Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you teach your students about college...in kindergarten?

The past several weeks I've been finishing up my final project for grad school. I am writing about introducing college to kindergarteners, because I think it's absolutely phenomenal!

When I started teaching, I really didn't think my kindergarteners could wrap their minds around college. In fact, for the first semester of school, I have to take a lot of time teaching my students about first grade. We work very hard to get ready for 1st grade, yet for a lot of students they have no idea what it is, because they don't have older siblings. I realized that to make 1st grade a motivator for my students, I had to make it easy for them to understand...so we've visited 1st grade classrooms and met 1st graders.

So if 1st grade is such a tricky topic to tackle, it stands to reason that college might be equally complicated. ...and yes, college is not exactly the easiest thing to explain to kindergarteners. It takes time for them to begin to understand what college is and why it's important, but it's so amazing to hear students talking about going to college (and even saving money for college!). This year I even had one student ask another student who was moving, "We'll still go to college together, right?"

Here are some important things to know about a college degree...

 From the KIPP College Completion Report (2011)
  • Regardless of income, only 30.6% of Americans between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine have completed college and earned a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Only 8.3% of students from low-income families have earned a bachelor’s degree by their mid-twenties. 
  • "High-achieving, high-income students are more than 2.5 times as likely to graduate college as high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. Even the lowest performing students from high-income backgrounds graduate college at a higher rate than the highest-performing students from underserved communities." 

See the following diagram from the report...

From the College Board Education Pays Report (2010)
  • "The lifetime earnings gap between those with a high school education and those with a college degree is now estimated to be nearly $1 million. And the differential has been widening. In 2008, median earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees were 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates ($55,700 vs. $33,800)."
  • College graduates also are significantly less likely to live in households surviving on the Food Stamp Program, more likely to report being very satisfied with their jobs, and are less-likely to face health problems like obesity and smoking. 
  • Not only do college graduates pay taxes to federal, state, and local governments, those same governments benefit by spending less on programs, like Food Stamps and the National School Lunch Program, to support them. 
  • More money is spent on social support programs and incarceration for high school graduates than for college graduates, and volunteerism is higher among those with higher levels of education as well. 

From the Harvard Graduate School of Education Pathways to Prosperity Report (2011)
  • The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projected that between the years of 2008 and 2018, the U.S. economy will create nearly 47 million jobs
  • ...and it simultaneously projected that nearly two-thirds of the new jobs will need to be filled by workers with some form of post-secondary education.

The report from Harvard Grad School is super interesting as it explains that college degrees are not the end-all be-all for high school graduates. Lots of other options exist after high school, and the report explicitly discusses the fact that a college degree is not necessarily what students need to ultimately be successful, but post-secondary education is most certainly a must. 

...I'm still going to stick with college graduation as an end goal for my students, especially since they are in that bottom quartile, and so a college degree can open up doors for them that might never otherwise be possible. Regardless of the grade and/or class you teach, do you talk about college with your students and their families? Do you have fun ideas for teaching them about college? I'll have to post some of my ideas over the summer... :)


Camille said...

Alex, You have really given us all something to think about. These facts are stunning and making me think how to help my students overcome these odds. Thank you! Have you read A framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne. Fascinating reading!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this information.
I try to touch on college on a daily basis in my classroom. To read more of my thoughts, then head over to my blog -


Alex said...

Thank you both for commenting!!
Camille, I have read bits and pieces of A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Definitely an interesting read to say the least!
Debbie, thanks for linking your blog over to me! I really enjoyed reading your post!!

Jennifer said...

I really enjoyed reading this! I am a lifetime college student (I feel like) and so it's fun to read other peoples work!

Personally I feel that you should always talk about college with your students, but in such a way that is goal oriented. By this I mean... not all careers require college. So when we talk about what we want to be, I will say, oh... you have to go to college for that! I teach my kids to set their aims high and they can be whatever they want! I also share my homework assignments and such with them... once I had a text book and they were like wow! It was funny!

I am sure you read about it in research... but there is a whole organization (I don't know there name) that is the theory of bringing colleges down into the elementary school. These teachers have Harvard Pendents and such in their rooms. It's really a great thing. I am not sure what it is called... but they do it at my girlfriends school if you want me to find the name of it out for you. =)

Great job on your research. I am scared to attempt my PhD. I assume this is a PhD project? Otherwise Master's in AZ are way easier! =)

Empowering Kinders and Other Kids Too

Ms. Lopez said...

My principal was big on the concept of "we're going to college". He bought college banners that we hung outside our classrooms and we all had to make a display of some sort in our classroom about going to college. Unfortunately he was moved to another school and who knows if our new principal will carry on with the theme. Here's what my bulletin board looked like.