College Mom keeps kids on track

At Perspectives, a Chicago charter school, more than 90 percent of graduates go on to college. But their parents, who rarely have a college education, don’t know how to help students cope with academic or financial problems. So graduates turn to College Mom, the school’s program director, who keeps in touch via e-mail and phone calls.

“They’re just so happy to have someone rooting for them,” (Deborah Brown) said. “They’ll e-mail me, ‘I bombed the test.’ I e-mail them back. ‘Don’t worry. Let’s get to work. What do we do? Contact your professor and talk to him.’ Just the idea that someone’s rooting for them is a boost.”

Downtown College Prep, the charter school I write about in Our School, also has hired a part-time “alumni counselor” to make sure graduates, nearly all of whom are the first in their families to go to college, keep moving toward a college degree. The college persistence rate — 80 percent of DCP’s first three graduating classes remain on track to earn a degree — is more critical than the college-going rate.

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  1. One of the reasons I think charters are going to win is implied in this:

    > Downtown College Prep … has hired a part-time “alumni counselor…

    An alumni counselor or a Chief Pedagogical Officer doesn’t have a large bureaucracy to hide in and their salary means some teacher isn’t being hired or some function isn’t being funded. The “sore thumb” noticeability of such an expenditure means it’s a lightning rod for complaint and the answers had better be acceptable or life becomes distinctly less comfortable for whoever made the hiring decision.

  2. This program is very similar to one I used to teach at in northern Alberta. Based in Slave Lake, it targeted adult learners who had dropped out, completed their high school, and prepped them for university, which they attended after the program. The strength of the program was the counselors, who supported the students before, during, and after their studies. It was funded by the Government of Alberta and is typical of the support programs offered throughout Canada.