Miami-Dade College Leads Community College Trend in Guided Pathways Model


Summary: This article examines the Guided Pathways model by analyzing the planning and implementation process of the model by Miami-Dade College. Following an analysis of the implementation process is a look at the measurable outcomes reported by community colleges and four-year institutions throughout the country, including Miami-Dade, that currently utilize this model. Lastly, leadership characteristics and behaviors of the Miami-Dade administration when implementing this model are discussed to illustrate that the Guided Pathways model is reliant on transformational leadership to work successfully.

Miami-Dade Community College Overview

In 1985, Miami-Dade Community College became the first community college in the United States to graduate 100,000 students. In the 25 years from its inception as Dade County Junior College, Florida’s first integrated college in 1960, the institution grew quickly. Campus after campus was added, serving a massive international population emigrating from Cuba and other nearby island countries that changed the campus’ demographic from predominately white American to predominately immigrant Hispanic and Black students less than ten years later (“Miami Dade College History”).

“Over thirty years, in a pioneering move to stabilize community college entrance and smooth the way for ultimate transfer, Miami Dade Community College developed a comprehensive program to screen students into certain courses at entry and monitor their progress throughout their tenure at the college (Cohen, Brawer & Kisker, 2014, p. 282).

In 1969, the 100,000th student was enrolled a year after the state separated the school from the governance of the public school system and designated it its own governing Board of Trustees. The college became more integrated into the community, developing extension centers within hospitals to house health service programs before dedicating entire campuses to selected industries. In 1973, the college became Miami Dade Community College, renamed Miami Dade College thirty years later.

However, despite rapid capacity growth, high enrollment and large graduation numbers, campus administration observed that small-scale innovations had not substantially improved student outcomes once students graduated or transferred out of the institution. (“Implementing Guiding Pathways”, 2015). In response, the administration decided to implement the Guided Pathways model in 2011, prefacing its implementation with one year of intense preparation.

 The Planning and Implementation Process

The Guided Pathways model, as described in Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Bailey, Jaggars & Jenkins, 2015) is the recommended model by the authors to counter what is described in the book as a “cafeteria” styled approach to course offerings. Jenkins and Cho (2014) assert that, “Most community colleges offer a wide array of programs. Yet, colleges typically provide little guidance to help new students choose a program of student and develop a plan for completing it” (p.1). Guided Pathways is a course mapping system intended to make course selection a more coherent process by

  • grouping courses according to industry paths and requiring students to choose an industry versus a major;
  • advising students throughout their matriculation instead of making it optional or a one-hit opportunity at the beginning of the first-year experience, with no mandatory advising to follow and;
  • ensuring students are taking courses that are transferrable to colleges in articulation agreement with other schools and/or fulfill their general education requirements.

“According to Bailey, a restructured college offers coherent programs of studies, helps students choose which path to enter and incorporates reforms that deal with the entire student experience, from entry to completion” (Ashford, 2015).

Miami-Dade formed work groups before developing and implementing their Guided Pathways model in 2011. Their work groups were intended to assess why students were not completing their academic programs. The groups included faculty, staff and hired consultants who were to specifically work on this assessment project. Findings suggested:

  • There were gaps in the transition from developmental education and ESOL programs into college-level courses;
  • Students were not being advised consistently;
  • Students were not able to identify courses that were transferrable and, instead, were taking courses they wound up not needing because they were either not transferrable or did not meet a program’s requirements (“Implementing Guiding Pathways”, 2015, p. 1).

In addition to faculty playing a central role, staff engaged in institutional research were foundational to the project. While faculty were specific with the different courses their departments offered and had to form a consensus on what courses they felt best suited for a particular pathway, institutional research staff were able to provide data regarding student success in certain courses.

In one scenario, they were able to identify research-based evidence regarding which pre-requisites were actual predictors for success in higher level courses. “For instance, the business faculty surmised that students needed to take introductory college math (intermediate algebra, the highest level remedial math course) in order to perform well in business statistics. When the IR staff analyzed the data, however, it was evident that students who enrolled directly in the business statistics course did as well as students who first took intermediate algebra” (“Implementing Guided Pathways”, 2015, p. 3).

