Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strengthening Seattle Partnerships for College Access and Success

College Access and Readiness has recently become a significant component of the Alliance for Education's program offerings. Since the spring of 2009, we have been convening a network of SPS staff, and college access providers and representatives which we refer to as the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN). This network is committed to ensuring expanded, and more efficient, delivery of college-preparation programs for students in our target populations including first generation college-goers, low-income and students of color. Participants of this network include and not limited to:
  • Seattle Public School System
  • Local Education Fund - Alliance for Education
  • The Funding community - Collegespark, Gates Foundation, College Success Foundation
  • Higher ed institutions - University of Washington, Seattle Community College Districts, Seattle Pacific
  • Policy and Advocacy groups - Seattle Education Access, League of Education Voters, and El Centro de la Raza
We recognize the vastly different opportunities and resources available to students across the city and our network commits to targeting this population that has not been well served in getting the resources they need to obtain postsecondary education opportunities. We define all college access to include trade school, technical college, two- and four-year colleges, and other educational choices.

This past year, the network primarily focused on building sustainable relationships within the network and beginning to build a structure within SPS high schools and middle schools that have the highest population of low-income and students of color.

Our four key areas of work include:
  • Building capacity with SPS
  • Identify and engage community partners
  • Build a sustainable structure including metrics for collaboration between schools, community organizations, and families in supporting all students for college access and success
  • Push areas of policy that have an impact on the success of this effort

Since the network began, all providers have been energetic, enthusiastic, and committed to the network mission. It is apparent that we are resource rich around the issue of college access and readiness. Coordinating our efforts in a way where we can eliminate inefficiencies and work in concert will be the task ahead.

We welcome your thoughts and participation!!

Mark Yango, AFE


  1. Yet another task force / committee / network?

    Why is it that the Alliance looks good on paper and yet does absolutely nothing?

  2. I want to know what you are doing for all the kids that will never get into college... or for all the kids that go to college having swallowed the myth that there are good jobs for all of them out there... this country doesnt have the jobs for all these graduates because its now a service industry economy... manufacturing is dead, technology is outsourced internationally to cheaper labour forces, you dont want to pay for highly trained teachers (see Teach for America)...the promise of being saddled with a lifetime's worth of college debt and no job to pay it off with (or underpaid jobs in hospitals) deters people from taking medical/nursing degrees, resulting in a shortage that this country is trying to fill with doctors and nurses imported from other countries....

    I wish you people would take a reality check and do something really useful with your time and money....

  3. What are the "areas of policy that have an impact on the success of this effort"?

    Do you mean Board Policy? Such as the graduation requirement policies? Does it include the superintendent's policies - such as her budget priorities that dedicate over $10 million a year for over 100 highly compensated teacher coaches while laying off classroom teachers? Does it include the superintendent's neglect of policies that prohibit social promotion and require interventions?

    Or do you include policies of other electeds such as the state's education policies including graduation requirements and education funding - PreK, K-12, and higher education? Does it include the city's funding of education - PreK, K-12, and higher ed and the federal government's policies in these areas (IDEA, ESEA, etc.)?

    What do you mean by "Building capacity with SPS"? Capacity for what? Do you mean physical capacity? Do you mean capacity in high school classes that contribute to college readiness? Do you mean capacity in the middle schools that form the foundation for students' readiness to take the college readiness courses in high school? I hear this word "capacity" all the time, but it seems to mean something different everytime I hear it. What do you mean by capacity in this context?

    Why is SPS the only member of SCAN that needs to build capacity? Don't the other members of the coalition need to build capacity as well?

    What do you mean by community partners? Aren't the members of SCAN members of the community? What other partners do you need? How truly will you partner with those outside of SCAN? Will there be a genuine give-and-take or by "partners" do you really mean either vendors or clients? Will you authentically partner - or will you just buy or sell services?

    When does this result in any actual difference for students? The real help that students need is early and effective interventions whenever they fall below grade level all the way from Kindergarten to high school. Will SCAN focus all of their effort exclusively at the high school level - when it is already too late for most students who are behind to catch up?

    How will ANY of this be possible in a system that is starved for funding. The State will be cutting support for the District by about $50 million next year. That's going to spell the end for just about everything other than basic education and the legal requirements. The funding for the programs that are - and have been - actually doing this work for years is about to be shut down completely. Will the Alliance be replacing their funding?

