From Access to Completion: Starting Early, Staying in School, and Earning a Credential

by Layla N. Revis   •  

This panel, moderated by Bob Herbert, Demos – Distinguished Fellow, concerned early childhood education and staying in school. Welcoming the guests, Mr. Herbert first discussed what a difference a few generations make. The arts were flourishing when he was a child; from Abstract Expressionism to Jazz and Broadway, we saw the breaks slowed on arts funding in the 1970s and the overall labor force begin it’s steady decline in the 1980s. He asked the esteemed panel among the audience: 

How do we get our education mojo back?

John E. Pepper, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Company

“The drop out rate among high school students is currently at 25%, with 40% of graduates now idle and children from poverty are often two levels behind in school. Right now, I’m working on a community-based coalition anchored in the United Way so that from cradle to career, children get the education they need.”

“In Cincinnati, we’re working on programs that reduce infant mortality by 90%, but we’re only able to get it to 25% to the families that need it. If we don’t confront and support the development of children, we will never solve this issue. “

“The Social Innovation Fund raised $9 mill. dollars to raise funds for early childhood education. It is the whole community working together that is absolutely essential.”

Dr. Robert Balfanz, Research Scientist, Center of Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University

“We know the schools where kids are dropping out and we can solve this. We need to build signals that effort actually leads to success.”

“It should be a norm that every 8th grader can get high school credit and high school seniors could get college credit for certain advanced classes they take.”

“We need to get the cash flow right. We spend all this money on juvenile justice and there’s still an 80% drop out rate with those programs. It’s an enormous failure so we need to get preventative measures in. “

Wendy Kopp, CEO/Founder of Teach for America & Teach for All

“7% of Houston’s low income kids will graduate from college.” 

“In Houston, there is a group called the Yes Network. They will soon double the number of college kids. They’re sending 90% of incoming 5th graders to four-year colleges. The difference with them is the purpose and embracing a different mission.”

“We haven’t moved the needle in 20 years… but we have managed to effect transformational, incremental progress for some kids. We should clearly give vouchers if statistics show that 33% of kids then meet the state standards. We need to reshape our policy and take the lessons we’ve learned from these schools.”

“We should be optimistic though. We’re seeing now that whereas when there were once 3 to 4 schools making positive strides, we are seeing 300-400 schools. We have doubled the amount of kids who are proficient in four years, for example, in New Orleans. 4th graders in New York are now more ahead than they were 7 years ago. “

“What’s different now? There’s a constellation of leaders from within and without the system who have been grounded in the transformational schools. We thought it was the teachers who were the problem, but we quickly discovered that have to fix the system. The teachers are critical, but there is no one single bullet for this.”

Jasmine Torres, Opportunity Scholar

“I’m a Hispanic female. I was homeless when I was in high school moving from shelters to shelters and group homes. There were so many statistics about me.” 

“College readiness needs to begin in early education. When I did become homeless at 13 years old, I remembered educators who told me I was smart. When I faced adversity, I was fortunate in that I had that.”

“College readiness needs to be pivotal in grade school. We also need to shift our thinking, even if our wording. Instead of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ we need to say ‘Every Child for Success.’ We need words that empower children. Not words that are negative.”

“High schools are overcrowded and we don’t really have career counselors. [Children] think of lawyers and doctors, but they don’t know of all of the other options. We don’t provide them with the resources – phone numbers, career fairs – so that they can get access and information.”

Dr. Harry Lee Williams, President of Delaware State University

“About 85% of our students will be the first to go to college. We have people who come to school without a clue of how to secure resources to financial aid with their total family income of around $40K/year. When the cost of attending is $25K, they ask themselves, how are they going to attend?” 

“Families will do anything to get them through that first year and then they hope the institution can keep you there, but we’re struggling so what we’ve done is to identity corporate sponsors to help improve retention numbers, but we need to put resources there to support them.”

“This year the state assembly approved a scholarship program of up to $3,000 to attend. We added a community service element because even scholarships aren’t free.”

Layla N. Revis

Vice President, Digital Strategy Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence

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