Finally, revamping of the college’s intake process was integral to the transition to a Guided Pathways model. Advisors, central to the process, were expected to engage with first-year students throughout the year. The school invested $1 million in hiring 25 full-time advisors to implement these efforts. The college planned pre-college advising and mandatory orientation component which would start with high school students. Late registration was eliminated and students would be encouraged to develop “individual academic plans” (“Implementing Guided Pathways”, 2015, p. 4). This coordinated effort between academic and student affairs demonstrated what Nevarez & Wood (2010) describes as moving towards “eliminating barriers to learning” (p.181). The move toward implementing the Guided Pathways model transformed the operational function of the college into a seamless unit “poised in educating the ‘whole’ student (Nevarez & Wood, p. 181).          “Three years after the launch of the overall initiative, more than half of all faculty, staff and administrators are directly involved in one or more implementation activities, and many report that the change they are driving has become ingrained in the culture of the institution” (“Implementing Guided Pathways”, 2015, p. 7)

 Measurable Outcomes of a Guided Pathway Model

Colleges that implemented a Guided Pathways Model were able to identify early-on positive measureable outcomes in the areas of retention, student morale and graduation rates.

In the five years since implementation of Guided Pathways at Miami-Dade College, early results indicate an “eight point surge in retention rates for students with assigned advisors, providing significantly positive revenue implications for subsequent terms” (Jameson-Meledy, 2016).

At the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban university system in the United States, the Guided Pathways program used is called the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative and has resulted in “a graduation rate three times the national average for urban community colleges” (“Guided Pathways: Improving Completion”, 2016).  Guttman Community College, part of the CUNY system, has documented that 35% of its students, compared to an average of 13% for other community colleges in larger cities, are more likely to graduate within a three-year goal utilizing the Guided Pathways model (“Guided Pathways: Improving Completion”, 2016). “By August 2014, 28 percent of Guttman’s inaugural 2012 entering class had completed an associate degree” (“What We Know About Guided Pathways, 2015, p. 6).

Queensborough Community College, another CUNY school, gathered qualitative data to assess student response to the new implementation. Data indicated that students reported that their chosen pathway—called an academy—gave them a sense of membership and belonging as a student and helped them better map out their college and professional career (Jenkins and Cho, 2014).

Despite recent attention to this model implementation in community colleges, four-year institutions have been, however, among the pioneers in developing the Guided Pathways approach (Jenkins & Cho, 2014, p. 3). Research indicates that Miami-Dade was following in the footsteps of four-year institutions like Florida State University, which had already begun almost ten years prior to use a mapping process to address the issue that students were graduating with more credits than needed.

Once implementing a mapping model, FSU found that “robust advising is particularly needed for transfer students, for other special populations, and for students who are not making progress or who fall off track. FSU officials contend that these efforts are at least part of the reason why the university has been able to improve retention rates and graduation rates for students overall and close the graduation rate gap between minority students and their peers” (Jenkins & Cho, 2014, p. 4)

At FSU, “Between  2000 and 2009, the year-to-year retention rate for first-time-in-college freshman increased from 86 to 92 percent, the four-year graduation rate increased from 44 to 61 percent, and the percentage of students graduating with excess credits dropped from 30 to 5 percent” (“What We Know About Guided Pathways”, 2015, p. 6).

 Key Components of Successful Implementation of Guided Pathways Model

Miami Dade College’s combination adhocracy and clan culture supported the college president’s transformational leadership style in leading the project. This leadership style fosters service integration and cross-communication among departments and employees at different levels of authority and responsibility. Other institutions that have implemented a Guided Pathways model since 2000 or later include Long Beach City College, Valencia College, twenty-three of the twenty-eight independent community colleges in Michigan, and Pasadena City College.  These colleges have implemented programs after collaborative assessment and planning that demonstrate the following aspects of the Guided Pathways Model:

  • Simplified choices;
  • Identified end goals—a clear alignment mapping the route to transfer to another institution, graduate from the current institution or transition into a career;
  • Mandatory intake with advising and then,
  • Monitored progress throughout matriculation;
  • Revamped policy, programs and practices in tandem—ensuring that the process is comprehensive and not piecemeal;
  • Facilitated collaboration among departments before and during implementation;
  • Strong communication to students about the program before they arrive and throughout their matriculation (“Guided Pathways: Improving Completion”, 2016, p. 2).

