UChicago Consortium Anniversary — Panel Discussion: High School and University Perspectives

UChicago Consortium Anniversary — Panel Discussion: High School and University Perspectives


ALAN MATHER: This is a great joy
for me because, in my 10 years I had as principal,
there was no research, no bit of data that was any
more important than that which came from the Consortium. So this is a thrill,
and it’s a thrill to be here with my
colleagues and share some of the innovative
practices they’ve had. You have their bios
in your folder, so I’m not going to go through
and read each of those. But I do want to
introduce Kevin Gallick. He’s the principal at
George Washington High School down in alphabet
land on the Southeast Side. Gregory Jones, the principal
at Kenwood Academy, not too far from the Consortium. And Brian Spittle,
Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management
and Marketing at DePaul. We’re going to jump
right in to the questions and to give the
most time for that. So first for Greg
and Kevin, could you highlight one or two innovative
practices in your school that help students apply,
enroll, and succeed in college? GREGORY L. JONES:
At Kenwood, I think one practice that works well
for us is three parts, actually. It starts with the
Senior Conference that’s largely led by the
school counselors that capture all of the performance
data for students over time. So they meet one to
one with each senior, along with the parents. This starts in early August. And it transitions to
a senior-parent night in which the data that’s shared
by the Consortium, and also school data, is provided
to parents in collaboration with the school counseling team. And the third part is when we
start to package the seniors, and in which they work closely
with our post-secondary team, which consists primarily
of two leaders, but also supported
by senior leadership and also support staff. And that works, really look
at the match for students as it relates to their
particular schools, but also the fit. And over time we’ve
noticed at Kenwood is that one, and through the
support of the Consortium, is that we know where Kenwood
students have been successful. And so our experience
with students is not only packaging them
for particular institutions around the country,
but also when we create our post-secondary
college tour, which is largely about 40 schools a year, we
ensure that we take and visit schools where Kenwood students
have been successful, one. But second but
equally important is, we look at the
individual student. So if a student has a 2.4
grade point average and below and and a 16 ACT
score, and we’ve had a percentage of students
successful at this type of school, we visit those
schools and spend a lot of time on a campus where current
Kenwood students are enrolled who had a similar background. One, it builds the
confidence for students to look at someone who has
a similar package and say, I can be successful
like this student. But more importantly,
there is quantitative data that’s provided by
the Consortium that states that Kenwood
students with this GPA, ACT score, social
economic background, has been successful at this
particular institution. So that practice
for us works, is positioning us to better
serve our senior class. KEVIN GALLICK: Hi. So what Washington High
School, far Southeast Side, a little bit different
than Kenwood. Because Kenwood has
probably a long tradition of working on these problems. And really, Washington
High School didn’t. Where it’s situated,
we just weren’t working on getting kids to college. A decent work around
getting kids to graduate. So I think we do a lot of
really intentional student level things. Now we have an awesome
post-secondary team that we’ve built over
the last 3 and 1/2 years. But when I think about
the work that we started, I almost think about
a shock to the system. And that meant that like adults,
local school council members, everyone kind of had to
realize that there was actually a problem that we we’re a little
bit behind the eight ball on. Only one in three kids were
graduating and going to college at Washington when
I got hired there. And so that was a
little bit scary. And it was also the work
only of five counselors. And they were kind of
hanging their heads because they knew about this
but hadn’t really dealt with it. So the intentional support
side, I think initially, shock to the system in trying
to get the whole community thinking that college
was actually something that our kids wanted and needed. So our post-secondary
team leader Tony Malcolm, who is here, instituted a lot
of rituals, school level rituals that would start
getting people to think that college was possible. So the first year, it’s
a lot of support, Allan, working at the senior level. Like really selling
people on like college is something that
we should be doing. Because believe it or not, there
was some pushback at first. Could our kids do this? Was this for all of our
kids or just our IB kids? But now we have very
sophisticated supports that really started
