First in the World program and the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund support grantees working to develop, validate, and scale innovative, evidence-based solutions in both postsecondary and PK-12 education. Through this experimental site, the Department hopes to better understand which types of dual enrollment programs are most beneficial to students from low-income backgrounds, and how best to help students in these programs succeed.

Investing in Pell Grants

This experimental site builds on the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase college graduation rates of students from low-income backgrounds with the support of Federal Pell Grants. Since 2008, the Administration has increased Federal Pell Grant funding by 70 percent, and has increased the maximum award by $1,000. As of the 2015-16 school year, Federal Pell Grants will have helped more than 2 million additional students each year since the President took office.

Application Guidelines

To be considered for participation, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures outlined in the Federal Register Notice. The Federal Register Notice will provide detailed information about the experiment, including application procedures.

Footnotes:

  1. Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith and Jeff Strohl. “Recovery, Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020.” Georgetown Public Policy Institute Center on Education and the Workforce (2014). Available at: https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.FR_.Web_.pdf.
  2. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013002.pdf
  3. Karp, M, and Hughes, K. (2008). Study: Dual Enrollment Can Benefit a Broad Range of Students. Techniques: Connecting Education and Careers (J1) 83.7, 14-17.
  4. An, B. P. (2012). “The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 57—75.
  5. Karp, M. M., Calcagno, J. C., Hughes, K. L., Jeong, D. W., & Bailey, T. R. (2007). The Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States. Saint Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.
  6. http://www.jff.org/initiatives/early-college-designs
  7. American Institutes for Research & SRI. (2013). Early college, early success: Early College High School Initiative impact study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from http://www.air.org. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/singlestudyreview.aspx?sid=20006
  8. American Institutes for Research & SRI. (2013). Early college, early success: Early College High School Initiative impact study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from http://www.air.org. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/singlestudyreview.aspx?sid=20006
  9. An, B. P. (2012). The impact of dual enrollment on college degree attainment: Do low-SES students benefit? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 57—75. doi: 10.3102/0162373712461933.
  10. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013002.pdf
  11. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013002.pdf

 

Hollis F. Price Middle College HS Named One of Newsweek’s Top Ten Schools

Hollis F. Price Middle College High School, one of the most awarded public schools in the county, this week was named to Newsweek’s Top 10 high schools among those “Beating the Odds” to help low-income students succeed.

Nearly 90 percent of the students attending the school, located on the LeMoyne-Owen College campus, come from families living within the federal poverty guidelines.

Hollis F. Price ranked eighth on the Top Ten list.

“We’re elated to see Hollis F. Price recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of the top high schools in America. It is further evidence that given strong school leadership and effective teachers, students will be successful,” Kristin Tallent, SCS spokeswoman, said.

The recognition is part of Newsweek’s annual list of the 500 best high schools in the nation, based on student performance.

Since 2014, Newsweek has published two lists to address the complexities of assessing the “best” high schools when students’ socioeconomic backgrounds are taken into account.

Students at Hollis F. Price earn college credits at LeMoyne-Owen, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges. Students remaining in the program five years can earn their high school diploma, plus 60 college credits.

In 2012, Hollis F. Price was recognized as a state Department of Education “reward” school, a distinction earned by being among the top 5 percent of schools for both the amount of growth students made and their overall performance.

In 2014 and 2015, it earned Reward School status for performance, which means its students scored in the top 5 percent on state tests.

MCNC Boasts FIVE US BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL WINNERS

Those of us who work in Early and Middle College High Schools have long understood the potential impact, accomplishment and success of our model. It seems that the US Department of Education is validating our experience in the naming of five Consortium schools as Blue Ribbon award winners in the last year.

San Joaquin Delta Early College and Santa Ana Middle College HS have won the prestigious award multiple times . This year we can add North Houston Early College HS, Middle College HS at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and Academy of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California to the ranks of the country’s most prestigious schools.

The Blue Ribbon award is granted to schools after completing a rigorous application process and documentation Students at these schools attain high levels of achievement despite obstacles. Only 335 schools achieved this status this year.