  4. Isn't the district cutting funding for college/career counselling positions?

  5. Hi Charlie,
    You raise some excellent questions and I wanted to take some time to address a few of them.

    With regard to building capacity with SPS, we believe that college planning starts in middle school and should not be delayed until a student reaches senior year in high school.

    The network's role is to help teachers and counselors understand what resources they have access to and who can help provide those resources so students can start planning for college as early as possible.

    All of the organizations I mentioned above have some capacity to help support teachers and counselors in this regard and some have been doing this for years. We want to make sure all support services are on the same page with the District and one another.

    With regard to community partners, you are correct that all of the partners I mentioned are part of the broader community. Each of them has a unique lens to help students get into college. We certainly intend our network to be an open forum where organizations can share information and what services they provide.

    We also intend to include teachers and counselors into our network since they are in the front lines and can offer a unique picture on what areas of support to focus on.

    If you have any questions, feel free to call me at (206) 205-0338.


  6. I think this focus on getting kids ready for college is misguided...

    Focusing on college preparation in middle school short changes kids who are developmentally not ready to make such big decisions in their lives about "what I want to be when I grow up"...

    This country is obsessed with focusing on specifics before it has mastered generalities.... and that happens in the basics such as teaching to read and write and the fundamentals of math and forcing kids to think about college so early in life...

    Not all kids are best served by going to college...

    Kids ought to be given exposure to a whole range of CREATIVE activities in school and in the community (as part of school coursework) so they can work out where their talents, skills and interests lie and what makes them HAPPY to do, given that they might as well be happy earning their living for the next 50 years or so... and what makes them happy might not be work in the 'professions' and might not need a degree to declare their competency... they might be best suited to be tradespeople, artisans, musicians, poets, artists, healers, comedians....

    And if they do decide they want to go to college, they ought not be forced to specialise until they've completed a liberal arts/humanities/classics undergraduate degree...

    There are not enough jobs available for the kids coming out of college now, given that this country has moved to a service economy and has outsourced so much of its technical and manufacturing work.

    And the majority of those that do come out of college are saddled with a lifetime of student loans, and are forced to work in minimum wage jobs...

    Guess the Alliance et al are just really parroting Mike Milken's view that the purpose of education is to churn out workers and consumers...

  7. College is a great goal, but not one that is realistic for every student. It saddens me to see all the trade school opportunities disappear. Some kids would really benefit from graduating from high school ready to enter the work force in careers such as, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and so forth. When I went to school in the 70s we had entire buildings dedicated to VocTech. My friends who through one of VocTech programs and have NEVER been unemployed. The only people I know who are unemployeed currently are those with advanced degrees.

    Why is college the be-all end all goal? And don't you wonder what the graduation rate in Seattle would look like if students had the opportunity to go through the VocTech track?

  8. The other issue is that SPS does not have a K-12 curriculum that college can be considered college prep.

    You say that college-prep starts in middle school, yet middle schools are trying to downgrade their rigor. Both McClure and Eckstein are trying to eliminate Spectrum, but parent push back is keeping the program. Hamilton APP eliminated the Alg II math class. Of course they they did, there are not enough math classes at the HS level for students to work at this pace without opting into Running Start.

    I won't get started on the dismal math curriculum. The most respected UW Professors have made their point very clear. Continuing to ignore them only provides a great disservice to any student who is not able to receive private math instruction.

    When it comes to English, we have gotten off track by implementing Writers Workshop as a standalone curriculum. WW is wonderful in getting students excited about writing, but fails to teach them grammar, and basic sentence construction. With so much business being conducted via email it is critical to have techincal writing skills. Yet, there is not one class in SPS that addresses this subject matter.

    All the engagement and "right-sizing" buildings won't do anything to increase the success of our students in college without an overhaul of our curriculum that addresses the lack of rigor in our schools.

  9. Mark,

    Thank you for addressing my questions. I wish you would have answered them. Here's a clearer question for which you can provide a clear answer.

    You wrote: "We recognize the vastly different opportunities and resources available to students across the city and our network commits to targeting this population that has not been well served in getting the resources they need to obtain postsecondary education opportunities."

    This is real element of the network's work. This is where it will make differences for students. But it is only mentioned in these vague terms. What resources, exactly, will the network provide and how will they provide them?

    The work that the network has done that you described (Building capacity, identifying and engaging community partners, setting metrics, and pushing policy) didn't actually make any differences for students. When will you be doing things for students and what will you be doing?