coming in the second year. We have a lot of financial
resources put into it. Like Greg, we’ve got
a post-secondary team that’s comprised of
teachers, counselors, post-secondary coaches, and
all three administrators. We have a big part of
our budget invested. I’ve got– and
external resources. We have post-secondary
coaches that do a lot of work, but we’re not trying
to just deliver these services
beginning senior year. We’re really trying to do that
intentional support, especially junior year. And now in our
fourth year, we’re seeing it’s getting like
organically at the classroom level because teachers
are so involved. Last week, we had
writing workshops on a professional
development day. Well, one of the
writing workshops that our teachers
delivered for each other was, how do we support kids to
write the personal statement. So it’s bleeding into the
instructional culture, actually at Washington. But we’ve still got
a long way to go. But a lot of the same
things that Greg said. Focus on data, determining
where kids are in the process, and not leaving it up to chance. Tracking students along the way. And you know, like
right now we’re very eager to see how
did last year’s class do. Because we won’t
know until December, and we’re excited to find out. ALAN MATHER: Everyone
holds their breath for the clearinghouse
data, I know. Brian, could you highlight
some of the practices that help DePaul students
complete their requirements and graduate? BRIAN SPITTLE: Sure. Does this work, or mic? Amazing. Yeah. Let me do a quick
disclaimer first. I’m speaking on
behalf of DePaul. I’m not even sure I can
speak on behalf of DePaul. But I’m here. I didn’t ask anyone. I just showed up. But there are number of
other higher ed institutions in the room, and I
think there’s really a lot of good work
going on in higher ed, in terms of trying to
improve graduation rates. But here’s the bad news. If you look back over 50
years of working in retention and graduation in American
colleges and universities, you see not much improvement
in overall graduation rates, right? Very little. In fact the latest
clearinghouse data tends to show that maybe
it’s getting worse. Maybe graduation rates
have slipped a little bit in the last year or two. So that’s, I mean I think
at the same time of course, the population that’s
been involved in higher ed has changed completely. There’s been a huge expansion. And you’ve got a vastly shifting
social and economic climate. So I mean, you know,
these institutions don’t, we don’t
operate in a vacuum. But I do think that it’s
really hard within a higher ed institution to
shift these rates. We’ve been involved in
this process at DePaul for many, many years now,
and we have seen a change. If you go back 20
years at DePaul, our graduation rates were
around 60% or a little less. Now they’re over 70%. You won’t find many
institutions that have shifted like that
over that period of time. And that’s been an
intentional process. Let me also say that, and I’ll
refer this particularly to CPS students because we have a
large number of CPS students at DePaul, and over half of
them are from students outside of the selective
enrollment schools. So that data that I
just gave you also applies to CPS students. Our CPS graduation
rate very much tracks the overall
institution rate. There isn’t a big gap. There is not a big gap. In fact, you can see that in
the To to Through research. So just a couple of things. I think part of what we’ve been
involved with is an attempt to rethink some of
the, what I would say are some of the
dominant assumptions around retention that you
find at the college level. I’ll name one. That’s the concept
of persistence, that what we’re trying to
do is improve persistence from year to year. The data that we
look at at DePaul tends to show that
persistence actually isn’t the best predictor of
long term graduation rates. Just showing up, and that’s
not a small achievement to some extent, but just
showing up from year to year may mask underlying issues
around academic achievement or credit accumulation that are
really the drivers of long term graduation. So we’ve placed a
focus on graduation rather than just improving
retention from year to year. And that’s part of, I think,
why our rates have gone up. Because when you
do that, you start to ask different
questions about what it is that you can do
to intervene to improve student’s chances
of graduation, not just showing up the next year. I’ll mention one
program in particular, and that is our FYAS program,
First Year Academic Success program, which focuses
particularly on math– not exclusively, but particularly. And one of the things
that we’ve seen there is that
historically, we do have students that
need extra help to get into mainstream
math courses by the time they get to DePaul. As many institutions do, we
have courses that a student can do to achieve that. But one of the
things we’ve tried to do over the last few
years is back up as much of that into the summer
before a student enrolls at the university, offer