Middle College HS at Christian Brothers University, under the leadership of Docia Generette-Walker was only 1 of 7 schools selected in the entire state. Dr. Generette Walker stated, “ I credit our success to the outstanding group of educators who spend countless hours supporting our students each day.” The school is also being recognized this year by the US DOE as an “Exemplary Performing School, “ a category that recognizes schools with achievement scores in the top 10 percent in their state and received recognition from the State of Tennessee as a Reward School, ranking in the top 5 percent of schools in the4 state for both academic achievement and student growth.

North Houston Early College High School credits their success to their ability to grant opportunities for successful accomplishment to their students. As part of the MCNC network they enhanced the traditional Early College model of access to college courses with free books, job shadowing, college visits, and STEM camp. A graduation requirement for all their students is completion of 400 hours of community service. Their consistent success in both their accelerated academic work and their commitment to their communities are one cited feature for students’ success once they leave and move on to complete their bachelors and post graduate degrees. Despite their humble beginnings, these, mostly first generation college going youngsters earn as many as 60 college credits along with completing their high school requirements.

At San Joaquin Delta, principal Sherry Balian proudly states that most of her 240 students manage high school and college while maintaining all As and Bs. They outperform their college counterparts. Last year 32 graduated with both a high school and AA college degree. For over four years 80% of graduates have obtained 30+ transferable college units by the end of their high school career and 70% move on to a 4-year institution. Their credo is to foster belonging and do so by encouraging participation in clubs where students and teachers interact on an equal level, allowing students to gain leadership schools. Principal Balian states that San Joaquin Delta MCHS “exemplifies the power of a small school where students, faculty and staff thrive.”

Dr. Pete Getz, principal of Academy of the Canyons is proud to be one of 28 schools in the state of California to receive this recognition., seven of which are Early Colleges. Superintendent, Vicki Engbrecht dentified AOC’s uniqueness in giving students the opportunity to earn college credits and experience college life while still earning their high school diploma. The school consistently ranks at the top academically of all schools throughout the county and state and we are proud of the teachers and staff who make this happen.

At Santa Ana ECHS, founded in 1997, Principal Kathleen Apps stresses the fact that her students occupy two stories of a building for their high school classes, but inhabit and thrive in the campus of a multi building, landscaped college campus. This feature of most of the Consortium schools has always been a hallmark of the Middle/Early College model: a way to integrate who you are as an adolescent with who you can become: especially when there are few “college going” mentors, role models and peers in your neighborhood. At Santa Ana 62 of this year’s 77 potential graduates are on their way to earning their associate’s degree. The strong partnership the high school has with the college and the Santa Ana Partnership, a collaboration that includes Santa Ana Unified School District, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and the city of Santa Ana provides students with support to attend and graduate from college. The principal and staff are committed to making the initial pathway into college experiences for students, but then fostering independent experiences for individuals by allowing them freedom to enjoy to campus, choose their courses and engage in extracurricular activities.

MCNC staff joins all of its members in congratulating these exemplary programs and wishes them continued success.

TWO EARLY/MIDDLE COLLEGES OPEN IN CALIFORNIA

Dr. Erin Craig, founding principal of NOVA-Academy in Santa Ana, California has announced the approval of a charter for Unity Middle College High School. After a long struggle to raise the necessary supports and resources we are happy to celebrate her victory; which is, in fact a victory for the community at large.

The school, located in Orange County and partnered with Santiago Canyon College, is focused on preparing at-risk students for college. Unity Middle College High School aims to open by summer 2016 and will follow the Middle College National Consortium model, which partners with local colleges to provide courses to high school students.In addition to providing high school-level and community college courses, Unity will allow each student to choose a career pathway, such as business, arts or science, technology, engineering and math.

“It’s optimal for Middle College high schools to have a strong relationship with college partners,” Craig said. “Unity Middle College High School is thrilled with the willingness from Santiago Canyon College to work with us and support our students because our students are their students as well.”

Though the Middle College model has a proven success record obstacles surfaced in the approval process. Orange board members who supported the school said the Middle College model is effective, while those who opposed said they worried about issues in the charter such as budget and governance. The county approval also came with conditions that changes be made to the charter, including the description of the educational program, school governance and budget. After the changes are made, there will need to be a memorandum of understanding, but the county board will not need to take a second vote.

