A College Program for Disadvantaged Teens Could Shake Up Elite Admissions
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A College Program for Disadvantaged Teens Could Shake Up Elite Admissions

WASHINGTON – When a teacher at Design Chase told her she could enroll in Harvard University’s class, she suspected it – and not just because the Ivy League school was more than 2,000 miles from her hometown, Gallup, NM.

“Harvard is not part of the conversation – you don’t even hear that word in Gallup,” Ms. Chase said. “This is not something adults expect from us. I don’t think it’s because they don’t believe in us; It is just that heaped up against us. “

But in 2019, Ms. Chase included a small group of students across the country in an experiment that tries to redefine students who share her short-term background. Through an initiative launched by the National Education Equity Lab, a New York-based nonprofit institution, hundreds of students are rushing the gates of some of the nation’s most elite colleges by excelling in their credit-bearing courses before leaving high school .

Equity Lab enrolls more than 300 11th and 12th grade students from high-poverty high schools in 11 cities across the country In a Harvard syllabus, “Poetry in America: From Whitman to Hip-Hop City,” Taught by Alyssa New, a renowned professor. High school students met the same rigorous standards as the syllabus created for Harvard’s admitted students – they listened to lectures, took quizzes and completed essays, and were classified by the same standards.

The pilot program aimed to “redefine and expand the roles and responsibilities of universities”, and encourage them to pursue star students from underground backgrounds “with the same enthusiasm and success in which they identify top athletes, “Leslie Kornfeld, Equity Said Lab Founder and Chief Executive.

Quick results, Ms. Kornfeld said, are clear: “The talent of our nation is equally distributed; There is no opportunity. “

In a sense, the experiment is calling for higher-education elites, who have long ensured that undermining students from uneducated communities in their institutions is a preparation problem that is beyond their control.

Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the Center for the Social Organization of University, said, “All these schools talk about the game, ‘We want diversity, but we can’t find these kids, and it proves that they Can build a pipeline. ” At Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

Of the students who completed the course in Fell 2019, 92 percent were students of color, of which 84 percent qualified for free lunch – 89 percent passed, earning four credits from Harvard Extension School Which are widely accepted by other colleges. To date, 86 percent of such students have passed courses and earned credits given by the ever expanding consortium in experimentation, which now includes Yale, Cornell, Howard and Arizona State as well as the University of Connecticut. Are included.

The experiment has provided an opportunity to high-profile gatekeepers.

Martha E., president of Cornell University. “We cannot realize equity in higher education until we expand opportunities at the K-12 level,” Pollack said in a statement.

The partnership will add a new set of educational measurements – college course grades and recommendations from teaching fellows – beyond grade point averages, application essays and standardized test scores, said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of graduate admissions at Yale University.

“We haven’t traditionally taken students from some communities and some high schools,” Mr. Quinlan said, “and it’s the generational work we need to overcome.”

This semester, Equity Lab has developed to serve 1,500 students from 75 cities, among the 75 poorest schools in the country. Many school districts and universities are dying to join the union, which aims to expand to serve 10,000 students by 2022.

Ms. Chase, 19, was one of 63 percent of students in the pilot program who completed the Harvard course with an A or B. She was planning to follow her other high school graduates, who primarily serve students from the Navajo Nation, to a state college.

Instead, he is a freshman at Columbia University.

“I had dreams, aspirations, but there was no single thing, ‘I can really do that – go to these places where all these people do a lot of amazing things,” Ms. Chase said.

“But I can do it,” he said.

The Equity Lab program differs from the college-credit-bearing study programs available to many high school students because the effort is not limited by geography or limited access. One Analysis of the most recent federal civil rights data The Community College Research Center, part of Teachers College at Columbia University, shows white students enrolling in traditional double-enrollment courses at a rate twice the rate of black students. And Black and Native American students had the lowest participation rates in Advanced Placement courses, the most widely used proxy for college readiness.

While classes are free for students, they cost teachers $ 250 a head – although some courses, such as those at Harvard, may cost $ 1,800 for a semester – and school districts are bypassing the bill either Or using a combination of state, local and philanthropic funds.

The model also includes a web of educational support, including college counselors, mentors and high school teachers who help teach the material.

