College Career Readiness

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Getting students ready for college begins well before they enter institutions of higher education. We’ll take a look at one group helping get students ready for college, College Bound AZ. There will also be a discussion on the topic with Elizabeth Paulus, founder of College Bound AZ and Dr. Sally Downey, Superintendent of the East Valley Institute of Technology.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, an Arizona education special, we'll hear about efforts to get students ready for college and career. We'll look at professional development for teachers. Those stories next on a special edition of Arizona Horizon.

VIDEO: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to this special Arizona education edition of Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. We begin with a look at college and career readiness, producer Cristina Estes and Scot Olson take us to Mesa where students are thinking about college long before leaving high school.

CHRISTINA ESTES: On a Thursday afternoon --

DEB RODARTE: I would like you to talk about any anxieties you have.

CHRISTINA ESTES: About 15 students gather in the library at Rhodes junior high.

BREANNA HERRERA: I registered for Honor's classes.

CHRISTINA ESTES: They received praise --

DEB RODARTE: That will be great.

CHRISTINA ESTES: And warnings.

DEB RODARTE: Try to miss less school.

CHRISTINA ESTES: The words of wisdom come from volunteer mentors with college-bound az, the group works with students who are underrepresented in higher education.

DEB RODARTE: We're taking the students who are all academically able to go to college, and we're showing them the skills that they need. We're doing community service with them. We're keeping track of what they are registering for in high school, so they are taking A.P. We're showing them, you can go to college, and then when they are in high school, the program helps them to get scholarships.

CHRITINA ESTES: Brianna is one of Deborah's mentees.

BREANNA HERRERA: I really, really want to go to college.

CHRITINA ESTES: And she already has picked a career, forensic anthropology.

BREANNA HERRERA: It's the study of deceased people. And I think that that's really interesting, to like -- you help find out why that person died or like it's like working on a case.

CHRITINA ESTES: During college-bound weekly meetings --

DEB RODARTE: Any other meetings?

CHRITINA ESTES: The speakers share lessons that apply in and outside the classroom. Like how to manage time. And mind your manners.

BREANNA HERRERA: We learn how to like sit properly and when someone else is speaking, we know not to interrupt them and, like, to say like excuse me. Just to be respectful.

DEB RODARTE: They understand that it's a comforting place, a comfortable place to go. They can share things if they want to. They don't have to feel threatened. We are helping them in their -- we have a common goal of getting them to college, and we're vested in them.

CHRITINA ESTES: That investment comes with expectations. Students are required to perform community service. Inspire others through their legacy project.

STUDENT: It could be like a fact thing.

CHRITINA ESTES: They will take their messages, tape their messages on the school wall.

TEACHER: It was going to be want to go to college, which path will you take.

BREANNA HERRERA: I think that we should change it to success because the fact that it says dream job, it kind of puts that kind of words towards me, where it's talking about when you are successful, all it is your job, but it's also whatever else you succeed at, like a family and stuff.

CHRITINA ESTES: In 2013, college-bound AZ celebrated its first college graduate. She was also the first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree. The group's co-founder says more than 90% of their students and college right after high school.

DEB RODARTE: A lot of these kids never realized that they could go to college. These kids just have a new avenue, that they can, you know, follow now.

TED SIMONS: College-bound serves students at three junior high schools. Also offers a high school academy. We further discussed college career readiness with Elizabeth Paulus, founder of college-bound Arizona. Sally Downey, superintendent of the east valley institute of technology.

TED SIMONS: Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. College Bound Arizona, which we just saw, fairly interesting stuff. How did this get started?

ELIZABETH PAULUS: You know, about 2009, there was a nexus of events in my life, which really showed me what could be done in the community. One of them was that I was able to retire from my job, so I had time available. A second thing was, I began working with a student that I had met through an exchange program, and she was asking me for help to go to college. I learned very quickly that the skills coming out of high school don't necessarily mean the student knows what it takes to file the proper application, and get into college. And third thing that happened in 2009, was the, the movie, The Blindside. I know, what's the connection? Well, because here was an underrepresented student that was being assisted to college, and all these things were playing on my mind you know, the fact that I had time, the fact that there were students, the fact that there was a vision about how to help people go to college. So, I did some research and put it together. Came up with a mentorship program that's been working very well.

TED SIMONS: And ok. We saw -- had an example of how college bound Arizona works. How does EVIT work?

SALLY DOWNEY: It works right along with Liz in creating a path aware for success for students. We feel that every scholar needs a skill, and even though two out of three of our graduates are -- our completers go to college, we think with Liz's help and her organization, we can make that a larger number.

TED SIMONS: When we hear college and career readiness, what does that really mean?

SALLY DOWNEY: I think it's the same. I think that the careers nowadays have just as many demands as the demands are for a student to go to college. Now, what we can do is we can equip that student with a marketable skill, so when they do enter college, they can go through and besides that they found something that they love so they can work in an area that they love. It's a win, win.