As a charter school, Unity will receive public funding. The school has budgeted for $1 million in revenue for its first year, Craig said, with that increasing to $3 million by the third year. Unity plans to fundraise for its start-up costs, estimated to be at least $320,000.

Enrollment will start with 100 ninth-grade students, with a grade being added each year for a total of 400 students. The school, which has not bought a property yet, plans to open its doors in June for a summer transitional program for its incoming students. To find out more about Unity and it’s progress go to their website: http://www.unitymchs.org/

Dr. Mattie Adams Robertson has moved on from a celebrated career as founding principal of Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy at LA Harbor Community College to open a new Early College in Compton. Compton Early College HS opened it’s doors this September and this tireless educational leader is already accumulating accolades. Superintendent Micah Ali, stated in a recent article about the turnaround in the Compton school system,“We started an Early College program that allows student starting in the 9th grade this fall to earn community college credit. Imagine being able to graduate from high school and have a two year college degree as well. That’s now possible right here in Compton. “

In celebration of its recent opening, Compton Early College High School welcomed the community inside its classrooms on Saturday, October 24, to learn first-hand how its students are being prepared for success in college. Parents met with instructors and experienced the academic rigor their children are exposed to as they work their way towards AA degrees and college credits before graduating high school. One parent, visiting his son’s analytic writing class, remarked,

“We moved out here in the summer and we looked for schools in the area and heard about the early college. My son had excelled in his academics in Orange County but Compton Early College maximizes his potential,” he said. “My son just received his report card. He’s still excelling but it has been challenging for him. I really appreciate this program.”

 

We know this is just the beginning of a model program that this energetic, committed principal will initiate and innovate as she continues to be a leader in the Middle College National Consortium, the California Consortium of Early Colleges and Compton Unified School District: Making history every day.

Brashier Middle College Charter HS Gathers Around Stricken Student

Brashier Middle College High School in Simpsonville, SC has always been ahead of the curve in showing humanitarian concern for their community. They went above and beyond last week when the staff and students stood united behind student,  Josiah Jennings,   diagnosed with Leukemia last June.

The students planned an executed an entire week of events.  Volunteer students agreed to shave their heads and raised over $3,000 for the family.  Principal, Mike Sinclair said, “It is a great example of the supportive community here at the school.” You can lend your good wishes by sending words of encouragement to Josiah, c/0 Brashier Middle College Charter HS, 1830 W. Georgia Road (Building 203), Simpsonville, SC 29680.

