Friday, July 10, 2015

Pushing Students Through the K-16 Pipeline & College Readiness

Today is the last day of the weeklong teacher education workshop on multicultural education I've been taking at the University of Utah. I'm interested in multicultural education insofar as I realize there are student populations I could probably relate to better, although at the college level students do (need to) learn to be more proactive about their education and how to navigate post high school education, regardless of race. (That's something I can try to help them with.)

One of the guest speakers we had this morning talked about students going through the "K-16 Pipeline," meaning that students are now being highly encouraged to think of their lives after high school, that college is a possibility, but it is not the only possibility. While I strongly support students getting additional education after they graduate from high school - and I do think that post-secondary education is necessary - only talking to students about going to college can lead to students thinking that if they don't want to go to college (because they're not sure they want to; because they don't have the finances to do so; because they have no support in doing so), or don't go when they're 18 and finish within four years, or stop halfway through, other options should be discussed.

For example, it hasn't been true for decades - if it ever was - that if you don't go to college at 18 then there must be something wrong with you. If you need a break from school, if you don't have the maturity to attend college (I certainly didn't when I was 18), if don't know what you want to study, if you need to stop part of the way through for whatever reason, if family or other circumstances prevent you from attending, if you simply want to work first* - the student is not necessarily a failure. 

The student is not a failure for not completing a two-year degree in two years, or for not completing four-year degree in four years (immediately landing the job for which their degree has ostensibly prepared them, and/or immediately going to grad school), or for not going to college at 18, or for going to a vocational school, or a community college, or for completing a certificate program.

This is the message, though, that gets inadvertently stressed to students: It's either college or nothing. Complete it "right" the first time. The conversation is sadly lacking. A fuller range of options are simply not discussed, 

This led to a discussion on college readiness; we were asked, among other things:
What are some examples of college readiness skills taking place in your school and classroom? What kind of support do you need as teachers to prepare students with college readiness skills?
"College readiness" is a tricky concept to define. I'm not sure what that means (rather, I know what it's "supposed" to mean - a very narrow definition of academic skills that "everyone is supposed" to have), and I'm not sure that it's a distinct concept that's equally defined to everyone.  "College readiness skills" implies that everyone will have been recently taught a certain subject at a certain skill level and have used that skill recently. It implies that if individuals have never been taught those skills, or if they've been out of school for a number of years, then they're probably not what's thought to be academically ready to be at college. It's an extremely narrow individualistic view.

The more I think about it, the more I think what one needs to be "college ready" is a willingness to learn and the maturity to complete the work.

* Yes, college is work, but I'm talking about non-college work here.


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