Forget “AYP.” You should be concerned with “ACP!”

The Associated Press article, “Tougher Standards Mean More Schools ‘Failing’ indicates that many schools are not making “AYP” (Annual Yearly Progress) as measured by No Child Left Behind. Subsequently, many students find themselves attending schools that are considered “academically unacceptable” by the U.S. Department of Education. The article reports that the number of academically unacceptable schools is increasing substantially in many states:

  • 135 schools in Louisiana
  • 720 schools in New Mexico
  • 7 out of 10 schools in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District
  • 6 out of 7 schools in North Carolina’s Wake County School District
  • 4 out of 10 schools in Georgia

As opposed to increasing student achievement to the levels set by the No Child Left Behind legislation, states like Montana and South Dakota have decided to simply ignore the standards, viewing them as unrealistic.

While state departments of education and local school districts debate what are realistic and unrealistic levels of student achievement for their schools to pursue, many students and parents are fully aware that their schools are not good schools and that students are not being adequately prepared for college and careers. In fact, while schools are concerned with achieving “AYP” (Adequate Yearly Progress), parents and students should be more concerned with whether their schools are achieving “ACP” (Adequate College Preparation). Parents and students must pursue all available opportunities to ensure that students are learning what they need to know to be prepared for college and careers. Five easy steps to take are:

  1. If you attend a low-performing school, then ensure that you are in the most rigorous classes available in your school.
  2. Identify tutorial support at your church, the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, local fraternities and sororities, students in higher grades, and after school programs.
  3. Get as many test preparation books as you can, particularly for SAT/ACT subject-areas, i.e., math, science, reading, English, and writing, and for any high school graduation tests required in your state.
  4. Identify summer or after school enrichment programs in reading, math, and science. One such program would be the CDF Freedom Schools.
  5. Develop a study group and surround yourself with other high-performing students, particularly students who are fortunate to attend high-performing schools.


Financial aid for undocumented students

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, a bill that will allow undocumented college students in California to receive private financial aid for college. The California Dream Act is still being proposed that would allow such students to receive financial aid from public sources as well.

California is not the only state allowing undocumented students to live the dream: previously, the Illinois House passed its own version of the DREAM Act with bipartisan support. The Illinois bill will establish a private DREAM fund, which will grant scholarships to eligible DREAMers who graduate high school. It also mandates that high school counselors and educators be fully aware of educational opportunities available to these youth.

A  study being published in the American Sociological Review finds that young adults who were brought to the United States as immigrants without the legal authority to reside in the country do pursue an education, but rarely are able to use that education to get good jobs. The study found that one of the first times many of these young adults felt the impact of their immigration status was when they applied to college — and realized that they could not seek financial aid. Just about half of those studied tried for some college education. But, without the legal right to work in the United States, very few reported the kind of economic advancement associated with higher education. The study was conducted by Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Despite this study, or perhaps because of the study, undocumented youth who are able to get a college education consider focusing on entrepreneurship so that they can start their own businesses or expand the businesses that their parents frequently start. This has been the strategy adopted by immigrant groups to the United States for years.

Other resources for undocumented students:

Read more…

Middle College Program

Prince George’s County Schools (MD) is offering ninth-graders an opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and a college degree (AA) through their “Middle College” program. Only 100 of the 980 ninth-graders who applied will be able to enter the program where they become full-time students at Prince George’s Community College while they are enrolled in high school. A number of school districts are offering such programs, however, there is usually a qualifying criteria, like grades, test scores, placement tests, or teacher recommendations. Students who want to explore such opportunities need to ensure that they are academically successful during elementary and middle school so that they make the cut. It also would help to avoid discipline infractions and to have great teacher recommendations.

Read more…

ACT validity questioned

A recent article in study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research questions the value of ACT scores in science and reading as being a valid predictor of college readiness. However, the study found the English and math scores as highly predictive of college success. Unfortunately, many college admissions officers admit to relying primarily on the ACT composite score in their admission decisions.

