Archive for the ‘College and Career Readiness’ Category

Digging Deeper: The Good, Bad, and Ugly from Delaware’s Graduation Rates

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Last month, the Delaware Department of Education released the latest graduation rates for Delaware high schoolers. The data provide us mixed messages. And while the headlines painted a mostly cheery picture of an overall  increase in the statewide graduation rate, a closer look shows that students of color and high-needs students (low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners) continue to be left behind.

 

The Good

 

More students are graduating with a diploma overall—including some at-risk student populations.

 

The overall graduation rate increased slightly from 85 percent in 2016 to 86 percent in 2017. From 2014 to 2017, there has been an increase from 84 percent to 86 percent. During this time period we also saw gains among students of color and high-needs students.

 

Specifically, graduation rates for African American, Asian, and multi-racial students have increased. Students with disabilities have seen the largest increase of all high-needs groups (that is, among low-income students and English learners)—more than three percent.

 

The Bad

 

But disparities in graduation rates raise serious concerns about a lack of college and career readiness supports for high-need students and Hispanic students.

 

English learners are graduating at a rate 14 percent less than the state average. In fact, graduation rates for English learners have dropped by seven percent over the last four years, from 75 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2017. Graduation rates for low-income students are behind the state average by nine percent, decreasing by 1.3 percent since 2014. While the graduation rate for students with disabilities has increased by 3.5 percent over the last four years, they still lag significantly behind the state average. Graduation rates for Hispanic students remain five percent behind the state average, and have remained stagnant since 2014.

 

 

Equity gaps—disparities between students of color, high needs students, and their peers—are slowly closing across the state. But disparities in graduation rates across schools and districts show that major  inequities remain.  Across all schools serving high schoolers, overall graduation rates ranged from a low of 65 percent to a high of more than 95 percent. Within schools, major disparities by race, ability, income, and English learner status point to an immediate need for more focused and targeted supports for these students.

 

School level graduation rate ranges across subgroups
Subgroup Lowest Graduation Rate Highest Graduation Rate
All Students 65% >95%
African American 56% ->95%
American Indian <5% >95%
Hispanic 57% >95%
Asian 33% >95%
White 60% >95%
English Learners 40% >95%
Students with disabilities 31% >95%
Low-income 60% 95%

Note: Data are suppressed if the percentage of graduates is greater than 95 or less than 5.

 

The Ugly

 

As graduation rates continue to increase, other indicators such as SAT and remediation have remained stagnant, raising questions about the quality of education guaranteed through a high school diploma

 

A recent report released by Achieve indicated that Delaware is one of seven states and the District of Columbia that sets the expectation that a high school diploma includes college and career readiness requirements in English language arts and math. While more students are graduating, SAT results show that less than 30 percent of students are college and career ready in math, and only 53 percent are college and career ready in reading and writing.

 

For Delaware high school students that graduate and go to a Delaware college or university, 41 percent are required to take remedial math and/or English courses, for which they may not receive credit.

 

A closer look at graduation data reveals a need for targeted supports for underserved students of color and high-need students.

 

Graduation data, often reported as statewide averages, can sometimes mask the reality that lots of Delaware students are struggling to earn a high school diploma. A holistic view of the data offers the opportunity to see which students would benefit from extra academic supports through a range of programs and approaches—because different strategies work for different students. College and career readiness requires high academic expectations and opportunities for career exploration for all students. Support for high school success begins early, continues through transitions to middle, high school, into postsecondary and career, and includes:

 

  • Providing academic supports starting before elementary school. Research indicates that third grade is a critical turning point for students. A child who can read on grade level by third grade is four times more likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does not read proficiently by that time. Delaware Readiness Teams are one example of making sure children from birth to age eight are ready for school and life.
  • Adequate college and career advising for all students to help students identify their career path. Delaware Pathways can help students earn industry credentials through work-based learning experience in relevant career areas.
  • Equitable access to rigorous course options such as AP and dual enrollment for typically underserved students to provide access to rigor of college-level courses and earn early college credits.
  • Tying academics supports with social and emotional development for all students. College and career readiness is a whole child endeavor, and includes developing non-cognitive skills such as managing emotions, setting goals, building empathy, and responsible decision-making.
  • Implementing personalized learning models (such as competency-based learning), which tailors classroom instruction to the specific needs of the students. Supporting innovative learning models like this can help meet students where they are, and ensure that they are leaving high school prepared for college-level coursework.

The Power of Place: Q&A with Evelyn Edney of Early College High School @ DSU

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Dr. Evelyn Edney and her faculty like to joke about the 79,000 hats on the wall of her office, one for each duty she must perform as head of a small but growing—in both size and impact—charter school in Dover.

 

Since 2015, Edney has led the Early College High School at Delaware State University, a public charter high school where students get a true taste (and more) of the college experience. Following their exploratory freshman year, students begin taking bona fide college classes at next-door-neighbors Del State, where they can accumulate up to 60 college credits in addition to a whole lot of learning.

