Monday, December 05, 2011

Getting in and getting

I attended the Education Policy Conference, Getting In, Getting Through, and Graduating, hosted by the Freedom House on Saturday November 19, 2011 and learned about the challenges facing students, families, and educators. A student spoke of his struggles transitioning into college. He felt he was not prepared. A mother spoke of the cultural barriers that exist for her and her family. She did not speak English and found it hard to navigate through the school system. Gail Snowden, Executive Director for the Freedom House told a story of a student who would leave her college campus and come to the Freedom House for the support she felt was lacking on campus. Dr. Ferguson, Senior Lecturer for The School of Education at Harvard, talked about a study done by his department which found that some students were hiding effort because they feared being ridiculed by their peers for appearing smart. Neil Sullivan, Executive Director for Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), noted that business partners want to provide students with jobs, but also want assurance that students are prepared for the workforce. “We understand that the youth employment rate has declined by 50% and the labor market for youth has in fact collapsed”, he continued, “but in order for businesses to come on board, they want to see results and how they will benefit.”

During an open table discussion, the following comments were made :

• Generate environments in which other students are encouraging their peers to learn and ask questions.
• Create safe havens like the Freedom House.
• Learn to navigate through the non-traditional forms of communication.
• Adapt to the cultural norms of the student and families.
• Teach students how to code-switch. Some students are not able to differentiate between the expectations and practices of the workforce and those of the home.
• Teach students that they have a personal stake in their success.

The ideas are in line with those of the Boston Public Schools. BPS is currently working with the English Language Learners Initiative to improve the ways in which leaders communicate with families. This means providing information in various languages, going to local community gatherings, and reaching out to local radio stations and newspapers. Parent University is a BPS program that helps parents improve their skills through classroom sessions focusing on child development, what children are learning in school, and effective parenting skills. The BPS College Readiness program makes sure that high school students are ready for graduation and prepared for college by providing workshops on college essay and SAT Prep. The 10 Boys Initiative provides males -who are at a greater risk of failing or dropping out of school-with the encouragement and support needed to achieve personal and academic success. In every BPS high school a PIC (Private Industry Council) officer is assigned to prepare students for the workforce.

All these programs brings us a step closer to closing the achievement gap. BPS understands that more work is needed and will continue to work toward more effective strategies. If you can offer more creative ways to build stronger partnerships and assist families, please forward your ideas to

To learn more about the above programs, check them here: October College Month, Parent University, Private Industry Council (PIC) and 10 Boys Initiative.

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