Students submitting their ACT scores to colleges should highlight their English and math scores, particularly if they are higher than their overall composite score. Students should also keep in mind that an increasing number of colleges are placing more weight on a student’s high school grades in college preparatory courses above a student’s SAT or ACT scores.

Read more…

Advice for incoming college students

The article in Inside Higher Ed offers sound advice for incoming college students:

  1. Register and schedule ASAP to best ensure that you get the classes that you want.
  2. Share your schedule with your employer to ensure a smooth school/work relationship.
  3. If your placement tests places you into developmental or remedial classes, ask for a retest and work hard to get a better score. It could save you thousands of dollars in tuition!
  4. Identify your books, go online and try to find them used. Another way to save thousands of dollars.
  5. If you are attending a community college, meet with the counselor to identify exactly the courses that you need to transfer later to a four-year college.

Read more… and share your tips.

An unequal education

Former Washington Prep High School student, Candice Johnson, shares her experiences attending a high school with large numbers of intern teachers.

“I am a graduate of Washington Prep High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. My school is the kind of school the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to ‘fix.’ It’s one of California’s lowest-performing schools. Forty percent of my freshman-year classmates didn’t graduate. The student body is also mostly low-income, and a majority of the students are African-American, like me, or Latino. There were only a handful of white students in the entire school of 2,000 when I graduated a year ago.”

Her article sheds light on the importance of parents and students of ensuring that students are learning what they need to know. There are clearly huge inequities between high- and low-performing, and oftentimes urban and suburban schools. Candice is one of millions of students attending schools where they are taught by new, inexperienced, and intern teachers. Worst, is when such teachers are teaching math and science, the two subjects that are the clearest predictor of college success. While the issue is being debated, parents and students need to ensure that students identify tutors, create study groups, and formulate their own plans to learn what they need in order to prepare for college.

Read more…

Scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander students

Washington, D.C., July 14, 2011-The Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the nation’s largest nonprofit organization devoted solely to providing college scholarships for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), is awarding for the first-time ever $1.2 million in scholarships to more than 500 outstanding AAPI students for the 2011-12 academic school year.  APIASF’s scholarships-ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 individually-are given to well deserving high school and college students with which many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.

APIASF manages two scholarship programs: The general APIASF Scholarship Program and the Gates Millennium Scholars Program/Asian Pacific Islander Americans funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. APIASF’s general scholarship is funded by many corporate, foundation, nonprofit, and individual supporters including the Coca-Cola Foundation, Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, Sodexo Foundation, United Health Foundation, USA Funds, Walmart Foundation, and Wells Fargo Foundation.

For details about APIASF’s scholarship programs or for more information about the 2011 APIASF College Completion Forum: Strengthening Institutions that Serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, visit APIASF’s Web site at  Also, follow APIASF on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Grants to expand college access for Latino families

The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) announced today that it is accepting applications for 10 grants of up to $25,000 each to help education and community organizations provide support for Latino and other families to earn college degrees. The grants are made possible with funding from MetLife Foundation, to expand the reach of the Family Literacy – Community College Partnership Initiative to communities and programs across the country.

“These grants will broaden the availability and targeted use of a recently developed comprehensive set of tools for local organizations, schools and community colleges,” said Sharon Darling, president & founder of NCFL. “Most importantly, they will help guide adults learning English, first-generation college students and their families toward achieving their goals of obtaining a degree and economic well-being.”

The tools are available for free at The grants help community programs create innovative and practical uses of the online resources in order to maximize their success while learning from exemplary local efforts supporting educational transitions.

To learn more and fill out an application, visit The First Stage applications are due by midnight EDT on Aug. 22. Successful First Stage applicants will be notified during the week of Sep. 12 and invited to submit a full Second Stage application.