http://www.foxcarolina.com/video?clipId=10608798&autostart=true

Consortium Matters

Dr. Cecilia  L. Cunningham, Executive Director MCNC

Dr. Cecilia L. Cunningham, Executive Director MCNC

Early College High School: A Seamless Pathway to Graduation and Career Success


As the school year drew to an end and we closed out a very successful Summer Conference, I found myself struck by the old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I just read the new report produced by the Pathways to Prosperity Network, led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Harvard Graduate School of Education, which highlights the need for closer alignment and opportunities to combine high schools to real work preparation and experience. The report, written by Nancy Hoffmann, a vice president and senior adviser at Jobs for the Future, cites grim realities about youth’s preparation to enter the workforce. Among 2012 high-school graduates who didn’t enroll in college the following year, only 45 percent found work of any kind, and only half of those jobs were full time. Census reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found young Americans were found to be unemployed at about twice the rate of older workers.
This trend has moved the high school improvement agenda to recognize the need to include work-based learning as it did during the school to work era of the 1990’s. The JFF study identified three reasons for this shift: misalignment of school to work skills-jobs match, the rising cost of college and brain research which show that adolescents engage and flourish when they see concrete return on their time and effort investment. According to Robert Halpern, internship and work-study experiences open “a window to the adult world by blending academic and applied learning through introduction of apprenticeships, project-based learning and other real world applications.”
Of course high schools are not the only ones responsible for providing opportunity. Contributing to the problem is the “disengagement of American businesses” from the task of educating the next generation of workers, said Nancy Hoffmann. She lists early-college high schools as one of several networks of schools that are part of the solution. Allowing students to start earning college credits while they’re in high school is one way to provide momentum and schools like Career Education Center Middle College High School of Denver has long demonstrated the value of providing hands on career certification in motivating students towards graduation and post-graduation success. Up until recently, LaGuardia and International ECHS in New York City required internships of all their graduates. These meaningful work experiences were preceded by one to two courses of pre coursework and scaffolded apprenticeships with accompanying seminars for debriefing. Students became contributing members of teams, tested their skills and received honest feedback and instruction on important skills. As students in early colleges required more time for credit accumulation and academic skills acquisition, internships took a back seat. With changing times, we may need to revisit our roots.
The report makes several recommendations that we might consider, as we integrate STEM into our schools in a conscious effort to be relevant in the 21st century:
1. Permeable pathways through post secondary education allowing young people to transfer credit from one level to the next and move between sectors of the economy.
2. Require students to apply sophisticated theory and application to real-world problems to include STEM as it relates to other disciplines.
3. Develop STEM competencies and work skills, complex problem solving and expertise in communication, teamwork and presentation skills.
4. Respond to developmental needs of adolescents, including building a work identity in multigenerational workplace outside of school.
They also list key pathways to implementation, which sound familiar as we think back to early MCNC models:
1. Career counseling and information
2. Engaged employers, work based learning opportunities and curricular support
3. Intermediary links between educators and employees
4. Committed state leaders and favorable policy environment
Ten states have joined the Pathways to Prosperity network, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Tennessee. I encourage you to find ways for us to go forward by going back and partnering with local business, policy makers and educators to implement, share and provide students with pathways to their futures.

Final Thoughts from An MCNC Legend

Chery Wagonlander

Chery Wagonlander

For over twentyfive years, Dr. Chery Wagonlander has been the principal of Mott Middle College in Flint, Michigan. Through disintegrating social and economic times, she has steadfastly led, challenged and brought passionate energy to young people who lived in urban communities beset by the hardships derived from a failing auto industry, a deteriorating infrastructure and families in crisis. Throughout these two plus decades, Chery continued to build the rigor, raise the standards while providing what she coined “wrap around services” to her fragile adolescent population. Chery worked successfully with college presidents and leaders at Flint and throughout the state to open more opportunities to youth and her efforts have paid off again and again. Today, with Chery’s decision to leave the role of principal, she can be proud of the huge strides her students have made in credit accumulation, transfer to Flint Community College and 4 year colleges and universities. She has been one of the leading forces in Michigan to establish a growing Middle and Early College movement and chairs the Michigan Early/Middle College Association (MEMCA). And this year she has joined forces with MCNC, NCREST, Jobs for the Future and Teachers College, Columbia University to lead a pilot STEM project in schools throughout Michigan under a Federal I3 (Innovation) Grant. As Chery Wagonlander leaves a role, that has, for much of her life, defined her and given her opportunities to demonstrate her imagination, intellectual curiosity and wisdom, and love for youth, she sat down a shared these thoughts:

You have been one of the longest serving MCNC Principals within the Consortium, what prompted your decision to leave at this moment?

Several years ago I had this opportunity to use the school (Mott Middle College HS) as a lab school and to develop Middle and Early Colleges across the state of Michigan and I just reached the point at work where I was overwhelmingly busy. I reached a point of knowing that I could not be the exemplar principal that I had always strived to be and also be an exemplar leader and coach of an organization to keep widening the number of students that could take advantage of this approach to education. There are only 24 hours in each day and it was wise for me to step down from the Principalship and mentor someone in that role while things were still going well. At this time, I could make an impact in this way, without doing too many things.
Then I had the opportunity to be the statewide coordinator for the Consortium and its role in this new I3 Grant opportunity. I absolutely would have been undertaking too much. But these new opportunities marry well with the coaching and I can continue to coach through the Middle College model because that supports what the I3 work is all about.