those courses for free, so that a student
actually starts, really hits the ground running
when they start in the Fall. What’s the idea there? I mean, there’s an obvious
benefit to that, I guess. But again, it’s getting away
from that notion of persistence and focusing more on
progress to degree, because you’ve got
to meet the sort of prerequisite and other
kinds of requirements to get into key
course trajectories. If you want to stay on
track at the college level, and we talk– we don’t
use that language, but we use very
similar concepts– then that initial
sort of getting into those key courses in the
freshman year is very critical. You’re going to see– I’ll
leave it at that for the moment. The other pieces
I’d like to mention is, and I think again,
it involves something of a rethinking, is
looking at students at the very highest end of
the achievement spectrum coming in from CPS and
in other schools that are under resourced, low income
populations, first generation populations. Very often they think
colleges look at such students in limited terms. But the key goal is
to limit attrition or to get them
through to graduation. But some of these students are
capable of the very highest levels of achievement. And one example
I’ll give at DePaul, and other institutions in
the room have it as well, is a federal McNair
program that works with low income, first
generation students and prepares them
for doctoral study. Not just graduate school,
doctoral study, Ph.D. And we have now built a pathway
from the freshman year, working with IB students coming
in from Chicago neighborhood schools, into that
program so that we’re seeing figures of
70% of these students going on to doctoral programs. We’ve had our first
student, who is a former IB student here in Chicago,
just complete his doctorate. And I think this kind
of thing– I mean, all right, the numbers
we’re talking about are relatively small, about
60 probably over four years– but I think that
changes the face of what we mean by intersecting
access with achievement. And this is something that I
think many universities have yet to fully wrestle with. Some of these students can be
our highest achieving students, and that’s something I think
that needs much more attention at the college level. But I think I’ll
leave it at that. ALAN MATHER: And
those of us who have IB schools in our portfolio
love to hear that. So that’s good. We are here celebrating 25
years of the Consortium, so this is to any of you. How has the Consortium’s
research kind of influenced your
thinking or practices? GREGORY L. JONES: Well,
at Kenwood, the research has showed us that we’re not
as good as we think we are. So one– and Penny and I talked
about this earlier– your work around Freshman on
Track has pushed, which is a good thing, more
students to the senior year. And which is our
school model has been built for roughly 330
seniors projected to graduate. Meaning that the
supports that we provide, particularly in preparation
for post-secondary enrollment, is for roughly 280 students. Now we’re looking
at 378, 380 seniors, and we’re just
starting to adjust. And at Kenwood, we’ve noticed
that our college enrollment rate has become flat. And the data
revealed this summer, which was somewhat alarming,
that students at Kenwood below a 2.5 grade
point average, we weren’t capturing in large
numbers for college enrollment. When it got around a 2.1,
it was really a challenge. So two solutions. One solution is improve the
grade point average, which is, I think, is something for us
is more system-wide that we’re working on. But also, you’re always
going to have pockets of students that’s
not performing at the level in
which we would like. Probably early
freshmen, sophomore year where there’s some challenges. So how we’re supporting that
population, which over time, we haven’t been very successful. And lastly, the
research has, and I mentioned this, is for instance,
75% of Kenwood students that attend the University of
Illinois actually graduate. That’s super important
knowing that when we start to package students for
colleges and sit with families that we’re informed where
our students are successful. Now there are other
schools where they are not, and I don’t think
this is the platform to mention, to talk about those. But they’re no longer
part of our portfolio. So the research is amazing,
and we share with our parents. Eliza knows that we’re always
asking for things through Sara and Mary Ann, so it’s
very helpful for us. KEVIN GALLICK: I actually think
the work the Consortium has done has had a huge impact. It’s had a huge
impact on my practice, and I work with a lot
of principals like Greg. And I know, what
I think it’s done it’s really helped
focus our work. I was a teacher at Cen
High School teaching freshman a little bit
over 10 years ago, and we had a really like
focused attention on students. We met in pods of teachers. We were worried about
what was going on in their lives and stuff. You know what? But we weren’t really
tracking anything. I didn’t even know until
after I left Cen High School that the graduation
