Blackboard CourseSites hosts the college planning activities utilized by student participants in College Planning Cohorts®, hosted by schools, school districts, and faith-based organizations. The reference text for the activities is, Show Me The Money: Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Making the Right College Choice (Wynn, 2015, release date, June 2015).
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Students participating in College Planning Cohorts® will be guided through college and scholarship research, essay writing, course taking, résumé development, and a broad range activities designed to guide students through the college planning process. Click here to download Sample Scholarship Research Activity…
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The U.S. is spending a lot of money on expanding AP course taking. The article, “Louisiana gets federal money to help poor kids take AP tests for free,” notes that Louisiana received $158,085 to cover the costs of administering advancement tests to low-income high school students. This was part of $28.8 million in grants to 42 states to cover fees charged low-income students for taking advanced placement tests.
The Politico article, “Advanced Placement classes failing students,” notes that taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to nudge more students into Advanced Placement classes, but that test scores suggests much of the investment has been wasted.
Based on the data contained in the annual College Board report, “AP Report to the Nation,” students from certain racial groups and socioeconomic backgrounds do not perform well on the AP exams. While there are many possible explanations, the undeniable reality is that students who attend high poverty schools or schools with high minority student populations (which are typically high poverty schools) have teachers who are not as experienced in teaching AP courses or preparing students to score highly on the AP exams. Another problem is that the students themselves, may not have adequate preparation for AP level course work nor do they have experience achieving high scores on the AP exams. After all, how do students perform well in college-level course work if their regular high school teachers are less experienced and their regular high school classes are less rigorous?
Additional components that are missing are:
- Lack of adequate support from teachers and fellow students to transition from the normal course requirements in their high schools to the necessary level of academic rigor to perform successfully on AP exams
- Lack of study groups to support learning beyond the classroom
- Lack of adequate preparation for AP exams
- Lack of supplemental materials
The problem is not that AP classes are failing students, but that schools are engaging in inadequate planning for how to ensure student success in such classes. Perhaps, as President Obama is attempting to hold colleges accountablefor their results, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should hold states accountable for their AP exam performance results. The Sacramento Bee article, “Math, science program sees big improvement on AP tests,” provides an example what why must accompany the push to enroll students into AP courses:
“The pass rate on rigorous Advanced Placement tests went up by 72 percent last year at high schools that took part in a National Math and Science Initiative program that trains teachers and gives students extra help.”
The article goes on to note that the program includes extensive teacher training, a mentor for each teacher throughout the school year and help for students in Saturday sessions. The article also notes that the pass rate on AP math, science and English exams for participating schools increased by 72 percent compared to 7 percent nationwide.
The bottom line…
If your high school offers AP level courses, selective colleges and universities are going to hold you accountable for taking the classes to demonstrate your willingness to challenge yourself. If your AP teachers are not very good, then you are going to have to find a tutor and supplemental materials to ensure your success, as the colleges you apply to are either going to know your AP exam scores or question why you did not submit them if the AP classes are reflected on your high school transcript.
Here is exactly what will happen:
- Colleges that you apply to will request a high school profile from your high school counselor. The profile will list the types of classes offered in your high school (which includes any AP classes), along with average SAT and ACT scores.
- Colleges will ask your counselor if your course taking was highly rigorous, rigorous, or on level.
- Colleges will compare the number of AP classes you took against the number of AP classes offered in your high school.
- Colleges will review your course grades in your AP classes and your AP exam scores.
Colleges, however, will not ask you if your AP teachers were any good, if the classes that you took in preparation for AP level classes were any good, of if the students in your AP classes were any good. So the bottom line is that you will have do what you have to do to be successful, which may mean:
- Identifying a tutor
- Identifying supplemental materials
- Creating study groups
- Taking personal responsibility to ensure that you are adequately prepared to score 3 or higher on the AP exam for each AP class that you take
You may view this as being unfair, however, it is what it is.