 

Edney preaches about the “power of place”—that is, the stark reality of entering a college classroom as a high school student, sitting next to older college kids and absorbing college-level coursework. “They have this realization that they can do it,” she says.

 

That power is paying off. At ECHS (which the Rodel Foundation helped establish), students are outpacing state averages in SAT language arts scores with a high population of low-income and minority students. In 2014 the school earned a Charter School Performance Fund award from the state.

 

As Edney and the ECHS crew prepared for their first-ever graduation ceremonies, we took the opportunity to ask a few questions.

 

What can you tell us about the Early College High School @ DSU model? What makes it different than the so-called typical high school experience?

 

At ECHS, there are two campuses—one, a Freshmen Academy and the other, an actual college campus. A typical day in the Freshmen Academy involves a half an hour breakfast, then four 90-minute periods that include core courses and electives with a 30-minute lunch, and finally a one-hour Advisory/activity period. The academics are broken into semesters to mirror the college.

 

On the college campus, DSU to be precise, the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are housed. Sophomores are mainly still taking high school classes, and juniors and seniors are mainly taking college courses (12-15 credits per semester).

 

Why focus on three areas—Agribusiness, Forensic Biology and Community Health—in particular?

 

During the first year of the school, the focus was STEM, and those were the chosen pathways for students. But after some time, students developed interests outside of the STEM focus, so the ECHS administration approached DSU about changing the STEM focus to a STEM+ focus. They have, since then, allowed the students to “major” in 41 out of the 42 majors and concentrations that DSU has to offer (with Aviation being the only holdout due to students not being old enough to fly a plane).

 

Who are the ECHS students? Why do they enroll here versus another school?

 

The 420 students at ECHS come from all three counties in the State of Delaware. They enroll in the program to get a “leg up” in being afforded the opportunity to take up to 60 college credits while in high school. There is no program of its kind for miles around. Parents are also thrilled about the potential savings on college tuition.

 

Why is it important for students to have access to college-level coursework while they are still in high school?

 

Students should be challenged every day in school. Most schools have somewhere between 24-30 credits. Even with that, there are gaping holes in students’ schedules, particularly in the senior year. Students should be challenged in that year and have more access to college courses through dual enrollment programs. Not having access to college-level coursework is a travesty, but it happens every day.

 

We know there can be barriers for students to take college-level coursework in high school. What are some of the supports that ECHS has developed to help students find success?

 

Turning 14 year-olds into college students overnight could be a nightmare if there was not a way to monitor their progress and determine which students needed the most support. In 2015, ECHS school leaders developed the ECHS College Readiness Rubric to do just that. It measures the whole student each grade reporting period in the factors of grades, attendance, behavior, scores on larger assessments, and teacher recommendations.

 

The ECHS College Readiness Rubric allows students to self-govern, so that they can see their strengths and areas for development. The ECHS staff can do the same. This is used to identify students who need more supports in place. That comes in the form of a Response to Intervention (RtI) class, homework help, tutoring, etc.

How is ECHS supporting students to think about college majors and careers that they might want to pursue?

 

There are two ways that ECHS works with students regarding majors/careers. First, having DSU as a partner is wonderful place to start students thinking about the majors/careers they want to pursue. They have worked with our students in many ways to provide experiences that shed light on different careers and about the majors. ECHS students have been invited to participate in science labs, an SAP software competition, math and ecology integration, and other academic experiences. In addition, ECHS students have been able to participate in the DSU band and DSU chorus, mentorships with DSU students in varying majors.

 

The second way that ECHS supports students to think about college majors and careers is through the Advisory program. The role of the advisor is to assist the student in making reasoned choices, acquiring needed skills, and serving as the “reality check” that will make college possible. The “hidden curriculum” of the Advisory program is to create a situation where the student has connected on a much deeper level with at least one person in the ECHS school community.

 

The Advisory program is a four-year program. In the ninth grade year, the focus is on college readiness, so students spend the year learning the skills needed to become college ready. The 10th grade year is devoted to choosing a program of study. Junior and senior years are devoted to working on a Capstone Project, a study of some topic—inquiry-based or problem-based—within the major.

How do high school students usually react to taking courses with college students?

 

At first ECHS students are completely frightened about taking college courses with college students, but after a while, they realize they can hold their own and they are fine. ECHS students tend to do well in the classes with very few of them failing college courses during the last four years.

 

ECHS talks a lot of about 21st skills that all students will need as future leaders. Can you give us an idea of what that means and how you’re helping to build those skills?

 

ECHS promotes the following 21st skills within the Advisory program, positive behavior support program (Hornet PRIDE, Catch it!), and through project-based learning:  problem solving, creativity, analytic thinking, collaboration, communication, ethics, action, and accountability. The Advisory program allows students to collaborate and communicate while learning college readiness skills. The Hornet PRIDE, Catch it! PBS program helps students with accountability for one’s own actions and words. Students also learn problem solving, creativity, analytic thinking, as well as the other skills through project-based learning.