rate was like 50%. I didn’t even know that. We just weren’t looking at it. So what has the
Consortium’s work done? It’s helped focus the work
on manageable chunks of work. But then like Greg said,
I think with this new To and Through report, it
starts messying it again. So it’s focusing, I mean, the
On Track work alone is so huge. Right? For us to actually be able
to talk to a family now, I can actually talk to a family
in my school and I can say, when you send your
child here, we’re going to keep an
eye on your child. And I’m going to be able to know
at 5 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, whether your child is
progressing towards graduation. And guess what? We do the same thing
their sophomore year. So we’re not allowing
things to go to chance. And so like On Track
really focused the work. And like the Potholes
research, when Tony was launching our
post-secondary team 3 and 1/2 years ago,
really Tony didn’t know what to do at first. And so he grounded
the work, his work, first in thinking about
leading a team in that Potholes research. OK? And then when a group of
people came to the table and it was like
12 people to begin working on developing the
college going culture, it was that Potholes report
that helped shape the vision and helped us realize what
we should be working on. But I tell you, when we look
at that To and Through report this summer, I mean
it’s not a shock. It’s not a shock, but we are
focused around getting kids to complete freshman year. We’re really focused on getting
kids to enroll in college. But exactly what’s the
connection between what we’re doing in our classrooms
and in our school right now to get kids to
graduate from college, I’m not sure if we really know. We’re betting that our IB
program is really important. We’re betting that
advanced academic programs are really important. But we don’t really know. And we also don’t know
about the supports that, the social supports that
need to be provided to our kids after they graduate
so they can continue to navigate the system. We had so many kids this year
who went to city colleges on the Star Scholarship who
would have gone to a four year college if they would
have had the money. So they went there and they’re
actually academically very, very capable kids. But if they don’t get the right
social supports from the city colleges and from our high
school and from foundations, then are these kids going
to move from a city college to a four year university? Are they going to be
able to navigate that? I don’t know. So still a lot of work to do. BRIAN SPITTLE: All right. I’ll say a couple things. Of course, the Consortium work
is largely at the high school level, but there are
a couple of things that, the use of data and
using institutional data are serious questions
about your own practice and what you’re doing on
campus is absolutely critical. I remember very well looking
at CPS data at DePaul when, I think it was a
Consortium report that came out a few years ago, which indicated
very nicely that DePaul had a very high graduation
rate for CPS students. And I got a call from the
Sun Times, I think it was, asking me why that was the case. And I said I had
absolutely no idea. And that was the headline
in the next issue. But anyway, better
forgotten, I think. But after that, we got together
and thought, well, we really ought to know more about this. We really looked at CPS as an
aggregate, the CPS aggregate. Well, really CPS is sort
of an interesting fiction from a college point of view. I mean, you’ve got
selective schools, you’ve got magnet
schools, you’ve got neighborhood schools,
you’ve got charter schools, you’ve got all kinds of things. Unless you can just aggregate
that and look at those, look at those categories
of schools separately, you’re not going to understand
much about your CPS population on campus. So we’ve been doing
that for some time now and I think it’s been
a huge benefit to us in understanding how to
improve the experience for those students. ALAN MATHER: I have to ask,
does everyone know what the Star Scholarship is, the reference? OK. Yes, no, there
are a few nods no. Any Chicago student
who graduates with a 17 on the ACT and a 3.0 GPA
has a associate’s degree paid for at city colleges. And one of the things we
often talk about in schools, and this gets to the match
and all the good stuff, is the best college you
can go to is the best college you can afford. And so there’s always
the navigating to of how do you find
those best places, but also how do you afford them. And are there special
things that you do there you think that really
help students kind of weigh that? GREGORY L. JONES:
For us, it’s really trying to get more Kenwood
students on college campuses around the country. And really quickly,
I think for us is how do we develop
more revenue stream outside of the local school
in our community to help get, instead of 75 students visiting
schools, 200 or 300 students. And I would hope that the
universities here in Chicago, but across the state
