How can we better connect secondary and postsecondary education?

Rather than approaching K-12 and college as two distinct systems, the nation needs to create a strong, unified continuum, researchers from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) assert in their new report, If Not Now, When? The Urgent Need for an All-One-System Approach to Youth Policy.

“The time is right,” CEW writes in a release. “The impediments facing young people on the journey from youth to adulthood have reached new heights in a perfect storm of longstanding economic pressures and current challenges.”

To reduce fragmentation and position youth for long-term success, CEW recommends:

  • Improving dual enrollment programs and transfer policies to break down “artificial barriers” between high schools, colleges, and labor markets
  • Strengthening career counseling
  • Offering free-college options to increase low-income students’ postsecondary access
  • Providing wraparound supports to increase attainment among traditionally underrepresented students
  • Increasing transparency and accountability within the postsecondary sector to facilitate student advising
  • Maximizing collaboration between educators and employers

Related: How Georgetown is supporting high school teachers to strengthen the college pipeline >

Addressing an ‘unnatural divide’

A new opinion piece echoes this call, saying that “the unnatural divide between secondary and postsecondary education” is the “fundamental problem” amplifying the nation’s dual crises of soaring high school dropout rates and plummeting community college enrollment.

“Colleges must reach down, and high schools must reach up,” Chauncy Lennon, vice president for learning and work at Lumina Foundation, and Anne Stanton, president of Linked Learning Alliance, a coalition focused on California students’ post-high school trajectory, write in The 74.

They highlight several ways that colleges and high schools are partnering to forge stronger connections, offer holistic advising, and support degree completion. In Long Beach, California, Linked Learning facilitates a partnership between high schools and public colleges, starting outreach to families as early as sixth grade and continuing support throughout high school and college.

Texas high school students in the Dallas Independent School District, meanwhile, have an opportunity to earn an associate degree tuition free, participate in targeted internships, and take dual-enrollment courses led by instructors from the University of Texas at Austin—credits that automatically transfer to any of the state’s public colleges.

In Monterey County, high school and college educators have partnered to develop an engaging, relevant 12th grade math course that prepares students for a successful transition to college-level coursework. Central Carolina Community College has focused on the advising gap, employing and embedding full-time college counselors in nine of the region’s high schools.

“Clarity, guidance, relevance: These are what students seek at both the high school and college levels,” Lennon and Stanton conclude, adding that “Our education system owes them all three. And it needs to deliver them acting as a united force.”

How Georgetown is forging new connections among educators
Learn about The Pivotal Network, a Georgetown University initiative focused on elevating the work of outstanding high school teachers who play a crucial role in shaping students’ educational trajectories.

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