Sunday, October 18, 2015

College, the PSAT, and the Depot

This week at the Depot, seven of our 28 students took the PSAT test. Here are ten reasons why I made it a priority to have such a large percentage of our students take the test:

1) When asked about their goals and dreams, 76% of our current students mentioned some form of college.

2) Roughly half of the students who have graduated from the Depot since its opening in 2008 have gone on to some form of post-secondary education. I'd love to see these numbers increase.

3) I'm excited about alternatives to college, but on average, workers with a bachelor's degree make 1.6 times as much as those with only a high school diploma.

4) The so-called "soft," non-cognitive skills and the 4 Cs are the skills that are most essential for success in life, but these won't get you into most colleges without the math and language skills that standardized tests measure.

5) While some educators believe many students are simply not "college material," I don't. I see learning as exponential, not linear. And even if IQ is 50% genetic, it's only 50%. While disadvantaged students may be way behind their more advantaged peers, in many cases it's only because they are lower on the exponential learning curve.

6) During my morning commute, I've been listening to Whatever It Takes, which tells the story of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, and I've been inspired by their goal: that every single one of their inner-city students will go to college.

7) And this is the key. The key is believing in the tremendous potential within every one of our students. If we send a strong message that we want to prepare them for college, they will know we believe in them and have high expectations for them, whether they choose college or not.

8) I was so proud of them as they took that test on Wednesday. It's not easy to sit for a 3 hour test that includes algebra, geometry, and many challenging reading passages, but they attacked it with a growth mindset and perseverance.

9) Practice makes perfect. The average student's SAT score goes up 40 points every time he or she takes the test. These students will be taking the real thing in the spring, and this experience will prepare them.

10) Lots of people are all up-in-arms against standardized testing these days, but we need to measure students' abilities in order to know if what we're doing is working. We can't work towards improvement without evaluating ourselves.

So here we go. I'm hoping the message to my students is clear:

This place is about your success.

We believe in you.

And we expect great things from every one of you.

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