In the research study by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, “2012 National Survey of School Counselors: True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness” middle school and high school guidance counselors acknowledged that they simply do not have time, or in many cases, the training to for provide students with the necessary college or career guidance.
The National Office for School Counselor Advocacy(NOSCA) identifies eight components deemed to be critical to ensuring college and career readiness for students in grades K – 12:
- College Aspirations
- Academic Planning for College and Career Readiness
- Enrichment and Extracurricular Engagement
- College and Career Exploration and Selection Processes
- College and Career Assessments
- College Affordability Planning
- College and Career Admission Processes
- Transition from High School Graduation to College Enrollment
To support the implementation of these 8 components:
- Elementary school counselors should be creating early awareness and assisting students in developing the knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for the academic rigor and social development necessary for college and career readiness.
- Middle school counselors should be creating opportunities to explore and deepen college and career knowledge and assisting students in developing the skills necessary for academic planning and goal setting.
- High school counselors should be creating access to college career pathways that promote full implementation of each student’s personal goals that ensures the widest range of future life options.
Most counselors support these 8 components and although 9 out of 10 counselors believe that all students should have access to a high-quality education, only 56 percent of counselors see this as a reality in their schools (49 percent in high poverty schools).
In response to these eight components, high school and middle school counselors surveyed indicated that only:
- 50 percent of counselors have the training and knowledge to implement schoolwide strategies
- 48 percent of counselors know how to create solutions that remove barriers
- 47 percent know how to keep students’ parents and families involved
- 31 percent of counselors collaborate with outside organizations and businesses to support their strategies
Less than half of all counselors believe they have sufficient training to assist students with:
- academic planning,
- college aspirations,
- college and career admission processes,
- connect college and career aspirations and the selection processes,
- enrichment and extracurricular activity engagement, or
- college affordability planning
The reality in most schools is that guidance counselors are responsible for too many students, lack adequate resources, were not adequately trained in college and career planning during graduate school, and lack access to high quality staff development in their current school districts.
The undeniable truth is that students and parents are unlikely to receive sufficient guidance from guidance counselors to develop an effective middle-through-school college admissions and financial aid plan. Students and their families must accept responsibility for developing their plans and for putting forth the necessary effort to implement their plans if students are to expand their college and financial aid options.
In my book, Empowering African American Males: A Guide to Increasing Black Male Achievement, I recount an encounter with my then ten-year-old son:
“Dad, I don’t want to be in Target [the talented and gifted program] this year. Since I’m going to be playing football, I believe it’s just going to be too much work for me. Maybe I’ll go back to Target next year.”
In response to my son, I said, “Jalani, I can understand how demanding it can be to attempt to balance your school work with the mental and physical demands of playing a sport. However, you are such an intelligent young man, I know you can balance both of them if you put forth the necessary effort. However, your mother and I do not want to over burden you , so if you are sure that you cannot handle it. WE WILL HAVE TO TAKE YOU OUT OF FOOTBALL!”
My son stared at me in disbelief (this was not exactly the answer he was expecting) and responded: “That’s alright, Dad, I think I can handle it.”
I long understood the negative social acceptance among peers and sense of social isolation experienced by Black students when enrolled in gifted programs and advanced classes and when they are high academic achievers. A study by researchers from the University of Michigan and Boston University provides greater insight into the social costs of school success for Black students:
“The negative social consequences of getting good grades were particularly pronounced for black and Native American students in high-achieving schools with small proportions of students similar to themselves.”
Some of the additional findings were:
- For whites, the link between GPA and social acceptance was strongly positive over time—the better their GPA, the more likely that students were to feel accepted and the less likely to report feeling lonely
- For black and Native Americans, the relationship between GPA and social acceptance was reversed: the higher their GPA, the lonelier they were likely to report feeling, and the more they were likely to report that others had been unfriendly or disliked them
- While Hispanics overall displayed a patter similar to whites and Asians, students of Mexican descent showed patterns similar to blacks
The researchers go on to note:
“This analysis did not identify reasons for racial and ethnic differences in relation between school achievement and a sense of social acceptance, but it does strongly suggest that racial dynamics within schools are having an important influence on students’ lives and should not be ignored. In fact, these dynamics are likely to be an important mechanism behind racial/ethnic gaps in achievement.”
