News: College Access & Success

District Superintendents Join NCAN for Leadership Engagement Webinar

Monday, February 10, 2020  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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On Jan. 28, NCAN was joined by two school district superintendents and a district director of school counseling for a “virtual training” aimed at ensuring the buy-in of district and school leadership around college and career readiness. Superintendent Walter B. Gonsoulin, Jr. of Jefferson County (Alabama) Schools and Superintendent Jorge Aguilar of Sacramento City (California) Unified School District both presented on why this work is important to them and how they signal to their districts’ internal and external stakeholders why and how to focus on students’ postsecondary outcomes.

Ralph Aiello, the director of school counseling for Broward County (Florida) Schools, and Rudy Ruiz, a partner at FourPoint Education Partners and also a data coach for NCAN’s To & Through Advising Challenge, engaged in a moderated discussion about their experiences and advice about how to get districts on board.

The webinar recording is available here. The training was a part of NCAN’s To & Through Advising Challenge made available to the broader NCAN membership.

Superintendent Gonsoulin (starting at 3:07 in the recording), focused on his district’s JefCoEd Journey campaign, which included:

  • Revising the district’s advisory period program with a college and career readiness curriculum.
  • Ensuring equal access to high-quality advising by asking school counselors about their strengths and weaknesses and creating resources around given topics with counselors who reported specific strengths in those topics (e.g., counselors most comfortable with FAFSA assistance developed videos on FAFSA assistance that could be disseminated throughout the district); conversely, counselors who reported discomfort with a given topic can now receive additional professional development in that area.
  • More effectively tracking the postsecondary outcomes of seniors and alumni by using National Student Clearinghouse data.
  • Creating buy-in from all district and school stakeholders as well as community stakeholders and making sure each of them knows they have a role to play in students’ postsecondary success.

Superintendent Aguilar (starting at 53:10 in the recording) discussed the robust data system his district uses to close gaps for students in the postsecondary pipeline. The district has a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with local postsecondary partners to evaluate the success of Sacramento City’s students. Aguilar’s presentation noted that there is a “fundamental gap between accountability in K-12 and higher education” where the “’pipeline’ of neither segment is incentivized to ‘fit’ together.” Consequently, that fit is “only brought about by the will to intentionally collaborate.”

Sacramento City’s data system tracks the percentage of students who are on track to graduate, on track to graduate “A-G ready” (which would ensure admission to California Public University Systems), and looks at the academic match profiles of students at the individual and school level. The district sends home college eligibility letters to students and families showing where they are an academic match and providing information about postsecondary pathways.

The guided discussion (starting at 1:32:00) between Ralph Aiello, Rudy Ruiz, and I touched on a number of important topics in the K-12 sector, including accountability for college and career outcomes, working with overburdened stakeholders, engaging community-based organizations and business in this work, and specifically working with a local community college on summer bridge programs, enrollment drives, and more. The relationship between the Broward County schools and Broward College is one that many communities could learn from.

NCAN included all three districts represented on the call in a forthcoming publication on the big ideas school districts are using to transform their postsecondary advising practices. Look for that publication later this month. In the meantime, NCAN will continue to highlight promising practices around postsecondary access and attainment in and around K-12 districts and schools.

(Photo by Burst on Unsplash)