In a recent New York Times piece, David L. Kirp writes that our public schools do a "good job of getting students into college, but a poor job preparing them to succeed once they’re there. " The problem he says, is that public schools and institutions of higher learning do their work separately, in silos, and do not communicate on issues like providing the kind of rigor and habits of mind high school students need to succeed in higher education.
The result is waves of kids that get into college and then drop out because they are unprepared.
But in Los Angeles, public schools and colleges are collaborating. Kirp describes a unique collaboration between Long Beach public schools, Cal State Long Beach, and the local community college. The institutions are working together, communicating and coordinating to remove barriers to success in college. The result is more students, especially minorities and traditionally under-represented students, finding success at the college level.
This reminds us that, whenever we've come across partnerships between the public schools in which we work and local colleges, we've almost always seen really interesting and sometimes quite innovative results.
Take for example, Tacoma's Lincoln High School and their collaboration with professors from two local universities. In this, students worked with professors as research assistants to study their peers attitudes and behavior on questions of student motivation in their institution. (One consistent result: peer students reported being "more highly motivated by teachers who were rigorous and demanding of the students but also built relationships with their students").
This partnership accomplished much, including the very important notion that putting students directly inside a college-level research endeavor is a great way to get students to envision themselves as scholars, doing good post-secondary work.
Whatever the instance, it seems to us that colleges and public schools need to break the bonds of their siloed separation and embrace the benefits of joint collaboration for student success.