Social justice curriculum shown to improve student retention, completion

A program that combines student services with a social justice-focused curriculum has helped two San Francisco-based colleges improve their retention and completion rates among students, according to Inside Higher Ed. San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco (CCSF), a community college, say the program not only addresses the needs of students who aren’t academically ready for college but also provides specialized training for faculty members to ensure they are effectively implementing the curriculum.

The Metro College Success Program is a “school within a school” initiative that helps students for two years. These Metro Academies are based within the colleges and focused around a “broad career or program area,” like engineering, the sciences, or health. The program currently features 10 academies but will soon expand to 14 with increased funding.

The program supplements common elements of student success programs such as advising, tutoring, and supplemental instruction with a curriculum “that’s very contextualized and engaging to address real-world problems [students] experience,” Mary Beth Love, co-founder of the Metro program at San Francisco State, told Inside Higher Ed. For instance, the curriculum touches on gentrification, recognizing that many of the students have been affected by it. “It has emotional resonance for them and it makes learning and engaging real and connects to their lived experience,” says Love.

The program appears to be working. Students enrolled in Metro Academies at the university or community college are outperforming their peers who aren’t enrolled. At San Francisco State, the six-year graduation rate for the average student is 53 percent and drops to 43 percent when the student identifies as low-income, first-generation, or a minority. However, students who are enrolled in Academies program have a graduation rate of 60 percent.

At CCSF, in 2017, 53 percent of Metro students transferred or graduated, compared with 38 percent of students who come from similar backgrounds. Ultimately, the program manages to “increase student engagement by offering instruction that is topically relevant to students’ daily lives,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

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