Plan, persist and perform for college success

What aspects of background, personality or achievement predict high grades in college? Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham analyzes a meta-analysis of research on three categories of predictors: three demographic factors (age, sex, socioeconomic status); five traditional measures of cognitive ability or prior academic achievement (intelligence measures, high school GPA, SAT or ACT, A level points), and 42 non-intellectual measures of personality, motivation, learning strategies, approach to learning and psychosocial contextual influences. (He’s got a chart of all the factors.)

As they put the data together, the most important predictors of college grade point average are: your grades in high school, your score on the SAT or ACT, the extent to which you plan for and target specific grades, and your ability to persist in challenging academic situations.

“Broad personality traits, most motivation factors and learning strategies matter less than I would have guessed,” Willingham writes. Demographic and psychosocial factors and “approach to learning” didn’t matter at all.


Gray expectations

College success requires academic preparation — and understanding academic expectations.

In Teaching across the cultural divide, a foreign-born student with poor writing skills threatens to give the adjunct a bad online rating unless she gets an A.

Technology will help students succeed — but not yet

Technology will help college students succeed, but we’re years away from linking new tools to teaching and learning.

Also on Community College Spotlight: How to help immigrant students succeed in college.

Pomp, circumstance and then what?

Few high schools track graduates to see if they’re succeeding in college or careers. Some states are linking high school and college data to evaluate success rates.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Community college construction has stopped in Los Angeles. The district has billions in bond money, but can’t afford to pay for building maintenance or for instructors to use the new space.

Flexibility surprises

There are a few surprises in the U.S. Education Department’s flexibility plan, writes Anne Hyslop on Quick and the Ed’s Waiver Wire

The broad strokes of the plan are what we’ve known all along: higher expectations for students based on better standards and assessments; state-designed accountability systems, with discretion to determine how schools should be labeled based on their performance and the interventions they should undertake; annual teacher and principal evaluation systems that are based, in part, on student’s academic growth; and funding flexibility within Title I and Title II to support these reforms.

The good news, writes Hyslop, is that waiver-winning states will have to report college enrollment and credit-accumulation rates for all students (disaggregated into subgroups) by district and high school.

. . . collecting and reporting these specific outcomes will provide policymakers, educators, and the public with real evidence of college readiness. I would have added remediation rates to this list, but I am please that the administration is encouraging states to link high school and postsecondary outcomes.

In addition, states will have to try to do something about 15 percent of schools, not just the bottom 5 percent.

The feds will work with states to evaluate the effectiveness of reform strategies.

On the negative side, Hyslop is disappointed that states won’t be required to use their new teacher evaluation systems to ensure that low-income and minority children have equal access to effective teachers. They won’t even be required to report who gets the best teachers.


To and through college

In Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds, I wrote about a San Jose school that recruits low-achieving students and tries to prepare them to succeed in four year colleges.  “To and Through College” is the motto. With six graduating classes, Downtown College Prep has released a college success report.

While only 10% of low-income students complete college within six years nationwide, DCP graduates earn their degrees at the rate of 47%. We are encouraged by the results we have achieved thus far but remain determined to close the college achievement gap that exists in our community and our nation.

Overall, 57 percent of four-year college students complete a degree in six years.

Since 2004, DCP has graduated nearly 400 students. Ninety percent come from low-income families, 97 percent are Latino and 92 percent are first-generation college students.

Some 94 percent are eligible for the University of California and the California State University system; 82 percent enroll in college.

In answer to some questions in comments: I’m sure DCP makes a difference for its students because many were not on track to complete high school, much less qualify for college. By comparison, only 29 percent of Latino graduates are UC/CSU eligible in San Jose Unified, even though the district made the college-prep sequence a graduation requirement years ago. Graduates aren’t eligible because they earned D’s in some classes.

The Silva family took a chance on DCP in its first year. His older son, Jose, is now a Chico State graduate; Elizabeth is a junior at UC Davis and Benny Jr. is a freshman at San Francisco State. At an event honoring teachers and staff, Benny Silva Sr., who works for Roto-Rooter, was asked to speak:

“Every day I go into other people’s homes to repair their toilets. What they don’t know about me is that my children are college graduates.”

Or on their way. Below is Elizabeth Silva’s graduation photo, which includes her grandmother. Including family members in the picture is a DCP tradition.

Elizabeth Silva, Class of 2008