Create a College-going Culture in Our Middle School
"Middle school is considered by education professionals as the 'fork in the road' in a child’s life, the time when academic planning, as well as rigor, for college preparation must begin."—Sallie Mae Fund report.
As a teacher or administrator, you know how much a college education can impact a student's life and future. ACT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education improvement and workforce development, suggests that young people are most likely to go to college if they attend schools that promote a college-going culture that incorporates four factors:
College readiness should begin in the middle school.
Schools should explain to students and their parents the effects of taking a challenging curriculum on their future educational, career, and income options.
Schools should use multiple sources of information, including standardized assessments, to help inform students and their parents of the students' progress toward college readiness.
Schools should work with families to calculate college costs and develop a plan to meet those costs.
Middle schools with a strong college-going culture inject the expectation of college graduation into every aspect of school life. Middle school is not too early to prepare students for the college experience. In fact, it is imperative that students are exposed to a college-going culture by middle school.
Follow these steps to create a college-going culture in your middle school:
Hold monthly college-readiness workshops for parents at my school.
Parent involvement is key to students' academic success. Get parents involved in the college-going culture by holding regular workshops where you explain how the school is preparing students for college and why you're doing it. According to a report by Ricardo D. Stanton-Salazar in the Harvard Educational Review, many parents expect their kids to go to college, but they aren't aware of the steps required in pursuing a college education, so they rely on the school to do this for them. Teach parents ways that they can supplement the college-going culture at home so students are exposed to college-going culture from all sides.
Tip: Encourage parents to volunteer at school to help develop a college-going culture. Use all the help you can get! Make sure to acknowledge parents who go out of their way to help know that their hard work is appreciated. Offer a public thank you to parents who go above and beyond.
Track our students' progress and intervene as soon as possible when students fall behind.
Students aren't likely to speak up when they're struggling, so teachers, administrators, and parents should be taught what to look for and how to intervene. Hold workshops for parents and teachers, and create a system for helping students catch up.
Offer free after-school tutoring to students who need extra help.
School PTA/PTOs can often provide help to run tutoring programs.
Get our students involved in promoting a college-going culture.
Students can be a big help in maintaining the college-going culture. In fact, it's important that they become active participants in the program. Have students take turns decorating walls in your school with college posters. They can research schools and create informational, eye-catching posters. The more they get excited about college, the more involved they'll get. More involvement leads to even more excitement. Offer prizes to students who work hard to make a difference.
Look into several college-going culture programs and choose one for my school.
Look into several college-going culture programs and choose one for my school. Many organizations, such as Roads to Success and Sallie Mae, have created well-researched plans to help middle schools develop college-going cultures. The U.S. Department of Education provides many multi-year grants to help schools prepare students for college. Let each of your colleagues take some responsibility for finding and researching a number of these programs. Then, plan a meeting to compare the most impressive programs and choose one that best fits your students' needs.
Have school-wide meetings to discuss our college-going culture.
One aspect that marks a successful college-going culture is a seamless experience for students. All teachers, staff, and administrators need to be involved in this endeavor. Find ways that different people can work together. For instance, teachers, librarians, and computer lab personnel could work together on a reading/book review project. If a student asks a question on the project, every member of the staff should be ready and willing to help. Even the school newspaper can help by printing some of the book reviews every month.
Expose our students to college at least once a day.
The Center for Educational Partnerships at the University of California, Berkeley, recommends that students be exposed daily to college students, faculty, and campus life. Even in middle school, students need to be reminded about college every day.
Teachers can incorporate college information into their lesson plans
Hold a College Day where everyone who comes to campus can wear their favorite college's colors.
Decorate areas of the school with college pennants and banners
Plan a field trip to a local college campus
Invite college students to talk to the school about their experiences (alumni from your school are the most effective speakers)
Ask a local college professor to teach a hands-on science lesson
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