The above components were achieved at Miami-Dade College when the college engaged in work groups that modeled a democratic approach which Nevarez and Wood (2010) describes as a “shared authority” model. At Miami-Dade, the college’s president Eduardo Padron “set the vision for the initiative and provided dedicated resources to support it”, including full-time staff to coordinate and implement each step and the hiring of 25 new full-time advisors. At the same time, student service staff and faculty were included in each step of the way, literally guiding and developing content from the bottom up (Implementing Guiding Pathways, 2015, p. 2).

While a democratic approach risks ambiguity and may lengthen the decision-making process (Nevarez & Wood, 2010, p. 63), Padron empowered employees at each level that they were engaged in an equitable process (Implementing Guiding Pathways, 2015). Kenneth Ender, president of Harper College in Illinois which began working on a plan to implement Guided Pathways last year supports this style of leadership for this process, commenting in an interview about Guided Pathways with CCDaily, “Once faculty understand what we’re really talking about, they won’t see it as a threat. Your faculty must be involved in this work from he get go you won’t succeed” (Ashford, 2015).

 Conclusion

In closing, the Guided Pathways model goes beyond general education requirements that are requirements in the basic areas of English, Math, Science and the Arts/Physical Activity that all students must take regardless of major. Guided Pathways actually maps out a route for each student to successful transfer and/or graduation within a general course of study. The Truman Commission report indicated that, “General education was indeed similar to liberal education, but they insisted on a unity of knowledge—not necessarily the same courses for all students, but ‘from a consistency of aim that will infuse and harmonize all teaching and all campus activities’” (Hutcheson, p. 108). Guided Pathways model expands on this sentiment as the cited research infers that the model requires transformational leadership that is driven by collaboration across departments.

However, while the research indicated that the Guided Pathways model provides structure and convenience to counter a possible overwhelming offering of courses, the impact of this model on students who prefer cafeteria courses, are self-directed and more adept at interdisciplinary thinking in order to navigate and select on their own course options leading to graduation or transfer was not clear. In short, there does not appear to be an option within the model for students at the schools identified in this paper to choose to opt out of the course mapping. It is also not clear if improved retention rates cited included only students who utilized a mapping schedule throughout their matriculation or those who started and then stopped a mapping option.

Finally, while it is clear that a Guided Pathways model meets schools’ retention and graduation goals, analysis of the research spurs the question that asks does the model meet the moral objective of helping a student grow as a learner and actualize critical thinking skills, or, is it the easiest choice to funnel students through the system in the quickest way possible at the risk of losing the opportunity to optimize development of key learning skills that would benefit the student in the long run. As new data is emerging, hopefully administrators will address concerns in ways that optimize student learning and benefit the growing community college community.

 

Reference List

Ashford, E. (2015, April 20). Redesigning for student pathways. Community College Daily.  Retrieved from http://www.ccdaily.com/pages/campus-issues/redesigning-colleges-to-focus-on-student-success.aspx

Bailey, T.R., Jaggars, S. & Jenkins, D.  (2015). Redesigning America’s Community

Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cohen, A., Brawer, F. & Kisker, C. (2014). The American Community College. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Guided Pathways: Improving completion and showing students the way to success, Vol. 6, issue At Issue. (2016) Retrieved form https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/administration/academicaffairs/extendedinternational/cledership/alliance/documents/AtIssue-2016_GuidedPathways.pdfE

Implementing Guided Pathways at Miami Dade College: A Case Study. (2015). Community College Research Center. Retrieved from Jameson-Meledy, K. (2016). Structured College Pathways. Citrus College Institute for Completion (IFC) Research Brief, No. 5. Retrieved from        http://www.citruscollege.edu/ifc/Documents/RB/04.2016RB.pdf

Jenkins, D & Cho, S. (2014) Get with the program…and finish it: Building guided pathways to accelerate student completion. Retrieved from Miami Dade College History. (n.d.). Miami Dade Fact Book Web Links. Retrieved from https://www.mdc.edu/ir/Fact%20Book/history.pdf

Miami Dade College Organizational Chart. (n.d.). [Graph Illustration] Miami Dade Fact Book Web Links. Retrieved from https://www.mdc.edu/ir/Fact%20Book/orgcharts.pdf

Nevarez, C., & Wood, Luke, J. (2010). Community College Leadership and Administration: Theory Practice and Change. Washington, DC: Peter Lang.

