Good news about college attendance

A significantly higher number of state high school graduates may go to college than previously thought, according to a new study presented Thursday to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Colorado college campus montage
From left, the campuses of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Auraria Higher Education Center.

Some 66.8 percent – 33,484 students of the 50,174 who graduated from state high schools in 2009 – went on to college in Colorado or out of state.

Up to now policymakers have had to guess about the number of students who attended colleges in other states because the only data available was for Colorado graduates who went to state colleges and universities. The new study reported that 22,657 students attended Colorado schools and 10,827 went out of state or to Colorado private colleges.

“That’s huge,” Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia said of the report. “It gives us a more positive picture. … We’re doing better than we realized.” Garcia also is director of the Department of Higher Education and the Hickenlooper administration lead person on education issues.

But the report also found gaps in college attendance among ethnic groups, the same kinds of gaps that are found in test scores, high school graduation and other indicators.

“While college participation is strong in the state, historical disparities in postsecondary attendance, financial need and performance among students from different groups persist,” noted the report.

Compiling the first-ever report was made possible by use of unique student identification numbers that allowing tracking of students from K-12 into higher education and by the ability of state researchers to track Colorado graduates through a national database. Those tools haven’t been available in the past.

The report, required by the comprehensive 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, will be done annually, said Beth Bean, director of research and information at DHE. She briefed the commission on the report.

While the report provides a snapshot of only one set of high school graduates who went to college the following fall, Bean and Garcia both said the information is important and that future reports will build a broader picture of college attendance.

Commission members also were pleased with the report. “It’s so nice to see some accurate data,” said chair Hereford Percy.

The report found:

  • More female students in the group, 70.4 percent, went to college than males, 64.6 percent.
  • 78.2 percent of Asian high school graduates went to college, 72.8 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of blacks, 48.7 percent of Hispanics and 48.2 percent of Native Americans. Black students showed the highest percentage attending college out of state, 25.8 percent.

The report also revealed some interesting details about students who attended Colorado colleges and universities, including:

  • The average grade point average for the students in their freshman year was 2.65 percent.
  • Three quarters of the students had completed more than 15 hours of coursework by the end of 2010.
  • Nearly 29 percent of the students received federal Pell grants.
  • About 7,500 students went to two-year colleges and about 14,700 to four-year schools.

The report also provided information for individual schools districts. Here’s a list of the state’s 10 largest districts by enrollment and the percentage of their 2009 graduates who attended college the following fall:

  • Adams 12-Five Star – 62.1
  • Aurora – 46.2
  • Cherry Creek – 75.1
  • Colorado Springs 11 – 57.6
  • Denver – 54.6
  • Douglas County – 77.4
  • Jefferson County – 75.7
  • Poudre – 76.1
  • St. Vrain – 69.6
  • Thompson – 65

Commission reverses old policy

The CCHE Thursday also voted unanimously to reverse a 26-year-old policy that banned Colorado colleges from offering bachelor’s degrees with a major in early childhood education.

A DHE staff memo (read it here) noted that at that time such programs weren’t considered sufficiently rigorous. In 1986, the commission ruled that teacher candidates had to earn bachelor’s degrees with majors in a subject field such as English or math.

The memo noted that the field has changed and recommended the commission reverse the ban.

Department staffers also are studying a similar old ban on bachelor’s degrees with elementary education majors. But Ian Macgillivray, assistant deputy director of academic affairs, said that issue needs more work.

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.