You have made powerful contributions to the Michigan educational community and the MCNC Community through your breakthrough work with Wrap Around Services and Critical Friends Review, what do you feel most proud of and hope to be your legacy?

I know what drove me was I don’t believe that there are throw away children. What drove me was the desire to provide equal access to a superior education for all. I believe that students can reinvent themselves. I believe that they deserve this opportunity.

I’m most proud of the actual hard core quantitative data that we now have that proves that with superior supports and with educators who believe that all students can become college ready and continue education beyond the twelfth grade. And I’m really, really proud of that because we still have policies, practices and traditions in place where some students are sorted out. And because of the sorting some students don’t get an equal education.

You are such an optimistic person and have always had such faith in your students, what surprises did you experience and what goals did you reach that you did not expect you would achieve during your tenure?

I think in surprises, I have been struck by how hard it has been to motivate, lead and sustain the adult leadership that you have to develop to sustain the types of schools that we’ve developed to serve the underserved, underprepared, under performing youth. We have to work as hard servicing the teachers and servicing the counselors and college instructors who are working with these youth as we work at servicing the youth. There is a balance. So my surprise is how much I’ve had to dig in and learn from other people and talk to other people about the type of leadership that it takes; which is distributed leadership which also means that everyone has to become a leader. There can’t be any slackers or people who say, “I’ll do what you tell me to do.” Or “explain it to me again, and I’ll try it again.” That energy that I feel it has taken to provide that leadership has been a surprise. What drove me to this work was the scholarliness, the intellectual scholarliness mixed with the passion of serving underrepresented children. I’ve had all that support from the Consortium and wonderful support from educational leaders in Michigan and my higher education work, which I continue to do. Without it, I couldn’t have done it. And that really has been my surprise.

I think how wide spread, even the Early College Movement with all of its models and all of its structures across the nation and in our state [has become]; I knew from my doctoral work in the 1990’s they said it takes fifty years to bring about a revolution in education. It is the slowest institution to have solid reform to become the model of the day. We’ve been in this for about 40 years and I had no idea that Michigan would, in just the last 10 years, just burst with the work of this reform movement. It’s permeated our entire state. One model to another, district by district are getting on board relooking at how they are and are not getting students work ready and college ready.


Over the years at Mott, how have things (students/policies/college/district mandates) changed and what do you take away from that experience? Are students better able to address their academic needs? Are they still caught in the same struggles?

I know that our students’ profiles are almost the same. We can go back 25 years and it’s almost the same: their GPA are higher, it’s higher in numbers who receive free lunch, numbers who come from families who are incarcerated, it’s higher on people who are involved in abuse of all kinds. We’re looking at a student body that is more fragile. Take that student body that is more fragile and yet our students are achieving more and more; career preparation wise and academically. They are doing that because we, all of us, secretaries, counselors, administrators, teachers, we have changed how we do our work. We can talk about that. We can articulate that. That’s the biggest situational change that I see in students. We have become wiser. We have created all kinds of interventions that we wish we had created earlier. We learn from them and they learn from us.

What advice or counsel do you have for those who will succeed you?

I feel I’ve come full circle. I wish more educators would think about the medical model for their career. That is based on the idea that you have a patient and you ask yourself: What are the strengths and what are the weaknesses? What is the symptom that’s going to be a disease if you don’t catch it and treat it. You would never do something that someone else could do better in another country or another state. No, you’d seek out the person who is doing it better. That’s what I want to leave, that I stood for servicing at risk youth. But servicing them well. Servicing them with dignity, with respect. To open up their lives so that their lives can be more fulfilled. I think I always, in my head, thought from a medical model. I know that the faculty and students say, “You always use those words,” but they just resonate with me. And lastly, there was a situation a few weeks ago where students were surprising me, and a former Assistant Principal (Lee Rossmaessler) came back and gave me a jar of honey. He said, what he learned from me was you truly can solve things with sweetness and kindness and I’m trying to do it all with kindness to everybody. I try to model that and expect that with everyone. It’s what you say, when you say it, how you say it and should you say it. That compassion and that kindness part, for me is important to me because I’m emotional, I hurt easily and I know how it’s effected me as a student and as a teacher, counselor, director, a principal, coach, all the way through. I hope that people will remember that and think about the impact their personal actions play. It doesn’t matter how good your interventions are, your control of the content, your plan on paper. If you push people away from you, if you interfere with their personal space nothing good is going to happen anyway. It’s going to be futile.


