Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Roanoke City Missing Golden Opportunities During High School Years

  A friend re-posted this article from the Roanoke Times earlier today. The article talks about the poor retention rate of former Roanoke City high school graduates in a program called CCAP. The program allows students to attend a community college in the Commonwealth of Virginia for free in order to complete a certificate or an Associate's Degree.
  I will commend Dr. Bishop for now taking steps in figuring out where the educational gap is and provide greater support for these students but this problem is multi-fold. Here are my recommendations for students who will be in CCAP in the future and students who are going through it now. 
  • Decrease focus on test-taking skills and increase focus in skills required to study at the college level. Students who plan on attending college know how to take tests. What they need is more prep work in what is required for success in the college classroom. There should also be a focus for college bound students in discovering their learning style, how to use it effectively, and how to recover from a poor performance.
  • Teaching students how to find help and extra resources. Many students are ill-prepared to ask for help when they need it because they usually don't have to often in high school. A goal in high school should be to wean students from dependency on the teacher to recognize the problem and focus on teaching the student to recognize problems when they begin. I have met far too many high school graduates that "coasted" through high school with good grades and nearly fail out in college. 
  • The success of CCAP is dependent on the originating public school system and the community college that allows them into the program. While schools like Virginia Western Community College require taking a one-credit study skills class in the first term, a different approach may be necessary. One of the biggest complaints from students is who, where, what, why, and how to find tutoring/mental health help/financial advice/work-life balance issues and the general basics to navigating the campus and it's offerings. To the community colleges: no one cares about your successful alumni or the latest rankings of your programs. Most students want a solid two years before going into the job market or transferring to a four-year college. Re-work the way orientation is done. Instead of it being recommended, have it a requirement for all incoming high school graduates.
Here are a few more, simplified suggestions to think about:
  • Peer relation programs. These are students hand-picked by the college to act as a form of ambassador for the college. It is the student newbies go to if they have questions.
  • A one week summer bridge orientation program. College survival skills made simple.
  • Requiring a one credit study skills course to be completed on-line or in classroom specific to their degree interest to be completed over the summer.
As with any college program, the success of the student is dependent on their ability for self-reliance. However, it is still our job to arm the students with the skills and resources they need to be successful!