By Ben Hirsch, College Readiness Advocate
As October begins and students are settling back into school, Austin Partners in Education’s college readiness advocates have already begun helping high school seniors get ready for a successful academic career in college.
Senior year is an incredibly tumultuous time: there are the foreseeable hurdles of college applications, financial aid forms, and impending adult responsibilities; the excitement about the upcoming life change or fear inspired by leaving home; and the Hollywood-sanctioned coming of age moments: homecoming, prom, and finally graduation. On some level, though, last on their mind is the question “am I academically prepared for college?” That is where APIE comes in.
This is the beginning of my third school year helping seniors solidify the skills they need to be a high achieving college student. Successful college students can write clearly and persuasively, comprehend the main ideas, philosophical underpinnings and supporting details in the texts they read, and have the math skills necessary to pursue careers they find compelling.
As a College Readiness Advocate, I have the exciting job of helping students identify areas in which they are struggling and give them extra one-on-one or small-group instruction to improve in those areas. At Akins High school I worked with Alyssa, who was struggling to demonstrate college-level ability in math. In her own words math had always been “the worst” for Alyssa.
Working with Alyssa made it apparent that her struggles were the result of some real deficiencies in mathematical knowledge. She was confounded by fractions, had difficulties working with negative numbers, and found graphs incredibly confusing. While a class full of peers and friends is not the ideal environment to reveal deep-seeded confusion, a small group can be more supportive. When one student expresses confusion, others often chime in, “yeah, I never got that either.”
When you don’t have a basic understanding of mathematical concepts, most high school math feels like a series of random steps that, if you don’t do perfectly, will lead you to the wrong answer. This obviously causes stress. But after we discovered the foundation concepts that Alyssa was missing, she was able to make great strides. By solidifying her ability to do things like reduce fractions and grapple with negative numbers, we enabled her to make sense of complex algebra like rational equations (which are essentially just extremely complex fractions) and quadratic functions (which cannot possibly be solved consistently if you do not understand the real significance of a numbers sign).
At the end of the year, Alyssa passed the mast section of the Texas Success Initiative Assessment and was able to avoid developmental courses at the University of Texas San Antonio. She was especially happy because these courses would have been in math. Working with students like Alyssa is why I am excited to work with more aspiring college graduates. Many students have the desire and capacity to be successful and happy in college, but they need a little academic support before they head off on the next incredible step in their life of learning.
DONATE: Austin Partners in Education assists schools within the Austin Independent School District, where 64% of our students are of low socioeconomic status. Donations of school supplies this August will make a huge difference to so many of our students as they begin the new school year.
Austin Regional Clinic is collecting school supplies through August 18. All their clinics will be collecting items. You can view their press release with details here!
Lumeris, Inc. is collecting school supplied from August 5 until August 25 at 950 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Suite 210.
Whole Foods Markets is collecting school supplies through the month of August. Store locations accepting donations include: Arboretum- 9607 Research Blvd, Arbor- 4301 W. William Cannon, Central, 525 North Lamar, Domain—11920 Domain Drive.
Kendra Scott will be collecting school supplies from August 18 until August 25. They are located at 1400 S. Congress.
Austin Partners in Education has a school wish list on their website with over 400 school needs posted who would be grateful for donations to support their schools atwww.austinpartners.org.
For more information about Austin Partners in Education, go to www.austinpartners.org or contact Dawn Lewis at 512-637-0983.
Simply go to smile.amazon.com and sign in with your existing Amazon account information. From there, you can select APIE as the charitable organization to receive donations, and AmazonSmile will remember your selection each time you sign in!
The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price to APIE!
By: Amanda Mills, College Readiness Advocate
When you hear the words “college readiness,” your mind most likely jumps to GPAs, SAT scores, and AP classes. Yet post-secondary education demands a variety of attributes outside of academic strength from its students.
Many students who might otherwise be successful in college lack the self-awareness, discipline, or other tools to make the most of their education. That is why, in June 2014, APIE implemented its first ever Summer College Readiness Program, which targets freshmen and sophomores and integrates academic instruction with personal exploration and development. At John H. Reagan Early College High School, seven college readiness advocates and 17 underclassmen spent three weeks together, thinking about and preparing for the rest of high school, the path to college, and the Texas Success Initiative (or TSI) exam.
The class, which took place Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., mixed APIE’s reading and writing curriculum with various team-building and enrichment activities. Students took an interest inventory, discovered their personal learning styles, and learned about the many resources available to them in their school and their community. As they became more knowledgeable about what they personally need to succeed and where they can turn for support, the students also became more confident in their abilities. A variety of exercises and fluid movement between individual activities and small- and large-group activities kept students engaged throughout class.
Of course, preparation for the TSI exam remains the core of the Summer College Readiness Program. Of the 14 students who were able to test on the last day of the program, six passed both sections and eight passed one section of the English Language Arts exam. The six who passed both portions will be able to take dual credit courses and earn college credit starting this fall, while in high school. In addition, more program alumni will take the TSI this fall when they return to class.
After taking the test on the last day of the summer session, the students visited The University of Texas campus. While it might have been difficult for the students to remember why they were at school when they could be at home watching a World Cup match, the field trip allowed the students to see why they had been working so hard.
Many students will begin college this fall without the tools and sources of support they need. Fortunately, Reagan High School students receive multiple opportunities to learn about and prepare for higher education. Reagan’s College and Career Center, Raider Enrichment Center, and community partnerships with organizations like APIE and Advise Texas provide Reagan students with opportunities to explore their futures. The new APIE Summer College Readiness Program is one such opportunity, encouraging students to take ownership of their futures as they prepare for college and the world beyond.
Horace Mann is one of APIE and AISD’s returning sponsors for Salute and Celebrate, events held each spring to honor district volunteers, teachers, and administrators. We are incredibly grateful for their support year after year through financial sponsorship and social media promotion. In addition, we greatly appreciate this tremendous generosity to one of our founding partners, AISD.
As a result, 22 teachers at 13 Austin schools will receive items like yoga balls, science kits, books, an iPad, a listening center, an inflatable water park, a 3D printer, microscopes and other items…
“This donation allows all of these teachers to start the next school year with new supplies in the classroom to help their students excel, says local Horace Mann agent Jessica Gamez. “I’ve seen what a difference an iPad, science kits or a printer can make in a classroom, and to see all of these teachers have their projects completed is really something special.”
Horace Mann is the largest national multiline insurance company focusing on educators’ financial needs. For more info, visit horacemann.com
DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website where public school teachers can describe educational project for their students and donors can choose project to support.
Your 6th grade Reading Classroom Coaching coordinators, Chris and Hannah, put together a great handout for the April volunteer and mentor coffee talk. Check it out below!
Meet them at their level – put yourself in their shoes
- Get to know their interests and hobbies. Some students have a different background than yours; respecting it is key. Crossing cultural barriers takes effort, but if you want to bridge distances it is important to remain patient and keep an open mind.
- Don’t take student behavior personally
- Be aware of your reaction/response to the students
Don’t be afraid to laugh and admit mistakes—have a sense of humor!
- Model that it’s ok to make mistakes
- Utilize your sense of humor
- Remember that to get respect, you have to give it
- Building trust takes time and patience
- Try to listen more than you talk
- Accept that a student’s feelings are valid
- It is much harder to relate to your students if you miss multiple classes
- Be consistent week to week with group guidelines for behavior
- Being inconsistent will cause you to lose students’ respect and attention
We hope you’ll join APIE staff, your teachers, and fellow volunteers and mentors for the end-of-year happy hour TODAY at Contigo Austin!