Joe Nathan / 2018 Columns, Dual HS/College Credit, PSEO / Anaa Jibicho, diversity of teaching staff, dual credit, Joe Nathan, Joyce Epstein, PSEO, service learning, St Paul Public Schools / 0 Comments
Though we represent different cultures and different generations, we agree with the Pioneer Press about the importance of helping students prepare for the future (“Work on the workforce,” May 13). However, we think this involves workforce development and more.
First, schools should follow a state law that says that beginning in the 2013-14 school year, starting in the ninth grade, students must develop a post-high-school plan that will “be reviewed and revised at least annually by the student, the student’s parent or guardian and the school or district …”
One of us surveyed more than 40 Minnesota districts to see how this law was being implemented. A few districts actively involve families in this plan. Many aren’t. We also talked with more than 100 parents around the state, 90 percent of whom have never heard of this.
Furthermore, a 2017 St. Paul Public Schools survey of more than 2,000 high school seniors found that less than half recalled creating a plan.
Joyce Epstein, family involvement expert at Johns Hopkins University studied K-8 family involvement. She concluded that the best predictor of parent/family involvement wasn’t the income, race or marital status of the family. The best predictor was what the school did to encourage family involvement.
One of us worked at a K-12 district school where every student, with their family, developed an annual plan in August. Reviewing/refining the plan was a graduation requirement. That’s not the only way to do this. But planning is valuable and required by state law.
Second, districts and charters should make increasing faculty diversity a top priority. One of us is African American, attended St. Paul Public Schools for more than a decade, and hasn’t had a single African American teacher. One of us helped write a 1999 study pointing out that educators of color were dramatically under-represented
Research shows that a diverse teaching staff benefits all students. They help all students see that “the sky’s the limit.” Studies also show that non-black teachers have lower expectations than a black teacher when evaluating the same student.
Some districts and charters are making progress attracting and retaining American Indian and teachers of color. We can and should learn from them.
Third, encouraging students to take Postsecondary Options and/or other dual credit options should be a priority. Research shows huge benefits for all students from participating in some form of dual credit, whether in academics or applied career/technical fields. The benefits, according to extensive research, are especially large for low-income students, and potential first-generation college/university students.
It’s not just about saving thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, though that’s important. It’s also about learning what colleges and universities expect, and how they operate.
One of us takes PSEO courses, which have been extremely valuable. Only about one-third of the 25 traditional districts and charters we surveyed have adopted a policy, required by the 2017 Legislature, that says schools must provide computer/internet access for online PSEO students. We urge adoption and distribution of this information to students and families.
Currently less than half of eligible Minnesota high school students participate in dual credit. But with encouragement and assistance, 75 percent to 80 percent of students in some high schools do. They’re great models.
Finally, preparing for the future means learning to be active, constructive citizens. Our experience and research show great value in participating in service learning, art and music programs. In fact, research from the ACT testing program shows several extracurricular programs are even better predictors of adult success than high test scores.
These strategies will help close gaps and produce progress. Shouldn’t they be priorities?
Anaa Jibicho has been selected to be a non-voting student representative to the St. Paul School Board. He’s finishing his junior year at Washington Technology Magnet School and taking PSEO courses at the University of Minnesota. Joe Nathan has been a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president. He directs the Center for School Change.