My View: College and Career Readiness
With the new year under way, I would like to discuss the progress of two new programs currently in place at Gloucester High School. I am referring to the Early College Program and the Gloucester Success Program. Both of these initiatives are intended to assist students with college preparation. Most importantly, both of these programs have a great deal to teach our students.
The Early College Program is a partnership with Endicott College, which allows students to experience college while attending high school. Students can satisfy the required credits for high school while earning up to 15 college credits which will be transferrable to any institute of higher learning.
The Early College Program is a cohort model, beginning with sophomores this year. Twenty students are currently taking a course called Critical Inquiry, which focuses on how to do college work. The course is based upon a required freshmen seminar at Endicott. My remarks going forward are from an interview with Ryan Stadt, a math teacher at GHS who is the teacher of the Critical Inquiry course, along with Erik Anderson, Principal of GHS.
The Critical Inquiry class is designed to teach critical thinking, research analysis, collaboration, and other skills necessary for high-level, academic work. The goal is for students to learn to work together, and to even push one another as they work their way through the sophomore courses, and then on into two college courses in each of their junior and senior years.
According to Mr. Stadt, students are learning to rely upon one another academically, and the class is building a culture where students work with one another both inside and outside of school. In class, students review all of their writing assignments and they give each other feedback. The work is grounded in research projects with students being asked to do policy-based presentations, i.e., present a position on a topical issue.
In this course, students are learning about the different types of claims that writers and politicians make—claims of value, factor, and/or policy. The students, themselves, are being asked to make claims of policy, and to present arguments about changing a situation (the themes this year are Education, Food and Agriculture, and Media and Technology). Students are required to “dive in” to a topic, weigh different arguments, and ask what the context of an article is. Why is the author writing the piece? What claims are being made and what are the arguments in favor of those claims? Who is the audience the author is writing for. These students are “jumping in” by learning.
The Gloucester College Success Program is a second partnership (with Salem Cyberspace) working to benefit students. The College Success Program is designed to increase the resources needed to help students who may be the first in their family to go to college. The program assists students with the entire college application process including filling out applications, assistance writing the application essays, as well as registering and preparing for the college entrance exams (such as SAT's). For many, finances may be a barrier to college. The program works closely with students and their parents to apply for financial aid and scholarships. The program will continue to counsel youth throughout their college years to assure that they receive the services and financial aid they need to graduate with a degree.
In the junior year, students meet once a week (three hours) to prepare for SAT’s, develop a resume, explore different careers, begin researching colleges, and go on college visits. In Grade 12, students meet with advisors 1-2 times per week to complete applications to 2-6 colleges including recommendations and essay preparation, and they apply for Financial Aid (like FAFSA) as well as scholarships.
All told, there is much going on at the high school to provide the means for the broadest range of students to meet the Common Core goal of college and career readiness.