TED SIMONS: And as far as looking for definitions here, being fully prepared for college and career.

ELIZABETH PAULUS: There is a lot of -- what Sally is saying, there is a lot of crossover in what we empower students with, that are both for college and for career. For example, a community service, is something that helps build a student's confidence. They are going to need confidence to come from low income backgrounds. Do well in college. They are going to need to do that. The same with a career. It helps them get outside of their box. Explore other people that they are going to work with. Other ideas that they are exposed to, or they might come up with a career, in fact, I had a young girl in eighth grade through her community service, we made homeless care kits, and their job was to, with their parents, to give those care kits out. That so moved her about working with, seeing that individual. Their condition. That she became interested in being a nurse, and she is going to be a nurse practitioner because of that exposure that she had through community service. So, you can see that there is just some crossover.

TED SIMONS: Indeed. It's a long debate here, whether well rounded education is best or a more focused -- back during vocational schools, this was a big deal. And how -- what's that dynamic like these days?

SALLY DOWNEY: It changed. I don't know how many people would say, Dr. Downey, I am glad that there is an EVIT because every student is not going to college. It's not like that any more. The demands for a competent worker with more education is -- has never been as high as it is now, and some of the jobs that come out as a result of the career and technical education will allow a student to go onto college, and not end up with a big debt at the end of that because they are working in an area that they love. For example, if a student learns to be a dental assistant. Wants to be a dentist, what better seamless system to becoming a dentist than to working with a dentist, you know? That's how it works and that's what they gain at EVIT.

TED SIMONS: What happens to them if someone wants to be a dentist and work as a dental assistant. They don't want any part of this. They want to become a race car driver or a mechanic or anything else. What happens because people change their minds.

SALLY DOWNEY: Life happens. -- well, that happens. That's another beauty of it. A student can learn in high school if they want to pursue a certain area in college. Many times -- well, it is free in high school. So they don't have to, You know, have a big debt and find out that they want to be a race car driver or do something different.

TED SIMONS: Indeed. And as far as prerequisite skills for college and career. How many of those overlap or there much of a difference?

ELIZABETH PAULUS: First of all, either place you go, you are going to want to have time management skills. You are going to want to be responsible. You are going to want manners. Those are all things that are going to -- your social and soft skills. You are going to need to survive in college or survive on a career, as well. Academically, we want to see students -- you heard the word, A.P. mentioned, in the video about advanced placement. What better way to prepare for college than to take a college class, which is what A.P. stands for. So, if these are students who have made the commitment, I'm going to college, great. Do you know what an A.P. class is in eighth grade they don't know, so they can start right away in high school and get a feel for the strength that they are going to need to build.

TED SIMONS: And what point, especially with junior high school kids and the younger kids, do you start stepping into territory that the parents, I mean, saying please and thank you is something that I would not expect to be taught in school. What's happening here? What's going on?

SALLY DOWNEY: Well, I am a strong believer in public schools, are just symptoms of society. And public schools, all schools have to do more than they used to do 20, 30 years ago. It is still - I think it behooves all of us to teach students to say, please and thank you.


SALLY DOWNEY: And that's all part of it. And that's part of the training because we want to make sure that they are job ready and hopefully career ready in the. The soft skills play a big part of that.

TED SIMONS: In general, are schools expecting enough of kids?

SALLY DOWNEY: Are you asking me that question? I think that the higher you raise the bar and the more you expect, the more you get from students, you know. In my career of many, many years, I think it's very important to challenge them all along the way.

TED SIMONS: Is that a nice way of saying no?


TED SIMONS: Do you think that schools are expecting enough of the kids?

ELIZABETH PAULUS: From -- I had many children go through my -- I have seven kids. They have all gone through the Mesa school system. I know how hard they worked. I know what demands were placed on them. So from my vantage point as a parent, I think that the school is challenging enough for the students. What we're working with the students on is those kinds of things that they come from families that are low income, many have not had parents that went to college. They don't know how to prepare the student to take the next steps after high school and find how to fill out the applications. I know it's hard to imagine, but, it takes a particular knowledge to be able to do the applications and to do them timed properly. So, they don't have parents that have done that, that's why we are there.

TED SIMONS: As far as your goal and your mission statement, are you rewarding success or identifying lack of success?

ELIZABETH PAULUS: I think it's rewarding success because the students that participate in our program, are making a commitment. We, after the in-school program, we're on a weekend program, and they have to show up. I tell them, if I can't reach you, I can't teach you. So, they have to show up on a Saturday. Who wants to do that? The kids that want to go to college. So, I think it's rewarding success.

TED SIMONS: But there is an identifying failure, things that need improvement, that's a big factor, is it not?