As a result of the gentle nudging by my wife and me, continued high expectations and our understanding the peer pressure our son was experiencing, we were able to ensure that our son continue his course of high academic achievement. The results were our son’s acceptance into the Honors College at Morehouse College and his receiving the Gates Millennium Scholarship.
Parents and schools must do more to assist students in understanding the potential long-term consequences of the choices they make, i.e., “Is social acceptance today more important than hundreds of thousands of dollars toward my future college education based on my grades and test scores?” Even if students cannot fully appreciate the potential long-term consequences, it is a conversation that we must have as we encourage them to set new standards of academic achievement where it is cool to have a high GPA, cool to earn thousands of dollars in scholarships, and cool to achieve grades and test scores on a comparable level as other students!
The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) helps you receive college credit for what you already know, for a fraction of the cost of a college course. Developed by the College Board, CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program, available at more than 2,900 colleges and universities. Pass any of the 33 CLEP exams and achieve your college and career goals.
Learn About Your College’s CLEP Policy
Currently, 2,900 colleges and universities grant credit for CLEP, and each institution sets its own CLEP policy. In other words, each institution determines the exams for which it awards credits, the minimum qualifying score required to get credit, and the amount of credits that will be granted per exam. Before you take a CLEP exam, review the CLEP policy of your college or university.
How Much Credit Can You Earn?
If you pass a CLEP exam, you may earn up to 12 credits. The amount of credit you can earn on an individual CLEP exam varies with each college. Some colleges place a limit on the total amount of credit you can earn through CLEP. Other colleges may grant you exemption but no credit toward your degree.
Minimum Qualifying Score
Most colleges publish the required scores for earning CLEP credit in their general catalog or in a brochure. The required score for earning CLEP credit may vary from exam to exam. Contact your institution to find out the minimum qualifying score for each exam you’re considering.
Getting Credit for General Requirements
At some colleges, you may be able to apply your CLEP credit to the college’s core curriculum requirements. For example, CLEP credit may be given as “6 hrs. English Credit” or “3 hrs. Math Credit,” and can be used for any English or mathematics course. Find out before you take a CLEP exam what type of credit you can receive from your institution, or whether you will be exempted from a required course but receive no credit.
Prior Course Work
Some colleges won’t grant credit for a CLEP exam if you’ve already attempted a college-level course closely aligned with that exam. For example, if you successfully completed English 101 or a comparable course on another campus, you’ll probably not be permitted to receive CLEP credit in that same subject. Also, some colleges won’t permit you to earn CLEP credit for a course that you failed.
Be sure to wait at least six months before repeating a CLEP exam of the same title. Scores of exams repeated earlier than six months will not be accepted (and test fees will be forfeited).
Colleges usually award CLEP credit only to their enrolled students. Here are some additional questions to consider:
- Does the college require that you “validate” your CLEP score by successfully completing a more advanced course in the subject?
- Does the college require the optional free-response (essay) section for the examinations in Composition and Literature as well as the multiple-choice portion of the CLEP exam you’re considering?
- Will you be required to pass a departmental test such as an essay, laboratory, or oral exam in addition to the CLEP multiple-choice exam?
Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will permit you to schedule the optional free-response or departmental exam when you register to take your CLEP exam.
Although STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) related careers are considered to represent the most important employment and highest paying job/career opportunities of the future, the recent report by the Fordham Institute, “The State of State Science Standards,” reports that most states are not preparing students for these type of jobs or careers.
