College & Workforce Readiness

Report Urges Stronger Ties From Pre-K Through College

By John Gehring — July 11, 2001 5 min read
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Most states could learn from New York City when it comes to creating a more unified education system that promotes partnerships between higher education and secondary schools, according to a report that highlights the city’s efforts in making pre-K-16 collaboration a priority.

For More Information

The report, “Building a Highway to Higher Ed: How Collaborative Efforts Are Changing Education in America,” is available from the Center for an Urban Future.

“Building a Highway to Higher Ed: How Collaborative Efforts Are Changing Education in America,” released last month by the New York-based Center for an Urban Future, documents how the nation’s largest city has become a leader in building better pathways between secondary and postsecondary schools in just a short period of time.

Strengthening ties between different levels of American education has become an increasingly popular theme among academicians, educators, politicians, and even parents, as the systems of prekindergarten through 12th grade and higher education realize each can benefit by bridging the deeply entrenched divide separating them.

“In the 21st century, competition amongst educational levels may have subsided,” the report says, “but the net result is an educational system with virtually no shared history and little incentive to work together.”

New York City has for decades maintained some of the strongest “P-16" collaborations, as efforts to link the education system from early childhood to the senior year in college are often called. Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College, for example, the nation’s first high school set on a two-year college campus, has served as a model for other such efforts nationwide. (“High School, With a College Twist,” March 14, 2001.)

But the report says that Matthew Goldstein, the chancellor of the City University of New York system and Harold O. Levy, the chancellor of the city’s 1.1 million-student public schools, have extended the secondary and postsecondary connections significantly.

Last year, for example, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Levy announced that a dual-enrollment program piloted at Kingsborough Community College, which allows high school students to take college classes for credit while still in high school, would be expanded to every CUNY campus and high school in the city.

The two chancellors moved quickly, securing $7 million in city and state funding—and money from their own institutions’ budgets—to pay for the expansion. Today, all 17 undergraduate colleges in the CUNY system participate, working with 161 secondary schools to provide courses to more than 13,000 high school students.

Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Levy also appointed for the first time a deputy responsible for coordinating activity between the two systems.

New York state also has been a leader. While other states such as Georgia, Massachusetts, and Oregon have discussed aligning their high school exit exams with college-placement tests, New York is the first to do so, with its state regents’ exams.

Aligning Systems

But relying solely on a few charismatic individuals to form and maintain such collaborations can leave such efforts in a tenuous situation, said the report’s author, Neil S. Kleiman, the director of the Center for an Urban Future. The center studies and reports on economic development, public education, child welfare, and other issues.

Individuals “can only take the revolution so far, and if these leaders lose interest or leave the system ... all the progress they have made will go out the door with them,” Mr. Kleiman writes. “Given a history of frequent turnover in the city’s education leadership, that is certainly cause for concern.”

New York can improve its strong pre-K-16 efforts, he writes, by improving standards for teacher education, including more private colleges and universities in collaborations, and having the state education department expand its role in such initiatives.

Mr. Kleiman said in an interview that while the debate over high-stakes testing and private school vouchers garner more public attention, universities and public schools have been thinking about the “quiet revolution” of pre-K-16 collaboration.

“If you talk to people inside the education community, they are talking about these reforms,” Mr. Kleiman said. “This is where a lot of energy is going.”

Until recently, he said, secondary and postsecondary systems in the United States, unlike more unified education systems in European countries, have existed practically as their own separate planets. “We are absolutely the most unaligned educational system in the world,” he said.

That’s starting to change as educators realize the need to work more closely together. For instance, 30 percent of freshmen entering college need remedial coursework, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Such statistics underscore common concerns for precollegiate and college policymakers.

Currently, 24 states have significant P-16 efforts under way, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, and 21 of those started in the past five years. Among the successful initiatives highlighted by the report are:

  • Georgia’s Postsecondary Readiness Enrichment Program, or PREP, which helps middle students better understand college expectations through mentoring, field trips to colleges, and other activities. Some 45,000 students in 200 middle schools have participated. Georgia also established the nation’s first state and local network of P-16 councils, which help coordinate activities at colleges and public schools.
  • The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a 9-year-old program based at the University of Texas-El Paso, sends mentors into public elementary, middle, and high schools to work closely with teachers on curriculum development and improved teaching methods.

    Schools participating in the El Paso program have seen substantial improvements in minority students’ test scores in math and reading. The gap between the passing rate for non- Hispanic white students and their African-American and Hispanic peers on those tests has been cut by almost two-thirds over the past five years.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2001 edition of Education Week as Report Urges Stronger Ties From Pre-K Through College

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