What’s your next move and how will you bring what you learned at Mott MCHS to that challenge?

We’re moving onto this wonderful opportunity, this wonderful collaboration with Teachers College, with NCREST, with Jobs for the Future, with the state of Connecticut. We’re trying to see if we can take what we’ve learned in our Early College work, with students being successful handling overlapping dual enrollment in their high school years. We’re going to try to take that at a smaller level, with a smaller expectation into the general education high schools, 9-12, and marry what we’ve learned from successful dual enrollment experiences for adolescents and increasing the number of students who are truly prepared for following a pathway that leads to STEM career choices because we’re hurting in the numbers of students in our country; we’re certainly hurting in the number of students in Michigan. We can’t bring in enough people. People are leaving who have the potential, People who could be staying and going into STEM related jobs in our state. So it’s a matter of survival for us. I think the collaboration is super exciting; MCNC and Jobs for the Future are two major organization, blending together. I’ll have the opportunity to work hand in hand with Cece on this project while I concentrate on organizing and trying to direct it and move these 11 pilot districts here in Michigan.

.

Any last thoughts?

It has been a dream job; a dream organization to be a part of. It’s been a family. My daughter teases me. She says she has my speech down. Whenever I meet a stranger I ask them to sit down and I say, “Have you heard about Middle College?” And then I say, “Now let me tell you about Early College?” She imitates me. . . Aren’t I fortunate? I’m the one who has gotten the most out of this experience.


Well, Chery, many of us at the Consortium, in Michigan, and at Mott Middle College and Community College would beg to differ on that last point. Wishing you all the best in this well deserved move.

DNA: CEC’S Genetic Solution to Build an Empathetic Community

CEC Students at Aspen Institute July, 2014

CEC Students at Aspen Institute July, 2014

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. Their annual conference brings together the country’s deepest thinkers, leaders and innovators to discuss ideas and foster creative solutions for the nation’s problems. Several year’s ago they expanded their participants to include high school students through a partnership with Los Angeles Unified Schools district which hosts an annual competition to address relevant issues like mental health, violence, and the environment. This year they expanded the competition to include Denver. We are proud to say that Career Education Center MCHS of Denver was selected as one of three winning schools to attend this summer’s Institute and present their project, DNA (Denver is Not Alone), on July 2 at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival. Students are invited to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival (all expenses paid) and present their solutions to a distinguished gathering of global leaders, policymakers and social entrepreneurs. The teams spend three powerful days cultivating solutions in an environment overflowing with new ideas from some of the most brilliant minds of our time. This year’s Festival presenters include former President Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant. Visit aspenideas.org to learn more about the Conference.
Launched by the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation, and in partnership with Denver Public Schools, the citywide competition began with a two-day forum in January, where seven leaders, who are pioneering change to pressing world issues, presented the teams with seven unique challenges. Teams then had seven weeks to design a solution to a challenge topic of their choice. Equipped with tools and resources, students worked with an educator coach to strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills while collaborating with each other to design a solution to the challenge they selected. The teams engaged and gathered input from their community throughout the process.
Each team presented their inspired solution to a panel of distinguished judges, who evaluated each team based on their solution’s creativity, feasibility, sustainability, community outreach, originality and use of teamwork.
The team from CEC Middle College addressed Christopher Gandin Le’s challenge to improve mental health by creating safe spaces in their school and local community for people to share and express their feelings. The team, dubbed DNA (Denver’s Not Alone) created several community-sourced art projects, launched a community day of dialogue and a peer mentorship program.
Students at CEC were moved by Gandin Le’s work as an author and activist in the study of suicide, especially among youth. They recognized the isolation he spoke of in their own daily disconnect within traditional school communities. Their challenge became to identify the ways that people in the school community can improve their mental health by creating safe spaces in their school or neighborhood where people can share how they’re feeling. The goal was to get people talking – not just about suicide, not just about bullying – about hope and life. Walter Ochoa, senior and team leader, said, “This challenge is important because it is an opportunity to make the community happy. Everyone is too busy with their lives to take a moment to appreciate the joy of being alive. I want to show people that life is not always difficult. It might look like a storm now, but at the end there is a rainbow waiting. Putting a smile on someone’s face is all the evidence I need to know that I made an impact in their lives. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference.”

