Wednesday, April 13, 2011

GetReady for College Inspires Elementary Students to Think College

I've been writing about the achievement gap, and today I want to continue that theme, but with a more concrete example of a systemic change that is being adopted by a number of schools in Minnesota and elsewhere. The Get Ready for College program, sponsored by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education preaches the concept that students should start thinking about college and career in the earliest of elementary grades.
The Get Ready program is an early intervention and college awareness program. The program helps prepare fourth through tenth grade students from low-income families and those from groups traditionally under-represented in college with college planning information, academic tutoring and information on career and higher education options.
The Get Ready program argues that children from all walks of life come to school with high expectations for themselves. And, by 5th grade, students have decided whether or not post-secondary education is a reality for themselves. According to Get Ready:
  • 91% of 4th -8th graders and 74% of 9th – 11th graders believe they will be able to get into college.
  • 97% of 4th – 8th graders reported that earning good grades in school is important.
  • 96% of 9th – 11th graders are looking forward to getting a college degree.
  • 87% of 4th – 8th and 83% of 9th – 11th graders have specific career aspirations.
  • 95% of all GR parents believe their students will attend some type of college.
As a result, "If we do not teach students in elementary school as if they are college bound, then our students have higher expectations for themselves than we do." The Get Ready idea is that all teachers in the school district becomes a career and college promoter. Instead of teaching students that their goal is to pass the next test (although that is important), or to get promoted to the next grade, or even to graduate high school, we teach students that their goal is to become prepared for a career choice that excites them, and we help them understand what they must do to achieve that career.

To create a go to college atmosphere, teachers in a Get Ready school talk to their students about their career aspirations in the early years. They make the college idea real, by weaving college into students own personal aspirations for career success. In one school, the teachers periodically come to school wearing their college alma mater sweatshirts and describe their own college experiences. The core idea is intentionally to make college or other post secondary school a regular theme during the school year. Teachers may have morning meeting/advisory discussions about college, careers, or goal-setting Students may get writing assignments to journal about college, careers, or goal-setting. The school may invite local colleges and student groups to visit. At parent conferences, teachers ask the parents if they know what their child wants for a career and how much education it takes to achieve that career. Teachers may display college pennants or posters in their classroom, but above all, they are making real, their students own aspirations to be somebody.

In addition to its partnership with public school, the Get Ready program partners with community organizations and business. To find out more about the Get Ready program, check out this website, or contact
Emily Paoli Johnson
Get Ready Program Manager
1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 350
St. Paul, MN 55108
Tel: (651) 259-3919
E-mail: emily.johnson@state.mn.us

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