Shaughnessy, M.F. (2013, April 15). An interview with Joel Spring: Are we racing to the top or sinking? Education News. Retrieved from http://www.educationviews.org/an-interview-with-joel-spirng-are-we-racing-to-the-top-or-sinking-to-the-bottom/

What we know about Guided Pathways. (2016). Community College Research Center. Retrieved from http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/what-we-know-about-guided-pathways- packet.html

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Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a doctoral student at Morgan State University in the Higher Education/Community College Leadership Development Program. She is founder of So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA), Liberated Muse Arts Group and the College Media Arts and Communication Association.  She can be reached at info@liberatedmuse.com

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Community Colleges as Cultural Texts by Shaw, Valadez & Rhoads


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Community Colleges as Cultural Texts (Shaw, Valadez & Rhoads, 1999) has already proven to be a valuable resource for my continued studies.  Offering different approaches to the concept of identity, social justice and culture, each chapter, authored by different scholars, critically analyzes the way identity and culture shapes the ways colleges relate to their student populations. The chapter titled, “The politics of culture and identity: contrasting images of multiculturalism and monoculturalism,” by UCLA professor Robert A. Rhoads, is the chapter  reviewed for this essay.

The major idea Rhoads’ chapter offered is that community college leaders need to understand that students thrive within an environment that not only acknowledges difference among their student population, but legitimizes the cultural difference among the student population by acknowledging the culture of the people as normative within their learning environment. This normalizing goes beyond mere inclusion and happens when students are given opportunities to share, express, and contribute to the learning environment as valuable resources who are expected to add their perspectives to the learning landscape. As Rhoads believes, “we need to recognize that teaching and learning is a contextualized process in which certain cultural forms become legitimized through their inclusion or delegitimized through their absence” (Rhoads, p. 121).

Rhoads (1999) explained his main idea in his research-based essay by illustrating with qualitative data from his study of Western Community College that who we are, or believe ourselves to be, shapes the way that we interact with others on a daily basis. If a college employee perceives the behaviors and choices of their students as being less than desirable, then, that college employee is automatically inclined to attribute those perceived behaviors as definitive of the culture from which that student comes.

Rhoads (1999) presented this as a power dynamic that works to the detriment of the student who does not have the authority to counter the bias of the college employee, and who may not even be aware that this perception is shaping the way in which this college employee is relaying information about opportunities, or even making choices when teaching information.  Rhoads (1999) stated that, “the assumptions we have of the other (and necessarily ourselves) are revealed through the educational interactions and endeavors we adopt in relation to our students” (p. 107).

I was trained in Advancing Youth Development (AYD) theory in 2005 while working in the nonprofit sector and became familiar with the term “adultism”, bias favoring adults over youth that rang familiar when reading this part of Rhoads’ chapter. Although all of our students may not be youth when becoming students, they are more likely to be treated as less capable than the college employee providing the service, with rare exceptions that are often due to the students’ visible alignment with what the college employee deems worthy to acknowledge. My training in AYD has impacted greatly the work that I do currently as a college administrator, equipping me with the training to acknowledge my students as participants in their learning experience. This means that their experiences that have shaped them to who they are now are useful in shaping their future and contributing to the learning environment during their matriculation. I create learning environments that encourage sharing, expression, and inquiry.

