Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Education Nation Take-Away: One Critical Issue Overlooked

October 5, 2010 - The two days I spent at NBC’s Education Nation were full of insightful conversations and panel discussions. The dialogue mainly focused on in-classroom solutions to answer the crisis facing our education system. More charter schools, more math and science teachers, smaller classrooms, longer school days were the prevalent themes echoed throughout each session. Clearly, Waiting for “Superman” is having an immediate impact on this discussion and NBC was in full support of its message.

Unfortunately the discussions were silent on one critical issue: If we don’t dedicate time to college and career planning outside the classroom, improvements gained in the classroom will fail to empower students to be successful beyond secondary school.

In fact, statistics from a National Association for College Admission Counseling study show that on average counselors spend less than 38 minutes a year on college and career planning with their students. And it's even drastically less in inner city schools. Over 50% of counselors spend less than 20% of their time on college advising, partially as a result of time taken up by administrative tasks and reporting requirements. In truth, counselors aren't prepared to give the number of students they're responsible for the face-to-face time needed with the tools they have today. This is a real problem that will continue to be a sinkhole in all college access efforts if not given the crucial attention that is needed.

While planning ‘inside the classroom’ is essential to solving our education crisis, without ‘outside of the classroom’ planning, students will not be adequately prepared to capitalize on academic performance improvements. The transitions to college and to a career are pivotal points in a student’s development. If we don’t point kids in the right direction and provide them with all the tools and information to succeed beyond the classroom, we will have failed them despite our best efforts and intentions.

Other industries are blowing education out of the water by using proven technology to improve and advance a once tedious process, make data transfers efficient and effective, and create accessibility to all users, regardless of privilege. I am hopeful that the combined efforts of Education Nation, Waiting for “Superman”, and other awareness initiatives will also shed light on the importance of college and career planning with students, in addition to the amazing work being done inside the classroom.