24 states received a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Only six states received a grade of ‘A’ or ‘A-‘: California, District of Columbia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Unfortunately, this lack of preparation in school districts is reflected in student ACT performance. Following is student performance data on the 2011 ACT in the areas of math and science as it relates to the percentage of students from each demographic group considered to be “college ready”:
- 71 percent of Asian students were considered college ready in math and 46 percent were considered college ready in science
- 54 percent of White students were considered college ready in math and 37 percent were considered college ready in science
- 30 percent of Hispanic students were considered college ready in math and 15 percent were considered college ready in science
- 14 percent of Black students were considered college ready in math and 6 percent were considered college ready in science
The documentary, “2 Million Minutes” provides an important, if not ominous look into how STEM education in the U.S. is losing ground to such countries as China and India—countries where U.S. companies are actively recruiting to fill STEM-related jobs. The movie examines how students allocate their 2 million minutes of time over the course of four years of high school. While U.S. students allocate their time across a wide range of extracurricular activities, video game playing, and social interests, their Indian and Chinese counterparts are allocating their 2 million minutes to a much deeper range of scholarly and intellectual pursuits. In those countries, extracurricular activities and social time are not totally absent, they merely represent less of a priority.
Interestingly, the U.S. students profiled in the movie trailer are students in the top 5 percent of their class attending the nation’s best high schools. Panelists in the movie trailer provide some insightful comments into not only where our children place their priorities, but where parents place their priorities. High school basketball and football games have overflowing crowds, while chess competitions, science fairs, and academic celebrations are sparsely attended by parents, ineffectively promoted by schools, and little thought of by students.
The lesson for parents, students, and communities is clear, “Change your priorities and change student outcomes!”
As we approach the winter break, after the first of the year, most students will be receiving their first semester report cards. Parents should sit down with their children and carefully review their grades and the type of classes that students are taking. For example an ‘A’ in an AP class is not the same as an ‘A’ in an on-level class, just as an ‘A’ in PE is not the same as an ‘A’ in Calculus. As parents, we must not only encourage, support, and celebrate our children’s grades, we must ensure that they are learning. The failure to ensure that our children are developing the proper foundation in reading and math can lead to dire results when, as high school seniors, they find themselves neither college ready nor college bound.
Consider the following trends as they pertain to student performance in reading and math on elementary school and middle school assessments, through their performance on the ACT as potentially college-bound seniors.
The 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Math report indicates that for fourth- and eighth-graders:
- Nationally, only 33 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in math
- In many urban school districts, the percentage of fourth-grade students demonstrating math proficiency is less than 20 percent
- Nationally, only 26 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math
- In many urban school districts, the percentage of eighth-grade students demonstrating math proficiency is less than 15 percent
Nationally, by eighth grade, many students are not only performing below proficiency, they have fallen off of the college pathway altogether into lower level math classes:
- Only 33 percent of eighth-graders are taking algebra
- 22 percent of eighth-graders are taking pre-algebra or introduction to algebra
- 26 percent of eighth-graders are taking basic or general math
- In many large urban areas, less than 20 percent of students are taking algebra by eighth grade
The 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Reading report indicates that:
- Nationally, only 34 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in reading (as low as 14 percent in some racial groups)
- Since 1992, the percentage of fourth-graders demonstrating proficiency in reading has only increased 5 percentage points
- Nationally, only 34 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading (as low as 14 percent in some racial groups)
- Since 1992, the percentage of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency in reading has only increased 5 percentage points
The ACT Report, “The Condition of College & Career Readiness: 2011” provides important warnings for parents of elementary school and middle school students. The percentage of students considered “college-ready” in each of the four subject-areas tested on the ACT are:
- 66 percent in English
- 52 percent in Reading
- 45 percent in Math
- 30 percent in Science
- 25 percent in all four subjects
- 28 percent of students are not ready for college in any subject-area
Student performance varied widely, with the following percentages considered college-ready in all subject-areas by racial group:
- 41 percent of Asians
- 31 percent of Whites
- 11 percent of Hispanics
- 11 percent of Native Americans
- 4 percent of Blacks
Most students’ college dreams far exceed their level of college preparation:
- 85 percent of White students aspire toward a 4-year college degree or better with only 31 percent of graduating high school seniors demonstrating that they are ready for college
- 84 percent of Asian students aspire toward a 4-year college degree or better with only 41 percent of graduating high school seniors demonstrating that they are ready for college
- 80 percent of Black students aspire toward a 4-year college degree or better with only 4 percent of graduating high school seniors demonstrating that they are ready for college
- 78 percent of Hispanic students aspire toward a 4-year college degree or better with only11 percent of graduating high school seniors demonstrating that they are ready for college
- 78 percent of Native American students aspire toward a 4-year college degree or better with only 11 percent of graduating high school seniors demonstrating that they are ready for college
Although 8 out of 10 of our children aspire to go to college, less than 3 in 10 have been prepared by the 12th grade to succeed in college. We, as parents, must do more to monitor our children’s learning during the critical elementary-through-middle school years. We must look beyond their report card grades to what they have actually learned!
