Are the Boys Really in a College Ready Crisis?

This is the first in a series of posts examining the “gender gap”

As I read Michael Sadowski’s “Putting the ‘Boy Crisis’ in Context” in the July/August issue of the Harvard Education Letter, I was reminded again of what appears to be an emerging national gender gap. Girls are outperforming boys on many college readiness measures. Girls have higher high school GPAs and outnumber boys in both becoming their high schools’ valedictorians and graduating from college.

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Addressing the Quantity AND Quality of Degrees

It is no secret that, as a nation, we are focusing more and more on college readiness. The recent Lumina Report  takes note of the economic imperative associated with this:

“The United States risks an unprecedented shortage of college-educated workers in coming years. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems estimates the need to educate nearly 800,000 more college graduates each year from now through 2025 to meet the growing needs of the workforce. Lumina's goal is to increase the higher education attainment rate of the United States to 60 percent by the year 2025. We must work harder—and faster—to educate enough college graduates to sustain the vitality of our local communities and the nation’s economy.”

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College AND Career Ready?

The “and career” in the title of this blog provoked some interesting conversations within the AVID Center. Since our mission is “to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society,” staff asked me some challenging questions.

“Are we changing our focus, shifting away from four-year college success?”

“Are we now becoming devoted to vocational efforts?”

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Resilience, the Brain, and Emotion

When I started thinking about resilience, and how we can develop this quality in our AVID students, I really didn’t understand the degree to which resilience is much less about the genetic make-up of the student and family background  than it is about the kind of educational environment we create.  In other words, I was falling into the typical trap:  “Blame the victim.”  We interview AVID students, looking for “Individual Determination,” but it is important to remember that we need to keep developing that determination and their resilience.

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Resilience and Academic Success

One of the joys of my job is that I get to work with our AVID student speakers in the summer, occasionally serving as host during our institute luncheon celebrations.  I also get to read many of the student essays that become the basis for their speeches.  This past summer, we had over 40 AVID speakers, including current students and graduates.  All of them exemplified the “Individual Determination” we value so highly in the AVID world.  Another way to look at it is:  These young people are resilient, they persist; they believe that their efforts will result in achievement.

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