are able to work closely with your department around
getting more of Chicago Public School students an opportunity
to go visit schools. And it shouldn’t just be
at the sole responsibility of the local school. KEVIN GALLICK: I
think at Washington, I know personally,
I was very naive. I didn’t realize how much
of a barrier money was. I was some stupid white
boy from the suburbs. I thought every kid
who has academic, is academically eligible is
going to get into a college and the money is
going to be there. And it was like,
wow, once we dug into this work we started
learning that actually that’s not true. And we’re having kids
get into Champagne-Urbana but they can’t go there because
their family can’t afford it. So I think one of
the main things that we’ve worked on
other than, of course, exposure– but the
exposure is just like increasing the demand–
but obviously getting kids to apply to
the right schools, and a variety of schools. Because kids are
finding out, wow, Iowa is giving more money
this year, or Nebraska is giving more money,
but a lot of intentional supports for our students
around scholarship acquisition. Now we’re not just
sending our kids downtown to apply for a scholarship. We are coaching them
before they do it. Because otherwise we were just
setting them up for success. And we have had massive
growth in scholarships. And we had like $2.2
million four years ago, last year, $10 million, I
mean this year, it could be like $15 or $20 million. But the money is so
critically important because our kids are capable. ALAN MATHER: I also think
we got to a point where, and I don’t think it
happens as much anymore, where colleges would
say, oh, the high schools aren’t preparing them. The high schools would
say the elementary schools aren’t preparing them. And the elementary schools
would say, oh, those parents, they aren’t doing anything. And you know, this
goes all the way down. So we have high schools
and university here on the stage together. Is there anything
from the high school perspective you would
want to say about, to Brian, like this is what
you could do to support? Or for Brian, you know,
what the high schools could do to better prepare– BRIAN SPITTLE: I was told I
could leave at this point. ALAN MATHER: We only
have a few minutes, too. Sorry. KEVIN GALLICK: Well,
we already know that DePaul is doing
an exceptional job with our students at Washington. There’s a few schools in
the city that are really successful with our kids. And so the fact that we can,
like Greg was saying, help inform a family
that some schools are doing a really good job. But I think we also need to
somehow support universities to get really focused on
the data, just like we are, and develop the support systems
at the university level. And I know that that’s exactly
what the federal government is supporting them to do. GREGORY L. JONES: I would
suggest just additional support with the social, emotional
needs of young people. Pre-college enrollment,
meaning that, and earlier you talked about the
work that you guys do with students
over the summer, prior to the start of school. But knowing that Chicago
students are entering schools across the state, but
also across the country, with a range of needs. And I just think
oftentimes those needs are ignored similar to they
are ignored in a high school. So I would hope that
we’re supporting students once they exit our buildings
and enter a college campus. ALAN MATHER: Anything
from you, Brian? BRIAN SPITTLE: Just
to respond to that, I think that’s a critical piece. We do, we have many hundreds
of CPS students on campus through the year, and
particularly in the summer. And we’re quite
intentional about trying to create pathways for
some of those students into DePaul and into
higher education generally. So I think that’s
a critical piece. ALAN MATHER: Well, it’s
this sort of conversation that I think will help
move things along, too. So we are grateful
to our panelists. Please join me in thanking
our panelists today. JENNY NAGAOKA : So
for the past 25 years, the Consortium has really
made conducting research that’s meaningful,
actionable, and accessible, an essential part
of our mission. You know, Elaine
had described how building the capacity of
adults to work together matters more than
individual qualities of individual
teachers or leaders in really improving schools, and
how this capacity building is really essential if we hope
to address the inequities that already exist in our city. So the Consortium
over the past 25 years has really sought to build the
capacity– oh, can you hear me? Oh, I’m not speaking. I’m sorry. OK, well now I’m actually
speaking into the mic. It’s a problem with
being my height. It’s a little harder to
actually reach the mic, and I can’t tell if
you can hear me or not. So the Consortium
has really sought to build the capacity
of schools to problem solve and address
the issues that they face in identifying what matters
for student success and school improvement, and
creating indicators to chart their progress. We’ve really understood