Do not become one of the thousands of students going off to acquire a very expensive college education only to find themselves 4-6 years later unable to find a job and thousands of dollars in student loan debt. A recent study by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, “Closing the Gap between Career Education & Employer Expectations” found that:
- Only 7 percent of employers believe that colleges do an “Excellent” job in preparing students for the workplace with 39 percent indicating that students are “Fairly” of “Poorly” prepared
- Only 16 percent of employers believe that applicants are “Very Well Prepared” while 21 percent indicate that applicants are “Unprepared”
- 54 percent indicated difficulty in finding applicants with the necessary skills and knowledge
Most employers believe that college students simply fail to adequately prepare themselves to enter the workplace. They do not take the necessary classes to prepare for the workplace, they barely receive passing grades in classes such as business writing, Statistics, Calculus, and business communications, they do not gain the necessary job experience while in college, and they do not take advantage of the many summer internship opportunities available to them.
When selecting colleges today, students should be focused on where the jobs will be when they receive their degrees. Students should more carefully select the type of classes they take in college and the type of internships they experienced each summer to best prepare them for the job market after graduating from college. Students should keep in mind that a college degree only has value if the person holding the degree can bring value to an employer’s organization.
I received my BS from Northeastern University, which has one of the largest cooperative education programs in the world. At graduation, I had 18 months of full-time on-the-job experience with Andersen Consulting and found myself highly recruited by such companies as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Price Waterhouse Coopers, Touche and Deloitte, and IBM. I eventually accepted a job offer with the IBM General Products Division in San Jose, California as a systems design engineer.
College Co-op Programs provide an excellent opportunity for students to gain a significant competitive edge upon graduation. Students may learn about cooperative education programs at the National Commission on Cooperative Education website and the NASA Co-Op Education Program website. When considering potential colleges ask about the types of employers participating in their cooperative education program, available internships, and visit the college’s recruitment office to see the type of jobs their graduates are entering into and the types of companies that they are working for.
The New York Times article, “Why Does the SAT Endure?” shares the opinions of students and educators relative to the importance of the SAT and its relevance to college admissions. I would like to examine their comments within the larger college admissions and college-planning context.
Professor David Z. Hambrick, an associate professor psychology at Michigan State University states:
“The SAT works for its intended purpose—predicting success in college…the SAT is largely a measure of general intelligence. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time and not easily increased through training, coaching or practice. SAT preparation courses appear to work, but the gains are small—on average, no more than about 20 points per section.”
I would respectfully disagree with Professor Hambrick
According to College Results Online, the University of Michigan students have median SAT scores of 625 Verbal and 690 Math. The University of Michigan’s student population is 65.3 percent White, 6.3 percent Black, 11.9 percent Asian, and 4.4 percent Latino and has a 72.7 percent four-year graduation rate.