The financial risks of choosing the wrong college

Choosing the right college goes far beyond college rankings, identifying the right major, or even choosing the right college town. Many parents and students are unaware of the types of colleges identified as non-profit or for-profit. Unfortunately, not knowing the difference has left many students thousands of dollars in debt and no degree to show for it. The Education Trust report, “Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities” is highly critical of for-profit colleges with such findings as:

  • For-profit colleges provide high-cost degree programs that have little chance to leading to high-paying careers
  • Students graduate with heavy debt
  • For-profit colleges aggressively recruit low-income students and students of color, with such students making up 50 and 37 percent of the student population at for-profit colleges
  • 25 percent of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students begin college at for-profit colleges while only 10 percent of White students do so
  • Only 22 percent of students graduate from such schools within 6 years

The report also reports the following six-year graduation rates at the following for-profit schools:

  • 9 percent, University of Phoenix
  • 15 percent, Sullivan University
  • 16 percent, International Academy of Design and Technology
  • 27 percent, Westwood College
  • 31 percent, DeVry University
  • 35 percent, Berkeley College
  • 41 percent, The Art Institute
  • 44 percent, The Illinois Institute of Art
  • 66 percent, ITT Technical Institute
  • 67 percent, School of Visual Arts

The report also noted a significant difference in the amount of debt that students are left with based on the type of school attended:

  • $7,960 at public colleges and universities
  • $17,040 at private, non-profit colleges and universities
  • $31,190 at for-profit colleges and universities

Read the report…

For those students choosing to enroll into a non-profit college or university, the debt can still be daunting. The report by the Institute of College Access and Success,Student Debt and the Class of 2009 estimates that college seniors who graduated in 2009 carried an average of $24,000 in student loan debt. The unemployment rate for 2009 college graduates rose to 8.7 percent, the highest annual rate on record.

The amount of student debt  varies widely by state. The highest debt state is the District of Columbia at $30,033 and the lowest state is Utah at $12,860. Research the amount of debt by state for specific colleges.  Interestingly, some of the highest debt colleges have the most liberal admission policies (Alabama State, Fort Valley State, and Wheelock College), while some of the lowest debt colleges have the most highly competitive admission policies (Cal Tech, Princeton, and Williams College). Thus, students should not only develop a plan for getting accepted into the right college, but ensuring that earning their college degree does not require that they mortgage their future.

Elementary school gives students a head start on college!

Many schools are beginning to respond to national research pertaining to the huge college-knowledge gap experienced by students who are not introduced to college planning until high school. For years, this has placed such students at a huge disadvantage when compared to suburban and affluent students who are introduced to college before entering elementary school. The Educational Leadership article, “Going to College? It’s Elementary!” notes:

“Typically, students on the college-bound learning track are white and middle-class (NGA Center for Best Practices, 2007). Their parents and schools have prepared them for college by directing them toward advanced placement (AP) classes, SAT prep courses, and other resources that will give them a step up when it’s time to apply to college (NGA Center for Best Practices, 2007). On the other hand, students from lower socioeconomic brackets or minority groups may not even be told to take the SAT, let alone sign up for AP courses (Marklein, 2006). Programs such as AVID or Upward Bound attempt to reach these students in high school, but unfortunately, funding can limit the reach of these programs. Plus, high school intervention may come too late to influence students’ choices.”

Sixth-grade students in the Marina del Mar Elementary School’s “College Club” asked questions from a panel of four college students as part of their college outreach program. What are the elementary and middle schools in your community doing to help students develop their college-bound dreams?

Bugg Elementary School in Wake County Schools(NC) has been undergoing a total cultural remake with its college bound focus. Click here to watch YouTube video…Another video (click here) showcases the relationships being developed between Bugg Elementary school students and local college students. Building relationships and collaborating with local colleges and universities would appear to be a natural strategy for elementary schools in school districts with a college readiness focus.

The importance of engaging students in a postsecondary focus during the primary grades is reinforced by the University of Chicagoresearch study, “Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How Is It Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment” outlining the transition students make during elementary school from learning to read to reading to learn. Creating the necessary postsecondary cultural constructs in elementary school provides an important context for teaching and learning.