Improving College Graduation Rates III

So what are the specifics that higher education can learn from successful urban high schools to substantially improve student outcomes? By substantial improvement I mean something like the 90/90 that many urban high schools are now measured against. In the case of higher ed this would mean 90% of those entering needing remediation leaving ready for college level courses and of those 90% meeting their goals – whether its skills to obtain a good paying job and/or a degree. (Once again where the degree may come from a different institution.) At most colleges and universities we are far from meeting either 90% goal.

My guess is that the features needed to get to a higher ed 90/90 are quite similar to those in urban high schools. As I have written previously the most important characteristic is educators who believe and are committed to all students succeeding and that if the students are not on track, its the educators – not the students – that have to change. Secondly a focus on the “whole student” not just teaching content. Think of this as providing for every student the kind of support services received by scholarship athletes. Two Detroit area high schools ( U Prep Academy and Ferndale’s University High School) are providing these kind of comprehensive “stay in college” supports to their predominantly African America graduates with surprisingly good results. High schools shouldn’t have to provide these services, universities should. And finally a change in pedagogy. No more  teachers standing in front of the class and delivering content. Its not the way most students learn.

We need both higher education institutions and policy makers to focus on what levers are available to get 90/90 outcomes. Its the key to getting the kind of substantial gains in human capital Michigan needs to regrow a high prosperity economy.

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