According to a public status report about my district last week, I see that while 80% of our students enroll in a 2- or 4-year college, only 56% of those students finish within 6 years. The fact that 56% is significantly above the state average brings little comfort to concerned parents and educators like me. One can only imagine:
- How many of our students pursue majors that have job openings available?
- How many of our students end up with debt and with no degree or job?
I have no doubt that most of my students will survive this year (pass my class) and little doubt most will do well on the end of course exam (proficient or above). My concerns for my students go way beyond. Will they retain for the next class? Will they have developed the necessary perseverance and independent learning skills to obtain post-high credentials so they can thrive in a high-tech economy?
When I hear disparaging remarks about “kids these days” and work ethics, I try to use those opportunities to explain why student ambition looks different than it did when I was in high school. When I see those comments on public media, I respond with a link to what I think. This is no time to judge and point fingers, this is a time to paint pictures students can understand.
The data suggests that
- unless I or someone-something else can can explain the situation (their future with or without solid algebra skills) in a way they can wrap their minds around, many of my students are not likely make the cut of college graduates that have marketable skills.
- unless I or someone-something else can motivate my students to do homework that might not seem worthwhile to them at the time, they might not do their homework at college, either. Working too many hours is a huge factor. Having to pay for those classes might help motivate some, but 56% indicates that is not happening as often as it needs to.
I know work, homework, and motivation are major factors because I saw them when I worked at colleges, and Googling college+success+homework+motivation+work+hours just now resulted in millions of articles echoing that. Trying to think of ways to help students prepare to beat those odds nearly consumes me. It drives me to serve on committees, to knock on doors, and to earn credentials that get me to information and platforms where ideas are born and proliferated. As a mom of two formerly “slacker” boys, I have a few ideas:
- Volunteer together at a soup kitchen or something like the Salvation Army and set up visits to modern workplaces so teens can visualize their futures with and without a good education.
- Visit college campuses and create a vision beyond frat parties
- Google “cool STEM careers” to get an idea of both 4-year and certificate-level careers that are in high demand. One idea is to get an 18-month certificate for (or job-training at) a progressive company that will pay for the 4-year continued education.
There are no guarantees that any of my ideas will work for anyone else’s teens, but I have to keep trying because every day I see the difference that can be made. Both of my former “slacker” sons make more money than I do and are married to well educated ladies. When I think of where they might be if I hadn’t employed some pretty crazy convincing strategies, my heart nearly stops. In the mean time, I bite my lip with every parent who is going through it. It’s important that we are all together in this. I believe it is teamwork that will cause my students to impress us all as they beat the odds and not just survive, but thrive.