The 15 percent of students who were not successful were as important to the development of the model as those who succeeded, Ms. Cornfeld, a former federal civil rights prosecutor and adviser in the Obama administration, said. Of the 343 students who started, 23 left the pilot course and 43 students counseling to withdraw. Those students indicated experience that they have been taught the rigors of time management with difficult course loads.

Mr. Balfanaz said that the consortium is only taking advantage of things that were at the fingertips of colleges with talent and technology.

“They put a lot of powerful pieces together, introduced them to the furthest four corners of America, and it works,” he said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves that this is not available to everyone, it is some foreign idea.”

Robert Runsey, Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools in South Florida, had been lobbying for two years to join the Equity Lab and bring one Yale course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” for his students. The district which is still affected by it Parkland High School shooting in 2018It joined the consortium this year, enrolling 240 students in six of the low-income high schools that started the course this month.

Laurie SantoS, A Yale professor of psychology Who teaches goodness classes, She said she was inspired by the depression and anxiety she saw on campus. She identifies herself among the high schoolers in her class: she too had to adjust to a large, public high school at Harvard.

“I know what it is where you feel like you’re not,” Dr. Santos said.

17-year-old Donovan Blount of Rockaway, Queens, New York, always had college aspirations. But her mother had dropped out of college, and her father had never graduated from high school.

“I knew I was smart,” he said, “but I was never told where it would take me.”

He started high school at a technology-intensive school in Brooklyn, but transportation was a challenge. Back at his local high school, he would finish his work for a computer science course available so soon that he would get extra credit for helping other students. He did advanced placement courses including calculus through high school.

But a measure available to test his college readiness – his AP tests – defiled him. “When I returned my 2s,” he said, “I was like, ‘Well, maybe I don’t have the college ability that I thought I had.”

He took Arizona State University’s class “Introduction to Engineering” through the Equity Lab – and ranked No. 1 out of 50 on the course.

“I just thought, ‘I can do this,” he said.

Mr. Blunt went on to the Harvard Poetry course and is currently enrolled in his second Cornell course, “Big Data for Big Problems”. He also added a few more colleges to his application list – Cornell, Duke, Columbia and Howard – which previously dominated the State University of New York schools.

“I now see the college as a fight against a set of circumstances that were created to keep me,” he said.

17-year-old Jose Estevez of Buffalo completed the “Poetry in America” ​​course in the final semester with 85 points in the final exam.

But the confirmation of its professor is still with him. In December, at a closing ceremony for the course, Drs. “Credit is such a valuable currency, and you’ve worked so hard to get it through the toughest year that any of us could ever experience,” New told the group.

“The most important preparation for college, I think, is that the AP syllabus may not be the books you read, but really the challenges that you will get,” he said.

“He is a Harvard professor,” Mr. Estevez said after the ceremony, “talking to us and congratulating us. She is the one on screen telling us that we did it. It’s crazy.”

Mr. Estevez was admitted to a large-scale equity lab based on the challenges he faced – growing up in public housing with his mother and trying to fill his father’s shoes, an apprentice, who was a GED Died of diabetes while trying to obtain.

Bahiyar Muhammad, an assistant professor at Howard, said that Equity Lab High School students brought much needed inspiration for the last semester of their “Principles of Criminal Justice” course – and some authentic understanding of course content.

“They really brought up the idea that people on college campuses – they’re not dreaming right now,” she said.

“People thought it would be more useful for us, but I thought I had to get on with my game,” Dr. Muhammad said. “They’re going to challenge me, question me, and they’re close to it, so I can’t come up with all that theory.”

This semester, Howard began offering a new curriculum, “Environmental Studies and Justice” for college credit.

Among enrolled students, Flint, Mich. K is 17-year-old Latisha Jones, who knows the subject intimately: she went through the city’s water crisis.

“The fact that I can do this, a girl from Flint, the place with muddy water, it really makes me feel empowered,” she said.

Ms. Jones, whose dream schools include Howard, was the only student at her school who opted to take the course this semester. She said that she reflected her and her teammates’ expectations.

“I’ve seen teachers tell me that I’ll be nothing, that I was just a stereotype,” she said. “I know that not everyone is strong enough to believe that they are better than this. If I can do that, I can pave the way for my community.



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