the critical role that measurement plays
in providing data as a way of linking our research
findings to schools so they can really understand the meaning
of our research findings in a way that makes
sense to them. And that’s really
what we’re trying to do through this To
and Through project. You know, this has
really been a way for us to formalize this idea
of making, of translating our research findings
into ways that are really meaningful to
schools so they can see what is happening to them,
the using data of it, so that we can actually
start to address the problems in a way
that really makes sense. So this is not an approach that
the Consortium is doing alone. We always have the
importance of our partners, both within UIE through
U-Chicago Impact and the Communications Group. This has also been a
really exciting opportunity to formalize our relationship
with the Network for College Success and all of their
work in helping translate our research through
data and really making it meaningful to
schools as they are trying to problem solve with
all the different issues that they’re facing
on a day to day basis. So this idea that building
the capacity of schools through research to be
more effective, you know, it’s been a part
of the Consortium from the very beginning. You’ve heard a lot today
already about the five essential supports and
the book on organizing schools for improvement. So today, U-Chicago Impact
is providing this data to, as Sara mentioned, cities
and states and students across the country. But this is something actually
that the Consortium has been doing since the early ’90s. We’ve done a lot better
at this, obviously, but this whole idea that
it’s really critical to find a way for our research
to make sense to schools and really showing how our
research findings play out has been with us from
the very beginning. Again, you’ve heard a lot
about Freshmen on Track today, and in the body
of work that talks about the importance of the
transition to high school. What you might not
know, though, is that the origins of
On Track, actually this is making John
very happy here, actually came from an
individual school report. We had practitioners
come to us and saying that they wanted a
way to understand the performance of students
before high school graduation. And we knew about the
importance of the transition to high school and the potential
detrimental effects of failure. And so we developed
the On Track indicator, and so we were able to help
elementary schools look at the performance
of their students as they entered high school, how
they were doing in 9th grade, and if they ultimately
graduated or dropped out. And this is also the first
place where we actually saw that relationship
between the 9th grade On Track indicator and
high school graduation. So this goes way, way back. So you know, today the
To and Through project, and Elaine also
talked about this, it builds off a
large body of work that we have that was
led by Melissa Roderick, looking at the transition
from high school to college. You know, and it
really told us a lot about this inner connection
between high school performance and college going culture and
the importance of actually have guiding students
through the process of making college choices. And also about thinking
about this inner connection between high school graduation,
college enrollment, and college graduation. And so in December, a lot
of you attended our event where we released the
first piece of work for the To and Through project
where we showed the district trends about what’s going on
around educational attainment on different key milestones. And then, Elaine
also mentioned this, but by the end of
the year we will be making public the reports
that Kevin and Greg mentioned about the ones that
they kind of gave them a little bit of news that
didn’t necessarily make them as happy as they would like. But these will
actually the public by the end of the school
year so people can really start to see also what’s going
on in schools across the city. Another big part of this
project is the Online Tool that is being produced
by U-Chicago Impact. So up to now, a lot of the work
that the Consortium has done has really focused on school
reports that were really meant for a school audience. With this Online
Tool that is actually being released to
high school principals the end of this week, will be
made public early next year. And this is really
a way for the public to start understanding the
patterns of what’s going on within schools,
really understanding some of the patterns
that Greg talked about about the
performance of students within schools, at different
achievement levels, across demographics. It’s also a way
that allows people to compare across schools. Because we see, it’s obvious
that the role of schools is really central to
this work, but all of us as a community across the
city also play a huge role. We want to make sure that
the data and the tools are available to
everybody who is engaged in this piece of work.

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