Wednesday Churn: Bad completion news

Updated 10:40 a.m. – Educators and policymakers have been fretting for some time about America’s college completion rates.

But a new study from Complete College America, “Time is the Enemy,” concludes the problem may be even more serious than many people realized. The report claims to present a fuller picture because it includes part-time and older students, not just the full-time and younger students typically tracked in higher ed statistics. The report covers 33 states, including Colorado.

Key findings include:

  • Part-time students rarely graduate.
  • Low-income and students of color face the greatest challenges to graduation.
  • Students take too many credits and take too long to graduate.
  • Remediation systems are broken and produce few students who graduate.

“The longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success” in college, the report concludes.

Examining Colorado, the report projects these stats for 100 students who enroll in a public college or university:

  • 59 will attend a four-year school, 56 full-time and three part-time. 30 of the full-time students will graduate in eight years and 1 of the part-timers.
  • 42 will attend a community college, 21 full-time and 20 part-time. Only six of the full-timers will graduate in four years and just one part-timer.

(See full Colorado report here.)

Complete College is a national project that advocates for improved higher ed graduation rates and provides funding to states. Colorado recently received a $1 million grant from the group to improve remedial education (see story).

Gov. John Hickenlooper has made a priority of reducing the college remediation rate, a piece of the completion puzzle. A legislator/citizen study panel also is working on this issue and is kicking around the idea of awarding “automatic” associate degrees to students who’ve moved from community colleges and picked up sufficient credits at a four-year school to earn an AA.

More information:


Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Metropolitan State College officials reported this week that this fall’s number of Hispanic students has reached 18.2 percent of undergraduate enrollment, a 12 percent increase from last year.

The college has been working towards becoming a Hispanic-serving institution, an official federal designation that requires 25 percent of enrollment be Hispanic students. The designation would bring with it access to additional amounts of federal assistance, programs and grant opportunities.

Metro’s overall fall enrollment is down 1.6 percent at 23,828 students, with 31.6 percent students of color.

Although traditionally an open-access college, Metro has been trying to manage its enrollment because of space limitations at the Auraria Higher Education Center, which it shares with two other institutions. Buildings now under construction will add 173,000 square feet of classroom and office space by next fall. Metro also is penalized somewhat by the current higher education funding formula and has not been fully funded for enrollment growth in recent years.

What’s on tap:

The state Capital Construction Assistance Board meets starting at 1 p.m. at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. Agenda

An Adams 50 Westminster candidate forum begins at 6 p.m. at Westminster High School. District 50 is sponsoring the debate. The six candidates are running at-large; the three receiving the highest number of votes win. The election could determine the fate of the district’s standards-based education reform. Learn more about the candidates here.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.