This article in the Times is about a program started at Garfield called Urban Scholars that helps students attempt upper-level classes and navigate college enrollment (especially if they are the first in their families to go). It recently got a grant from the Gates Foundation to help pay for it for the next three years.
I had been thinking about a program like this - districtwide - because of the importance of both goals of the Urban Scholars program. Kids have to have exposure to upper level classes because it is hard to get into college without them and even harder to stay in. High school counselors, especially at the larger high schools, are just maxed out with work. I wish this program was districtwide.
It was a good article for me until the last paragraph.
"It really helps to address what seems like a disproportionately small number of African-American students succeeding in the AP curriculum at Garfield," said Ken Thompson, program officer for the Pacific Northwest at the Gates Foundation. "A lot of the work of the foundation is about addressing inequity."
I'm not sure what inequity Mr. Thompson is speaking to in that last sentence. The district has bent over backwards to try to get more minority students in APP. The AP classes at Garfield, as stated in the article, are open to all students. Students with their parents make out their own schedules. At some level, parents have to be responsible for the academic choices their students make. The entire weight of education cannot rest with the public school system.
From the article:
"About a third of the students at Garfield High School are part of Seattle's Accelerated Progress Program for gifted students. Any student can take the advanced classes there, but many promising students don't because they don't know the other students in the courses or don't understand how important those classes can be to getting into college."
This paragraph points up a real need for something that I understand from Bellevue's website that they are already doing. Namely, putting it into kids' heads, from kindergarten on, that college exists and is important. It doesn't cost a lot of money from K-5 to talk to kids on a regular basis about what college is. It doesn't cost PTAs a lot of money to talk to parents about college in their newsletters and at meetings. How many people know about GET?
Then, in middle school, a harder push should be starting. We need to tell kids that they need to be prepared for high school in order to get ready for college. We need to have them talking about it, asking teachers and administrators about their college experiences and, in 8th or 9th grade, we should have an organized trip for these students to UW or SPU or anyone who'll have our students visit. When they get there, students from all types of backgrounds could speak to them about what they did to get there and what life is like at college. Bottom line, it needs to enter their consciousness at a young age and stay there.
I know not everyone is going to college but it has to be more than a casual thought in kids' minds. Waiting until high school is too late.