Another point that Rhoads (1999) addressed was the need for docility be present or a cultural shedding to take place for students of diverse cultural background to be perceived as a worthy student. Rhoads summarizes that an imbalance of power exists within the learning environment and all too often students of color are expected to disconnect from their culture in order to fit in to the Eurocentric paradigm in order to be considered for access to opportunity within the campus community. Despite the often diverse make-up of college campuses, the faculty and staff do not reflect such diversity. So, what happens is the student population that contains people who reflect diverse value models, cultural traditions, abilities, and experiences are crunched into the narrow lens of the faculty who may or may not have respect, interest or useful need for the values, traditions, abilities and experiences of their students. Therefore, the students may or may not lose out on opportunities that could widen their possibilities as students and as graduates, and the college employee remains trapped inside their limited belief about the student who is different from them because “culture not only establishes the parameters for social interaction, it also provides a framework for how we define ourselves in relation to others. Definitions of the self and the other contribute to how identities are represented and understood” (Rhoades, (1999), p. 106).

This last point of Rhoads’ resonated strongest because even within the HBCU I work and the community college I used to work at for three years, where both faculty and students are majority of African descent, cultural bias is rampant, requiring students to adopt a capitalist Euro-American persona to be successful as a student and in the world of work. At the HBCU, any of the college employees are graduates of the school and have continued a cycle that demands the disassociation of cultural markers to ensure success. In observing this, I have seen how the campus community misses benefiting from some of the cultural practices that could possibly impact for the better matriculation rates among all students if incorporated into programming and policy and could connect students to a richer classroom experience if the faculty were trained in ways to approach teaching from a culturally inclusive perspective.

I believe that Rhoads’ essay explores the ways that identity is used against the student as a learner as it positions them into a position of vulnerability. This positioning impacts any ability the student has to advocate for themselves and colors the way they view themselves as agents of change implementing actions of social justice.


Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a doctoral student at Morgan State University in the Higher Education/Community College Leadership Development Program. She is founder of So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA), Liberated Muse Arts Group and the College Media Arts and Communication Association.  She can be reached at info@liberatedmuse.com

SOYA offers reviews of resources helpful for the youth development specialist, educator and parent seeking tools to  use to successfully create spaces of inquiry, synthesis and development for young people. If you would like SOYA to review your book, article, etc. please email info@liberatedmuse.com

A School Wish-List From a Public School Parent


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My lovely daughter in 3rd grade in 2011

As a social entrepreneur working many roles—from college instructor to arts administrator, I have a lot going on during the day to keep me busy. When my third-grader used to come home after school, the last thing I needed to worry about was how effective a job her school was doing in teaching her in a safe and educational environment. It should be a given. But, sometimes, it’s not.
While I actively engage my daughter at home with learning resources—we frequent the library often, I teach her social media platforms and with her dad, a fellow technophile, we give her access to new technology—I didn’t always feel confident that she was getting all that she should be getting from her neighborhood school. Eventually, we took her out of school and home-schooled her for her 5th and 6th grade years.

KhariDress2
My 11 year-old ready for 7th grade at a new school in the Fall after two years of being home-schooled

Well, she auditioned for a performing arts school in May and got it (yay!) and will be going back to public school in the Fall. I began writing a list of some of the things I wished could be a guarantee for my daughter’s school and took to Facebook and Twitter to ask other parents to weigh in. I wanted to see if other parents had some of the same woes that I had before and am a bit worried about with school and I also wanted to hear about some things that I may not be privy to. All in all, there over a dozen things that came up, but here are the top 3 that made my list.
1. Smaller Student/Counselor Ratio
We know that class sizes in public schools are expanding with some classroom almost bursting at the seams. This surge in students doesn’t only impact burdened teachers who now have to manage large classrooms of students who extend outside the numbers of best practices. But other school personnel are impacted as well, in particular, guidance counselors.
Single mother Rayona Y. who has children who attend Baltimore County schools wrote,
“My son is only a sophomore, but I see the senior counselor struggling so much, trying to handle all of her graduates– their transcripts, colleges, etc. Having more than one counselor would relieve that pressure, and stop the underclassmen counselors from neglecting their students to help the senior counselor out.”
2. Better Communication With Parents
Prince George’s County, Maryland mom Keba S. answered my Facebook question of “What Would Go On Your Wish List for Your Child’s School” short and succinctly when she wrote, “Consistency, Better Communication and Better Structure.”
As a fellow PG County parent, I co-sign this request. My daughter started public school in PG County in 2010 for 2nd grade after being schooled in private school in her early years. The immediate shock was realizing how hard it was to communicate with the teachers. They aren’t allowed to talk to you during the school day during their planning period, they can’t talk to you before school and unless an appointment is made you probably won’t hear from them apart from that one scheduled Back-to-School Night that is scheduled early in the year.
This lack of communication makes it challenging for parents to find out information about their children to be pro-active regarding any potential issues that may crop up. It also restricts parents access to the school community , blocking efforts to build necessary rapport with those who interact with their children.
3. Stop Teaching to Test
And, while we all see the necessity of measuring performance outcomes, one parent echoed my sentiment that the teaching to test mentality has got to go.

