Part 1/Week 2: “The Future is Here”- Educational Equality

Excerpts From Kay McClenney’s 2004 article, “Keeping America’s Promise: Challenges for Community Colleges”

Over the past 13 years, this has obviously become an even bigger issue! Just as we were about to post this blog about Kay McClenney’s article, The Chronicle Review published “Has Higher Education Become an Engine of Inequality?” – including numerous essays on the topic.

The most fundamental of American promises, Kay McClenney says, is the promise of opportunity and equity for every individual. America is supposed to be a place where even those born into the most difficult circumstances can rise to the highest level, grow wealthy and secure.

If we are to keep the promise of educational opportunity for all, what are our biggest challenges?

One of the main challenges, from McClenney’s perspective, is reaching K-12 students before they enter college. There have been promising efforts on this front. The League’s College and Career Transitions Initiative has worked with high schools and employers to successfully carve meaningful career pathways for students. The “middle college” model is being more widely adapted to create “early colleges” thanks to foundation support such as that from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The City University of New York educators have created collaborative efforts with the public schools. They have worked with thousands of high schoolers who are concurrently enrolled in college, created a grade school on campus for the children of welfare moms and started the Diploma Now program, which provides early morning GED prep classes for high school students.

Yet, the changes will not happen overnight. Even with all of these successes, the need for colleges to be engaged in remedial education is not going away any time soon. According to McCabe (2000) 67 percent of high school students earn a diploma, but only 43 percent of those students are prepared for college-level work. The average age of community college students is higher – around 29- so it will be some time before changes in high schools will affect the community college. Human behavior evolves over time, so we must acknowledge a continuing and crucial need for change to be iterative.

List three accomplishments that you’ve spearheaded in the last 5 years at your institution and share. While improvements are iterative, they are still improvements. You have to train constituents to value the pathway and align energies for the next phase of iterative change.

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