College and Career Readiness a Major Focus for Districts in RTTT
Delaware school districts will use almost 10 percent (over $4 million) of $45.4 million federal funds to increase students’ college and career readiness. While some of these initiatives focus on guidance programs, at least 16 or the 19 districts will invest in advanced course work, including the SAT, AP and college courses. For example, Appoquinimink and Red Clay will offer SAT prep classes to all juniors and seniors, with Appoquinimink allocating a guidance counselor to encourage underrepresented student populations to enroll. Seaford School District intends to offer tutoring and SAT prep materials to high-need or low-achieving students, while Smyrna will offer a Kaplan live online SAT course to 30 academically driven juniors
It is difficult to assess the plans’ likelihood of success, especially without more information about other district initiatives, but some concerns come to mind.
- Although districts are striving to ensure that all groups have equal access, will these efforts minimize the achievement gap if those with the greatest needs are not required to participate and are not given additional supports to succeed?
- In targeting either the lowest or highest performing groups, what happens to the students in the middle of the pack?
- Will Race to the Top and stimulus funded projects be sustainable; for example, when there are no more RTTT dollars, what will happen to rising juniors who have not yet had the opportunity to take one of the school’s SAT classes?
Although there may be uncertainties in the future of college and career readiness in the state, there are also some very promising initiatives in the districts RTTT plans. Christina School District has a bold and comprehensive strategy to increase participation in and success on AP exams, including preAP coursework in middle school and continuous support such as an AP Summer Institute, tutoring, and financial assistance throughout high school. Another encouraging movement has been dual enrollment—programs that allow high school students to take college courses. Though some schools already have this in place, Colonial will use RTTT funds to start offering these college level courses in 2012 and to further expand the selection of courses in the following years.
There are more college and career readiness proposals, which are not mentioned here, that deserve praise and others that could be stronger, but it is clear that Delaware’s districts and schools are committed to preparing students for life after senior year. Considering that approximately 60% of Delaware graduates enrolled in college in 2009, reaching Delaware’s Race to the Top goal of 70% college enrollment by 2014 would require at least a 2% increase every year—thousands more high school graduates attending college every year. Though an inspiring goal, are the districts’ plans rigorous enough to not only raise college readiness but to also meet such an ambitious goal? Furthermore, Delaware has a greater objective to consider, Obama’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates worldwide, an ideal that has no finite percentage or target. In order for our state’s students to help make this possible, reaching 70% would just be a small milestone in racing to the top.