Anne Arundel County, Maryland mom Quineice C. wrote, “Smaller classes, fewer standardized tests and better Arts programs. My son is intelligent, but he really struggles with the standardized tests (e.g. MSA’s).”
What would go on your wish list? Add it in the comment section.

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Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer, educator and performance artist, founder of Liberated Muse Arts Group. Learn more at KhadijahOnline.com

Update on Ohio Mom Jailed for Choosing School for Children


With Hollywood knocking on her door, Kelley Williams-Bolar will be marking 2014 as the year that her story is finally told in summation.

In 2011, Williams-Bolar was jailed for sending her two daughters to school in a predominately White school district in which her father lived. This year, audiences will be able to get a more in-depth look behind-the-scenes when her story is brought to life with her upcoming book, The Kelly Williams-Bolar Story set for an April  release and a movie, directed by Stephen Stix Josey and starring Garrett Morris and A Different World’s Charnele Brown, who will portray Williams-Bolar.

Black Men, College & Jail: Debunking the myths while addressing the challenges to Black male college graduation rates


 
Last year, Dr. Ivory Toldson wrote an article for The Root, dispelling the notion that higher numbers of Black males were in jail instead of in college. But, it took over a decade for his factual information to overshadow the myth that there are more Black males in jail than in college. It was the lie that just wouldn’t quit.
Why did we believe it?
In the 2007 book Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath assert that some messages stick better than others because they appear more concrete, concise and credible. When then-Senator Barack Obama asserts in a speech in 2007 during an NAACP event that “We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America,”—folks believe it because they trust the source. Also, the message is concise and straight to the point. Even if the point is faulty.
Finally, the message is concrete. It gives you a goal to strive for. More Black men in jail, less in college. Jail is bad, college is good. Let’s create more opportunities for Black men to make it to college. The disproportionate number of Blacks in jail then becomes irrelevant. Facts like how the prison industrial complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States become forgettable.
But, it’s time to wake-up and embrace the truth. The truth is that the number of Black men in college in 2011 was over one million when compared to the less than 900,000 in jail.  With that truth, however, is the grim reality that, while Black men are attending college in higher numbers than those becoming imprisoned within the prison-industrial complex, a break-down is occurring when it comes to Black men moving from becoming college attendees to becoming college graduates. So, alas, another myth exists—the myth that Black male success automatically equals a college education.
Here are three facts illustrating the reality about Black men and four-year colleges:
1.      The majority of Black male college students attend a for-profit college or university. Dr. Toldson’s research indicates that the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution, reported that 21,802 Black males were enrolled in 2011, making it the nation’s top enroller of black male students that year and since. For-profit colleges and universities, when compared to public and private institutions of higher learning, spend less than 18 percent of their budgets on teaching faculty and educational support necessary to help students academically succeed.
2.      Most Black men are not graduating college within six years or at all. Black males are getting to college. But, many are not graduating. The majority of Black men who attend college are not graduating. Dr. Toldson asserts that if the more than one million Black males who are enrolled in college graduate, they would increase the number of Black males with college degrees by more than 70 percent.
3.      Black males who don’t graduate, experience financial struggle with college loan debt. Without a degree, the challenge to find substantial work increases, particularly if unpaid school loans increase the financial burden. According to articles like this one in Salon.com, the colleges the majority of Black males attend are burying them in a lifetime of debt while not successfully graduating them.
It’s necessary to stress the difference in attending college and graduating from college. It is likely, therefore, that we assume more Black males are in prison when we know that they are not earning their degrees at equal pace with Black women. But, we can address the challenges Black men encounter with college without resorting to deceptive myths that do nothing but continue to pathologize Black male achievement.
Ways that we can challenge the myths while supporting the Black college-bound males in our lives include:
1.      Support pre-college knowledge building while in high school. Ensure that college prep activities for Black boys (and girls) while in high school aren’t merely focused on academic rigor, but inclusive of encouraging skill-building in communication and resource-seeking. Studies show that student success in college is dependent on a student’s ability to communicate with their professors, seek and use appropriate student support services and understand their individual program requirements.
2.      Before enrolling in an institute of higher education, get educated on school’s retention and graduation data. Every school has an office that gathers data and offers programming to support graduation and retaining students from dropping out. A school’s record on retention speaks loudly about what services and supports are offered to ensure students are not failing or dropping out before graduation. Your decision to attend a school should be impacted by the school’s commitment to graduating you.
3.      Make sure college is necessary. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports that Black males with a bachelor’s degree make less than 80 percent of the median income of White males with the same level of education. Falando Thomas, a Maryland-based visual artist who attended the for-profit Art Institute of Washington briefly before leaving refers to for-profit higher education schools as “McSchools” and says it is important to understand the norms of your field before assuming college—any college—is necessary to be successful. He left the Art Institute after securing a job as a graphic artist for a company that was more impressed with his expertise and work portfolio than whether he had a degree in the field.
In short, unpacking the myth of “more black men in prison than college” should not suggest that college is necessarily in one’s best interest. Sometimes the outcomes of the prison-industrial complex and the for-profit education-industrial-complex bear results strikingly similar. But, there are definite ways to challenge the myths and stay encouraged that Black males have as great a chance as anyone to find their own personal successes when they understand the challenges and equip themselves the best way possible to navigate through.
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a Communication Studies professor and home-schooling parent. She can be found on Twitter at @SOYAOnline.