 

In December 2017, we released a landscape analysis on Supporting Postsecondary Success in Delaware. Through this research, 54 percent of students indicated that parents/family members have been most helpful in preparing them for their future (college/career)—a much higher percentage than teachers or counselors. How do you encourage parent and family engagement?

 

Parent and Family engagement looks different in high school than it does in other schools. It’s not about mom and dad sitting in the back of Johnny’s classroom because he is acting up in class. It’s about having a quiet place to study, a designated time to study, monitoring peer groups, etc. It’s about showing up whenever you can and partnering with the school by monitoring school work. ECHS invites parents to partner. There is a strong PTSA. Because parents come from all three counties, the PTSA meetings rotate between the counties so parents can attend. Also, there is Zoom Conferencing available for all meetings so that parents can attend without physically being there.

 

Parents are on the ECHS Board. They help to make the important decisions about the school.

 

Tell us about some of your students and what excites you about their futures.

 

Willow Bowen and Christy Malone are the No. 1 and No. 2 students in the senior classes respectively. They are attending Stanford and University of Pennsylvania in the fall. They have earned over 55 college credits (or more by the end of the semester), and their futures are so bright because of all they accomplished at ECHS. They have all A’s and B’s on their report cards with all A’s in their college classes. This is what ECHS is all about!

 

Then there are the students who did not start out being college ready who worked hard to get there; countless numbers. We are so excited for them!

Making Sense of the Federal Education Budget

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On March 23, Congress approved, and President Trump signed, a $1.3 trillion appropriations bill that will fund the federal government through September 30, 2018.

 

This funding bill wasn’t easy to come by—it took several short-term extensions to fund the government, as well as a two-year deal on the overall budget caps.

 

The Rodel team combed through the budget lines pertaining to education and considered what it might mean to Delaware.

 

 

In Early Care and Education:

 

Federal budget: A $2.4 billion increase to Child Development Block Grant (for a total of $5.2 billion)  

 

What it means for Delaware: This will mean about $6.4 million in flexible spending to Delaware. The Delaware Early Childhood Council will inform how it gets spent.

 

Federal budget: A $610 million (or seven percent) increase of to Head Start (for a total of $9.9 billion)

 

What it means for Delaware: Early childhood programs that help low-income families access daycare will get a boost.

 

 

 

In K-12 Wraparound Supports:

 

Federal budget: A $700 million increase for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (for a total of $1.1 billion)

 

What it means for Delaware: Additional funding will be available through Title IV block grants. The grants developed under ESSA provide states with a flexible way to spend federal dollars to help students receive a well-rounded education. Funding could be used to improve school climate and culture, promote effective use of technology, to support school counseling, mental health, and safety. In Delaware’s ESSA plan, the state aims to use Title IV Part A funds to offer technical assistance and training to districts and charters for academic enrichment and student support programs.

 

Federal budget: A $20 million increase for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool programs) (up to $1.2 billion)

 

What it means for Delaware: Delaware will be eligible for additional grant funding to support things like homework assistance, meals, and academic enrichment activities. Delaware has a number of these programs running across the state, providing before- and after-school activities, including remedial education, tutoring services, counseling, and programs for at-risk students.

 

 

In Higher Education: 

 

Federal budget: Sufficient funding to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $175 for a total of $6,095; $107 million (10-percent) funding increase for Federal Work-Study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (for a total of $840 million)

What it means for Delaware: These increases will help make college more affordable for low-income students, helping to address inequities.

 

Federal budget: $60 million increase for TRIO, for a total of $1.01 billion and $10 million increase for GEAR UP college preparation programs for a total of $350 million

What it means for Delaware: Delaware will be eligible for additional competitive funding available for programming designed to support low-income, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress from middle school through postsecondary and career.

 

Federal budget: $350 million for a new discretionary relief fund for borrowers to receive public service loan forgiveness

 

What it means for Delaware: This temporary expansion of the relief fund program is intended to reach individuals who would have otherwise been eligible for the program (which allows eligible borrowers to earn loan forgiveness by working in public service and by making 120 qualifying payments) but were not enrolled in a qualifying repayment program.

 

 

 

In Workforce Development:

 

Federal budget: $75 million increase in career and technical education (CTE) state grants under the Carl Perkins Act

 

What it means for Delaware: This increase to support CTE programs will be allocated to states based on the federal-to-state formula.

 

Federal budget: $145 million for Apprenticeship Grants, a $50 million increase

 

What it means for Delaware: These dollars represent competitive funding that Delaware could apply for, which would help expand the types and availability of registered apprenticeship programs available for Delaware residents.

 

Federal budget: $2.8 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants to states, an $80 million increase

 

What it means for Delaware: Additional funding will be available through state formula grants for adult programs, youth programs, and dislocated worker programs. The in-school and out-of-school youth funds can be used to support youth with one or more barriers to employment to prepare for post-secondary education and employment opportunities, attain educational and/or skills training credentials, and secure employment.

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