Tatiana Burgess (English Education C’ 2014), Camille Fontenelle (Elementary Education C’2016), SaiSri Gajjala (Biomedical Engineering and Leadership C’2015), Megan Hallett (English Education C’2014), and Kevin Nai (English Education C’2014) are investigating the national urgency to increase college access and completion rates by focusing on federal, state, and district policies and practices. After “ingesting” background reading on the nature of the federal and state relationship in education, federal theories of change and action, and policy briefs on college degree access as a global economic issue as well as a civil rights issue, these students had an opportunity to meet face to face with important stakeholders to discuss views on practices as they relate to intended local behavior by state and federal policy makers. The undergraderate research team conducted a lively discussion with key stakeholders on Wednesday June 12.
Beginning on Monday June 17, the undergraduates continued collecting data by convening sessions that support a group of Newark High School seniors. The high school students will complete college and scholarship applications during a 10 day campus experience: On Track for Success is funded by Bridge to Employment (BTE), a Johnson and Johnson–Naramco program. ASPIRE has partnered with this effort for the past six years.
The summer 2013 work continues the College Awareness Reaching Everyone (CARE) agenda introduced in 2009 as a central activity of the ASPIRE community. The outreach, service learning, and community-based research activities build leadership skills for the undergraduate students, and the activities provide additional opportunities for pre-service teachers to develop culturally responsive interaction styles and practices. The high school students benefit from interactions on the campus and by building relationships with undergraduates who are successful students and near peer role models. Taria Pritchett, English Education Class of 2012, who initiated Operation CARE when she was president of ASPIRE, returned to campus on July 19th to conduct sessions on writing competitive college essays. Taria is now a member of the English faculty at Mt. Pleasant High School. Her teaching load next year will include developmental and IB courses.
The work this summer continues with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential learning, with added support from the School of Public Policy and Administration. Several of the undergraduates are conducting research to fulfill credit requirements in a new Public Policy, Education, and Leadership course.
Seven of the high school students are continuing work that they began last summer when ASPIRE supported their efforts to become better self-regulated learners. In addition to this summer’s study, ASPIRE members are tracking the changes in the high school students’ academic profiles that appear associated with the work done in summer 2012 to help the high school students improve their time management and study skills. Undergraduates Kevin Nai and Sai Gajjala returned for the second summer to work with the Newark High students and continue research on college preparation and access.
Tatiana Burgess, Megan Hallett, and Camille Fontenelle met the Newark students during sessions held at the high school and here on campus during the 2012-13 school year. The undergrads will complete this phase of their research when the first summer session concludes on May 5, and they will work through July to finalize their paper and poster presentations for the August undergraduate research symposium. The work this summer investigates two major course questions:
1) Examination of the On Track for Success Program as an Agentive Process –What pre/post experience changes are evident in students’ reports of their personal confidence that they will pursue post-secondary degrees and in their reports they will achieve post-secondary degrees? What are the pre/post experience changes in students’ reports of barriers that might prevent success and in the students’ reports of resources that will ensure their success? How does On Track for Success (as a component of BTE) address national concerns for improving college completion rates in the U.S.? What are the merits and limitations of this kind of intervention? How is this kind of intervention viewed by key stakeholders who shape policy and practice?
2) How does the On Track for Success program reflect national priorities related to the emerging Knowledge Economy and theories of change and action? Who is participating and to what effect in post-secondary education? What factors seem most influential in the college/career choices of the high school students? Are they most concerned about location, environment, type of school, admissions requirements, quality of the academic programs, expenses, financial aid, housing, campus life, other? What institutional options are the students considering and how are these influenced by market dynamics and public policy?