In contrast, Spelman College students’ median SAT scores of 540 Verbal and 530 Math are 22.9 percent lower than those of students accepted at the University of Michigan. However, Spelman College, whose student population is 91.2 percent Black, boasts a higher four-year graduation rate (75.5 percent) than the University of Michigan.
Contrary to Professor’s Hambrick’s beliefs, the SAT is not a predictor of general intelligence or college success. A much greater predictor is the “college choice,” i.e., where a student enrolls in college.
Fred Oswald, associate professor psychology at Rice University states:
“Decades of research findings on more than a million students indicated that the SAT can identify promising and well prepared high school students. Admissions tests predict college and university grades as well as many other academic professional outcomes.”
The median SAT scores of the freshman class at Rice University are 700 Verbal and 725 Math. The four-year graduation rate at Rice is 82.5 percent. However, despite SAT scores that are 33.2 percent higher than students at Spelman, the four-year graduation rate is only 8.5 percent higher. Subsequently, the 33 percent difference in SAT translates to less than a 10 percent in graduation rates, or college success.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. Perhaps students and parents should carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores as opposed to the time and money they devote to engaging in a good college search to identify the best college for the student to attend.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. My advice to students and parents is to carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores. A much better predictor of college success is:
- Ensure that students take high school classes that adequately prepare students for college, particularly the ability to think, write, and communicate
- Carefully research colleges to ensure the right fit, i.e., size of the school, average class size, graduation rates, institutional concern for student success, the overall climate and culture of the college or university
- The learning environment and institutional belief in the success of its students, i.e., “Does the college care about whether a student is successful and adequately prepared for graduate school or careers.”
If parents and students are relying on their middle school and high school counselors to provide the necessary guidance for college and career preparation then they are likely to find themselves in trouble. The research has long indicated that counselors are overwork, overloaded with non-counseling responsibilities, and responsible for far too many students. The Education Week article, “Counselors See Conflicts in Carrying Out Mission” highlights the challenges facing middle school and high school counselors and provide startling news for parents and students:
- 9 out of 10 counselors believe that ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education and that they graduate well-equipped for college and careers, however, less than 4 out of 10 believe that their schools share such goals
- Less than 2 out of 10 (19 percent) counselors in high-poverty schools said their college and career readiness was part of their school’s day-to-day mission
- Counselors reported caseloads of 368 students per counselor in most schools and 427 students per counselor in high poverty schools
- Counselors reported that a disproportionate amount of their training is directed at crisis intervention, group counseling, and human growth as opposed to college and career planning
The CollegeBoard identifies 8 components of College and Career Readiness Counseling, as essential to expanding college and career preparation:
- College Aspirations: Build a college-going culture based on early college awareness by nurturing in students the confidence to aspire to college and the resilience to overcome challenges along the way.
- Academic Planning for College and Career Readiness: Advance students’ planning, preparation, participation and performance in a rigorous academic program that connects to their college and career aspirations and goals.
- Enrichment and Extracurricular Engagement: Ensure equitable exposure to a wide range of extracurricular and enrichment opportunities that build leadership, nurture talents and interests, and increase engagement with school.
- College and Career Exploration and Selection Processes: Provide early and ongoing exposure to experiences and information necessary to make informed decisions when selecting a college or career that connects to academic preparation and future aspirations.
- College and Career Assessments: Promote preparation, participation and performance in college and career assessments by all students.
- College Affordability Planning: Provide students and families with comprehensive information about college costs, options for paying for college, and the financial aid and scholarship processes and eligibility requirements, so they are able to plan for and afford a college education.
- College and Career Admission Processes: Ensure that students and families have an early and ongoing understanding of the college and career application and admission processes so they can find the postsecondary options that are the best fit with their aspirations and interests.
- Transition from High School Graduation to College Enrollment: Connect students to school and community resources to help the students overcome barriers and ensure the successful transition from high school to college.