DNA DAY at CEC Denver MCHS

DNA DAY at CEC Denver MCHS

Once the team got to work, ideas went in many directions. Throughout the Spring they organized opportunities and venues to lift the spirits and engage the entire school in making CEC MCHS a more empathetic community.
The winning solution comprised several art projects, a community day, and a new peer mentorship program built to continue after the students graduate. The symbol they chose to carry the concept of community empathy was a DNA strand, representing connectedness: Denver’s Not Alone. The winning team worked together seamlessly because of the passion they had for their vision. Each person contributed something unique from connections with the Denver community to skills in art or construction.
Like most start up organizations, DNA members soon learned that great ideas, even when coupled with commitment and organization takes more than grit. Walter remembers the impact of economic realities like this:
“Our team wanted to work with Challenge Day Denver to put on a community building day for our school, but we quickly discovered that we could not afford this. We reached out to some former DPS students from the Montbello neighborhood to help us create something of our own that could have a similar effect on our school. Along with Greg McCoy and his team, we planned DNA Day. The day long event, was themed, “remove your mask”This wonderful experience brought our school together with a lot of laughs and fun at first. First Greg shared his compelling story, followed by every student doing the same within a small group. Things got very real for everyone at CEC. It was a chance for each student to truly be heard. Breaking through the traditional walls was the first step at CEC and now Greg and his team have begun to schedule DNA Days with other DPS middle and high schools.
Personal stories continued to fuel empathy and openness in the school environment. The CEC team created a public space that was unique and continues to expand connectedness. They initiated a 6-word memoir campaign inspired by Jordan Wirfs-Brock and FLOODLIGHT (floodlightproject.org). Step one was to send out letters to celebrities in the local community. Then they invited students and staff to share their stories in 6 words. The reaction was so well received that they visited an assisted living center and collected 6-word memoirs from elderly community members. With a sizable collection of great stories to share, and the community eager to keep sharing, they decided to go public. Working with the construction class at CEC, they made a chalkboard complete with the DNA logo, and installed it in the cafeteria. They continue changing up the 6-word memoirs every week.
Other art projects included a tile mosaic mural and a painted mural in the school building. DNA invited everyone from preschoolers to senior citizens in the neighborhood to paint a 4’’x4’’ tile. Administrators and students alike gathered to paint images, quotes, and patterns on their tiles. The finished product transformed walls into bright, lasting murals of hope and inspiration created by many different perspectives from the community. Walter remarker, “While the finished product is something to admire, the process was the most beautiful part. Groups of people who didn’t normally hang out together gathered around tables covered with paint and brushes laughing and creating memories together. “
One of the most sustainable parts of their solution is the peer mentoring program planned in partnership with the YESS Institute. Working with the school’s National Honor Society chapter, DNA has started to recruit junior and senior mentors who are willing to pass some of their success to freshman students in need of a helping hand. The YESS Institute encourages partnerships between mentors and mentees built on fun and trust before a strong focus on academics. This works perfectly with DNA’s vision because it will help freshmen transition into the challenges of high school without feeling helpless or isolated.

Social Media links:
• DNA’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cec_dna#!/CECDNA
• DNA’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/cec_dna
• CEC’s Blog: http://www.dosomethingreal.com/blog/students-helping-students
• CEC’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/CECMiddleCollegeofDenver?hc_location=timeline

Buffalo ECHS Students Make a Strong Case

Principal Susan Doyle, BECHS Students meet the Trustees

Principal Susan Doyle, BECHS Students meet the Trustees

Economic realities have changed since the Early College movement started in the late 1990s. Easy partnerships between school districts and colleges, with shared vision and resources, have come under the knife as space means dollars and state and federal funding sources have shied away from paying for tuition, textbooks, and the necessary supports to help struggling students. With these cutbacks many of MCNC early and middle college high schools have seen diminished course opportunities for students, and some have had to fight to remain on the college campus itself. We have watched as one early colleges in Orange County closed and in Memphis, Tennessee moved from campus to campus to remain a viable institution. Now Buffalo Early College High School is struggling to remain on the campus of Erie Community College at least till it can negotiate a firm MOU with SUNY to find a permanent home.