SALLY DOWNEY: Always. You know. And being able to try something different, that may be you never tried before. What's the definition of insanity, if you keep doing what you have done and expect different outcomes -- that's no way to go.

ELIZABETH PAULUS: One of the things I mentioned, when I embarked on the program, I did some research. I have many presentations that I make, just the other day, there was Dan Dylan from ASU, from their marketing team, who said that those families that are in high income homes, 90% of the kids are expected to go to college. Will go to college. Those from low income families, 8% go to college, so we have an achievement gap that has nothing to do with aptitude. It has to do with the socioeconomic status.

TED SIMONS: That brings in the last question, quickly here, the President among others, saying that the U.S. was among the best educator in the world, once among them. Now we are being out-educated. First of all, are they right and second, how do you fix it?

SALLY DOWNEY: This is totally my opinion. I don't think we're being outdated. I think that we are out-educated. Thing we are working with the students and their needs, but I think -- and sometimes that's hard and difficult because one size does not fit all. We try to make it fit all. We have several students with unbelievable talents that may be sometimes we don't give them an opportunity to explore in, and to show what they can do because we're too busy testing or making sure that everybody fits a mold. That was a long answer for my -- that was a short question.

TED SIMONS: That was a good answer. Quickly, are we being out-educated? The opinion is, yes.

ELIZABETH PAULUS: I would not want to disagree with the President, but again, I go back to my experience as a parent. What I think was happening, I see a paradigm shift between the technology of high school. The technology of college and beyond. And that, I think, is what the fear is, is that we're a computer-based society, not all of our kids have computers, by the way, so I think that it's the technology divide that makes -- gives that appearance of a lack of education.

TED SIMONS: All right. Great conversation. Good to have you both here and thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. Next, we look at the importance of making time for teachers. The national center on time and learning recently released a report on schools around the country that emphasize teacher professional development. Among the schools featured in the report, Brunson-Lee elementary in Phoenix. The producer, Cristina Estes takes us there.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Every Wednesday, after school, lets out --

RACHAEL DE FRESART: Our first approach --

CHRISTINA ESTES: The teachers at Brunson-Lee turn into students.

CHRISTINA ESTES: During their professional development session, they learn strategies to become better teachers and impact more students.

RACHAEL DE FRESART: I know it's such a cliché, but the light bulbs that you see in their eyes, when they are like, Oh! I totally get it now. And they go and they talk about how they get it. I think that's one of my favorite things.

CHRISTINA ESTES: One of the most challenging aspects for Rachelle de Fresart is trying to figure out each child's needs. She has about 30 students in her fourth grade class.

RACHAEL DE FRESART: Each class is different. Each year is a different group of students. Each year has different needs. What you did last year might not work for these groups of kids. So, having different people come up with you, to these, with these different ideas really does help.

CHRISTINA ESTES: The weekly workshops were led by an institutional coach who expects and gets 100% participation.

TEACHER: All right, so our metaphor is math mathematical fluency is just like riding a bike.

CHRISTINA ESTES: While this gathering focuses on fluency.

TEACHER: Fluency in multiplying, dividing decimals is like superman turning back time.

CHRISTINA ESTES: De Fresart explains how another session led to her students writing more.

RACHAEL DE FRESART: Writing, ok, you solved this problem, explain how you know you are right. It helps them later on justify their own thinking. But, also, helps them communicate because writing is not just writing but a way to communicate, a way to process information.

RYAN LOMONACO: Change is tough. Change is tough for teachers, especially this they have been doing it, if they have been teaching for quite some time.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Principal Ryan LoMonaco says that they are facing a lot of challenges, including more rigorous common core standards and teacher evaluation.

RYAN LOMONACO: I would be lying if we did not get resistance every now and then, but it's all how you approach it. You know, how you are as a leader. I believe -- I honestly believe that if I don't have trusting and lasting relationships with my staff members, then they are not going to put those things right to work.

CHRISTINA ESTES: LoMonaco says the lessons learned here are sometimes put into practice the very next day. But, it's the long-term pay-off he especially likes.

RYAN LOMONOCO: When teachers can plan more thoughtfully. Really thinking about engaging their students, the students are the ultimate beneficiary.

TEACHER: That's what I found out this year. That the more strategies that they have in their toolbox, the better that they can solve problems.

RYAN LOMONACO: The greatest gift that I can give my teachers is time.

TEACHER: At the start of the year, math fluency was a rubik's cube.

RYAN LOMONACO: If I could give more, I would.

TEACHER: Now it is, since we practiced and practiced, it is like a fine tuned instrument.

TEACHER: As a teacher, you are not just a teacher. You are a continual learner, a lifelong learner.

Elizabeth Paulus:Founder of College Bound AZ,Dr. Sally Downey:Superintendent of the East Valley Institute of Technology

Teacher Development

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