Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

IS College for Everyone?

The Fordham Foundation published an article by Michael J. Petrilli on March 20th with the headline “College isn’t for everyone. Let’s stop pretending it is.” (http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/flypaper/college-isn%E2%80%99t-for-everyone-let%E2%80%99s-stop-pretending-it-is) Although the article focuses on the frequent push for lower-performing students to attempt college regardless of their readiness, in the interest of exploring the issue for Melrose students I would ask “Is immediate college matriculation always the best choice for all MHS graduates?”

The statistics around earnings for college graduates are clear – they earn significantly more over a career than non-college graduates. What is not always discussed is the wisdom of pushing a student who is just not ready - academically, socially, or emotionally – to attend a college or university immediately following high school. As we are in the season of college acceptances and commitments, it’s a good time to ask ourselves as a community whether we will judge our students and our schools by the percentage of students immediately going on to 2- and 4-year institutions. Are students failing themselves and their high school if they take some intentional down-time before re-committing to serious academics? Is it preferable for every single student to instantly choose college English class over a more hands-on experience? College list prices are daunting – how about a year of work in order to sustain a continuous college experience rather than having to stop and work in the middle?

Every student (and every individual for that matter) needs to employ life-long learning in order to achieve personal, professional, and financial growth. K-12 education should provide a rigorous curriculum and foster partnerships among teachers, guidance counselors, and families to serve the unique and developing needs of each student. Then we will be prepared to answer a much better question with respect to how the schools have performed with respect to student outcomes: “Is each and every student leaving our classrooms well-prepared to do whatever they realistically choose, well-supported with respect to making quality decisions about their future, and able to marry the two to find a good fit for their next big adventure?”