BECHS, which serves students in grades 9-13 and opened in 2003, has moved changed locations several times, despite its recognition for success. The school is a recipient of a Smart Scholars Grant from New York State. Through the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program, institutions of higher education (IHEs) partner with public school districts to create early college high schools that provide students with the opportunity and preparation to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning a minimum of twenty but up to sixty transferable college credits at the same time.
This program is targeted to students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education. Students receive additional academic support from the school/college partnerships to ensure they are at grade level and ready to participate in rigorous high school and collegiate courses. This “dual or concurrent enrollment” program serves to increase high school graduation and college completion rates, while reducing student tuition costs as a result of the compressed time needed to complete a college degree.

BECHS students fit the profile of most urban adolescents. They enter the school with a multitude concerns ranging from poverty, single parent homes, neighborhood violence and weak academic preparation. Yet an overwhelming number of students find success and new hope at BECHS. They form closeknit peer groups with similar academic goals, support through hard working, dedicated teachers and real opportunities for challenge and career preparation. The proposed relocation of the school adds additional challenges that may be too difficult to overcome. If they are moved to the off campus location they will share space with a 5th-8th grade school. Their schedule will not align with the college schedule, making attendance and on time arrival difficult for seniors registered for college classes. The distance between the proposed site and the college is at least fifteen minutes away and requires a car or bus for transport.

There have been many meetings with parents since the school was informed they would have to move. At this time parents are optimistic that the Board will rescind the decision to move the school and grant a stay of one year to find permanent space.

In early June as all hope was fading, Principal Susan Doyle was invited to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees with four Buffalo Early College Students to plead their case for an extension of temporary housing on the ECC campus
Andrea Mulkey, invited Ms. Doyle and the students to speak to the Board of Trustees at a meeting to discuss grades 6-16 initiatives by virtue of their extraordinary performance in the program. Ms. Doyle shared the latest NCREST data with the panel demonstrating the high rate of success her students had in college classes and four students spoke.

The students included two 12th graders, Khollin Buchanan and Jessica McAdory, a fifth year student, Xaviera Ashley, who is currently taking classes at the community college and will attend University of Buffalo next year and Cordell Torres, an alumnus who is entering his senior year at Brockport and is on the Deans List. The students were able to speak from the diverse layers within this successful program; the struggles, support and accomplishment students who are at the school experience, the preparation and confidence that is built when students straddle between high school and college and the discipline and control they have developed as they transfer to 4 year colleges with half their credits completed.

Xaviera said:

“Middle college has taught me how to think critically, and solve problems. The program has also given me career options by walking me through degree possibilities. The faculty and staff have assisted me through the entire process and for that I am most grateful. If it had not been for their dedication to the students and program, I believe that I wouldn’t be in the great place that I am right now. Middle college assures educational stability. It taught me how to not only set a goal but how to achieve it. The program instilled a sense of maturity within myself. It assured in me not only academic structure but also confidence. This program has been a huge part of my journey in education and life.”

Cordell, the current University of Buffalo student, speaking of the personal relationships that are developed in a small, intimate setting focused on academic performance, added, “It’s not every day where people step in and help you stay on the right track when outside issues conflict heavily with school. I’m very thankful for the people who surrounded me and the staff that helped me get where I’m at today.”

When asked for recommendations about expanding or supporting middle and early college programs, Principal Doyle advocated putting an Early College in each district. The Chancellor said, “You are amazing. Your kids are amazing. This is what the audience needed to hear.”

Needless to say, Ms. Doyle was on point when she said, “The students tell the real story.” Let’s hope it is heard loud and clear.