College readiness requires tenacity

College Readiness requires more than academic knowledge and skills, concludes a report by the Annenberg Institute. “College knowledge” — knowing how to apply, get financial aid and navigate a college campus — isn’t enough. Successful students need “academic tenacity,” the “underlying beliefs, attitudes, values . . . and accompanying behaviors that drive students to embrace and engage with challenging work, and to pursue academic achievement.” And not to quit when the going gets tough.

Programs to help disadvantaged students get to college tend to focus on academic preparation and “college knowledge.” But only a few focus on building students’ tenacity.

In Our School, I write about Downtown College Prep‘s drive to instill ganas, which can be translated as true grit, in their underachieving students. When the first class went off to college, many struggled academically. But they told the college counselor not to worry. They’d done it before. “They know what it’s like to start a new school and get hammered,” Vicky Evans told me. “They can handle failure. They’ve done it, and survived.”

I had to fight the editor to keep “failure” in the book. She saw failure as weakness, the end of the road, not the first step. It’s inflated, unearned, phony success — everybody gets an A! — that weakens young people and sets them up for permanent failure.

The Education Writers Association analyzes the research on college readiness in a new policy brief.

Studying ‘success’

Low-skilled community college students should take a “success class” that teaches study skills, time management and “college knowledge,” a California task force recommends. But requiring a new class would burden a college system that’s already broke.

Britain’s Open University offers free online classes to give adult students the confidence they can handle college work. Can it work in the U.S.? The Gates Foundation is funding pilot programs.

Honor among academics

As times get tougher on campus, political infighting gets meaner, writes a professor. He calls for academics to rediscover a sense of honor.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Summer bridge programs — intensive remediation plus a “college knowledge” course — are helping Texas students succeed in community college classes in the fall semester.