Teach Your Kids the Truth– Learning is Ongoing!


Came across a wonderful post, Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers, on the Department of Education’s website and decided to leave a post. Here’s what I wrote:

Just returned from a wonderful four-day vacation in Sarasota, FL with my 8 year-old as we traveled in search of the nation’s best beach, Siesta Key. Amidst a vacation of beach time fun, pooling and chilling, we toured the city’s library, museum and science center offerings as we always do when we visit a new town. Sarasota has a wonderful marine life community of learning for young kids and our vacation ultimately became wonderful field trip of science learning which always involves applying reading (and sometimes dormant math skills).

As other posters have already said, learning is ongoing. A child need not travel outside of their own town to apply what they learned in the classroom. What parents should understand is that regardless of your financial status, you have the power to turn your time with your child into an exploratory field trip. Whether it’s a trip to the local library where your challenge your child to set a book reading goal and reach it by summer’s end or you have them pick a summer theme and you plan trips, activities and conversations around it. Our trip to Sarasota inadvertently became a marine life themed trip due to the prevalence of experiential opportunities around us.

One thing I want to stress is that reading is not separate from science is not separate from math is not separate from art, etc. Our children always have an area of emphasis that they respond to best of all and it is our job as parents to use that as the attracting factor to engage them while including all disciplines into the pot to ensure that our children are well-rounded and able to build skills in synthesis and analysis. If the message is that learning is fun and ongoing, then pretty soon they won’t need us parents to initiate the process– they will be too busy doing it on their own!

My daughter and I had a ball in Sarasota and for me, the joy was seeing her apply her learning skills throughout our vacation in a way that was seamless and enjoyable for her. As a parent, that is best outcome that can be achieved when it comes to public education. Here are some photos from our vacation:

Touching a stingray at Mote Aquarium
Fun in the sand on Siesta Key beach
Making waves at the hotel’s pool
Visiting the local library to update her blog and check out missed footage of Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas
At G Wiz Science Center learning about the tools medical students use to learn about the human body
An aspiring vet, she is learning about what vets use to learn about animal bodies
At G Wiz Science Center playing with an electric ball
The amazing aquarium in the Selby Library in Sarasota, FL
Collecting mollusk shells on Lido Key beach
Jelly fish world at Mote Aquarium
Massive turtles at Mote Aquarium