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Cross-Visit Field Notes (from 3/1/13)

Laura H's picture

Field Notes- 3/1/13 


Today I went joined Jomaira at Stonewood High School. She is working this semester with the Mayor’s new college access initiative, and is gathering information about various schools in the city and their college programs. She tells me that they are looking for a neighborhood school in a low-income community with high college access rates, but that has been hard to find. So far she has noticed that many of the college programs are separate or extra features of the school, but they are not implicit in the curriculum or culture. Additionally, Jomaira tells me that some schools have multiple programs that overlap or do not communicate with one another, because they have grants or funding coming from a variety of sources.

We enter the massive doors to Stonewood High School and there is only about foot between us a metal detector. We put our bags through and sign in with the security officer. The building is classic and beautiful inside, and clearly has history. We are told to go up to the Student Success Center to meet with Alisha, the manager of the center. We walk into the center, which is also a computer lab. I notice a few students waiting to use the computers. Alisha takes us to a separate office to talk. I typed up the main points of our conversation in bullet point form because I talked about them more in depth in my cross-visit paper (and I also did field notes for my placement this same week so these were a little more brief).

  • Stonewood HS
    • Student Success Center –funded by a grant from the Department of Labor
    • Gear Up Program (separate program)
    • 85% of student are on free or reduced lunch
    • 1,100 students
    • Student Success Center
      • 2 staffers, 1 social worker
      • Located on 9th grade floor of building
      • Work with all students beginning in 9thgrade
        • Start with workshops, speakers, try to emphasize college as an investment
  • 11th grade- SAT prep is embedded in schedule
  • 12th grade- college visits, fair, help with applications, FAFSA
  • Utilize as many resources as possible- Free Library of Philly, teachers, DOL grants. Most of funding for these programs doesn’t actually come from school’s budget because they can’t afford it.
  • Social worker leads workshops about culture of college, diversity, social norms
  • They are constantly calling parents
  • FAFSA Frenzy- 30 parents showed up
  • Career day- no classes, just have career/college workshops
  • School culture
    • Pushing new initiatives to make college “cool”
    • Gave all seniors t-shirts that say “Ask me where I’m going”
    • Board with pictures of students with acceptance letters- posted on 9th grade floor
    • Incentivize, make it the norm
    • Luncheon with food and DJ for those who applied
    • Partner up with English classes, help with application
    • Want students to “feel special”
    • Result: 85% of students applied to at least 2-3 schools and took their SATs
    • Disconnect?
      • Less than 25% matriculated to college
      • “There’s only so much we can do in school. Once they get out there, there’s a lot of other factors playing in.”
      • Students don’t get a certain vaccination, can’t afford it, don’t fill out the FAFSA, have to get a job, etc.
    • Debrief
      • If this school seems like they are doing everything right, why is there so little improvement? But are they doing everything right?
      • Jomaira says the schools with the best college access rates were the ones that actually didn’t have SAT prep classes, but just had good classes. They told her, “Every class is an SAT prep class. It teaches them to be critical thinkers.”
      • College access is one piece of a larger puzzle, cannot be isolated from everything else. So many other factors playing into these students' lives, and especially the decision to go to college. What should the role of school be in addressing outside challenges?