That was the topic of an education summit the White House hosted last January when President Obama convened dozens of college presidents to offer their ideas. Then, it seemed, once the photo op ended, that was that. Until last Monday when, according to Inside Higher Ed, the President gathered 130 experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for a confab to address the challenge directly.
The solution the Wizards of Smart proposed?
Better school counseling.
Yes, The Motley Monk isn't kidding. What's needed is:
- replicating best practices in college counseling;
- training counselors better; and,
- using new technology to assist students.
The "solution" is to redirect taxpayers' $$$s--like Title II funds--to counsel students to get into, to remain in, and then, to graduate from college.
According to some of the presenters and panelists at the confab:
- High schools that serve low-income students tend to have overworked counselors who must handle many more students than do their counterparts at wealthier high schools.
- The national recommended counselor-to-student ratio is 1:200. But, the national average is 1:471. And, at some low-income schools, the ratio is 1:1000.
Of course, the subtext here is one of class warfare. The "rich" kids are getting more and better than the "poor" kids.
Following the confab, Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell told reporters: “We’re fighting against a decades-long disinvestment from states in counseling.” He also said that Department of Education officials are investigating ways to “boost pre-service training and professional development counselors” in the teacher preparation regulations, improving teacher and principal quality, and prodding states and local school districts to increase funding.
In other words: “Damn those conservatives' torpedoes that have gutted Department of Education funding. Full steam ahead, liberal mateys!”
The supreme Wizard of Wise--the professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who organized the conference, Mandy Savitz-Romer--said that making college counseling more effective is a key bridge to making other higher education policies work...like college ratings or the net price calculator. Putting out more and better information to students and families is good, Dr. Savitz-Romer also noted, but it is meaningless if students and families don’t have help interpreting it and personalizing it to their own situations.
College ratings? A net price calculator? Paying someone to give those to high school senios will increase the number of them enrolling in, remaining in, and graduating from college?
“Can we talk?" Joan Rivers would ask, meaning "honestly."
Okay. The Motley Monk will concede that investing in some college counseling may help. But, none of that money addresses the real issue: Students who are not prepared academically for college or to enroll in college.
Irrespective of social and economic status, unless a student possesses the requisite academic preparation, the research is crystal clear: The likelihood of dropping out of college increases. Likewise, students coming from lower socio-economic strata but who are well-prepared academically are much less likely to drop out of college.
Solid academic preparation--as that is measured on standardized achievement tests like the SAT and ACT--not pouring additional taxpayers' $$$s into school counseling will go a lot farther in resolving this issue. Matching objective student achievement to appropriate institutions (and, in the instance where achievement doesn’t merit acceptance into an institution, not getting accepted into college) doesn’t require additional training, more counseling sessions, or adding counselors.
That’s how it has been done in the past and is currently being done in many public and private high schools serving higher-income populations. When the SAT or ACT scores arrive, students are called by name into the school counselor's office. The meeting doesn't last very long. The monologue starts off like this:
“Listen kid, here’s your score and here are your options. It's time
to go and make your decision. Welcome to the world of making
real-life decisions that will have an impact upon the remainder of
Too tough? Overly harsh? Just "plain, old mean"?
Hardly. Some might call it "tough love." Others might call it "refreshing hope and change."
The Motley Monk will only say that the SAT or ACT score a student receives is the consequence of that student seeking (or not seeking, or seeking by one half) the best academic preparation possible, given one's ability and potential, during a one's high school years.
Isn't that where school counselors should direct their energies? Hasn't the train already left the station by the time the SAT and ACT scores have arrived?
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link: