Building Student Momentum from High School into College

Posted by Jobs for the Future on March 21, 2016

Reshaping the Transition to College

Many college access professionals understand the need for students to develop the energy and drive to push through from high school to college, but we’re not always sure which experiences or benchmarks are crucial to accomplishing this task. In Building Student Momentum from High School into College, it is proposed that practitioners use research-based markers and milestones of student momentum from 12th grade through the first year of college. The paper describes the key experiences and accomplishments identified by these markers and suggests ways that local high school and college partners can collaborate to support their attainment.

The report states that schools and programs might consider a framework showing the accumulation of momentum points—specific college preparatory experiences and markers of educational attainment in high school—that together provide graduates with a greater likelihood of college success. It is noted that while this paper focuses on the high school senior year, and while many of the actions proposed would be delivered primarily by high schools, or by high schools and colleges separately, they would be created collaboratively. The plans would be co-designed by secondary and post-secondary institutions, and both sectors would evaluate and co-validate the results.

The paper’s author, Elisabeth Barnett, is a senior research associate for the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, as well as the associate director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching at Teachers College.

Barnett’s research shows that developing a system of shared responsibility for managing the transition time is vital. Overall, this process will provide the best chance of supporting students during an important period. In summary, she writes: “High school students should be encouraged and enabled to accumulate experiences and attainments that collectively form a momentum chain. As students complete these steps, they will become increasingly ready for a future that includes success in college and in life.”

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