Partnerships for College Success
About the Nellie Mae Partnerships for College Success
The United States’ most vulnerable students—those from low-income, mostly minority families in underserved areas—drop out of high school at alarming rates. Too often, those who do attend college arrive unprepared for the intellectual demands and may complete no more than a year or two of a bachelor’s degree program. The damage to their prospects for economic success and informed civic participation is profound.
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s Partnerships for College Success (PCS) program seeks to create a clear path for these students from grade 9 to college graduation, supported by collaborations between high schools and colleges, and to learn how such partnerships can improve college preparation, enrollment, retention, and completion. By creating and tracking progress markers, these partnerships help incoming high school students, their parents, and their teachers understand the expectations students will face as they travel intellectually and socially from high school to college.
The PCS approach focuses on faculty/professor development and involvement, improved data collection and management processes to increase student achievement, and greater involvement of university students in assisting high school students. Partners selected to participate in this five-year initiative have an established track record of collaboration; the Woodrow Wilson Foundation provides technical assistance to help them expand their existing capacities as partners.
The five PCS partnership sites include a range of institutions, from large urban public schools and universities with many first-generation, low-income students to smaller suburban and rural campuses. While all five sites have achieved success in smaller-scale projects, the objective of Nellie Mae funding is to put in place a system that unambiguously prepares more students for college success, engages college faculty regularly with high school faculty, relies on admissions and placement policies that demand readiness, and enables students to focus on developing the knowledge and skills they need.
Together, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation are working to ensure that each PCS site develops eight key capacities:
- To plan, implement, and sustain strategic, long-term relationships between key stakeholders in the school and university communities—a necessary condition for all subsequent activities;
- To collect and analyze detailed data that will support longitudinal assessment of student work and yield useful information on student achievement;
- To build a culture of evidence in which decisions about every aspect of school life, especially those that affect academic achievement, are driven by data;
- To reach consensus on “college-ready” expectations that students should meet before attempting college-level work;
- To offer academically rigorous (e.g., college-prep, AP, and dual-enrollment) high school courses that align with college expectations and lead, without overlap or duplication, to college course work;
- To refine annually a program implementation plan, based on continuous analysis of school achievement and college-level retention and completion data;
- To acquire a strategic knowledge of what types of activity (e.g., professional development, tutoring, etc.) yield the greatest rates of student improvement; and
- To sustain and institutionalize key program activities beyond the term of Nellie Mae support, through dissemination of results and demonstration that the PCS theory of change produces results—outcomes that will enable the sites to secure additional support.
Woodrow Wilson’s Role
As an intermediary, Woodrow Wilson works on these eight goals with the five sites, individually and collectively. Woodrow Wilson support includes assistance during the first three years on data collection and analysis; support during the second through fourth years on design of a blended high school/college curriculum and teachers’ professional development, as well as site-specific planning capacity; and, in the fifth year, help with disseminating regionally and nationally the information about outcomes that will help the partnership sites secure sustainable support.