Ideas to cover gaps in university readiness

Virus Outbreak College Readiness (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Virus Outbreak College Readiness (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTOR:

They were sophomores in high school when the pandemic hit. Now they are on their way to college and careers.

Many worry that the upheavals they’ve dealt with for most of their high school careers, including long stretches of distance learning, have left this year’s high school seniors unprepared for college.

A story published Tuesday by the AP explores how colleges are preparing for waves of students who may be underprepared.

Here are some tips for locating the story.

SOME BACKGROUND

The pandemic knocked many students off as they dealt with months-long stretches of distance learning, school staffing shortages and waves of covid-19 variants that periodically closed school buildings. The full extent of the impact remains unclear, but studies have shown gaps in learning, particularly among students in high-poverty schools.

The focus of many students has also been tested by upheavals in their home lives, feelings of social isolation and jobs they took on while studying remotely to help support themselves or their families.

To help improve the chances of success for these students, colleges around the United States have expanded “bridge” programs that provide summer courses for targeted groups of students, often those with lower incomes or those who are the first in their families to go to college. In some states, education officials have also unleashed federal pandemic aid to help students get up to speed.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

— Ask local colleges about any changes to summer bridge programs for students who need or want extra help before the first year. Has demand increased? Are the summer orientation programs becoming more academically focused? Will they be expanded?

— Ask governors and state education offices if federal COVID-19 aid money is being used to help colleges start or expand summer bridge programs. How many colleges received grants, and how many started new ones? Some states noticed that more community colleges started bridge programs. Does it happen in your area?

— Many colleges require new students to take placement tests for maths and writing. If colleges near you do, ask about the rate of incoming students being placed in remedial or developmental classes this fall. How has this rate changed in recent years? Has it risen since the start of the pandemic? In which areas are the students furthest behind?

— Along with remediation, local colleges ask about grades: What percentage of first-year students failed or withdrew from initial classes last school year, and how does that compare to previous years? What do they expect to see for this year’s incoming students?

— If colleges near you can provide data on remediation, ask which subgroups of students have been most likely to be placed in preschool classes. Is there evidence that this is yet another way the pandemic has widened racial and economic achievement gaps?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

To reach students for interviews, local colleges can help connect you with incoming freshmen who are taking advantage of summer bridge programs. Local scholarship programs can also be helpful. And the nonprofit Communities in Schools, which works to help students graduate, may have staff at public schools near you. (Communities in Schools spokesperson Steve Majors can be reached at 703-518-2554 or majorss@cisnet.org.)

These groups can provide additional information about the impact of the pandemic on college preparedness, along with what is being done to address it:

— Complete College America: https://completecollege.org/media/

— Strong start to finish: https://strongstart.org/about/our-team/?team_roles=staff

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Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for the use of its customers. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at koyan@ap.org.

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