The Woodrow Wilson
Early College High School Initiative
Developing a College-Going Culture in a Middle School: A Toolkit
This toolkit came about from technical assistance work by WestEd with early college schools in the Woodrow Wilson network. These schools were exploring how to make the most of the formative middle school years to promote students’ college readiness. Sites wanted to know what other schools were doing and what resources were available to help them in doing it.
Middle school is far away from college, time-wise, but the college-going process begins before students step foot onto a high school campus, much before they ever start thinking about college applications. We know a college-going culture in high school is important in helping students achieve their postsecondary educational goals; particularly for traditionally underserved students who are not exposed to college cultures in school, at home, or with their peer groups. But if pathways to college exist in middle school for the most successful students, what does a middle school college-going culture look like?
We hope that this toolkit helps you begin to further your middle school’s college-going culture. We’ve included materials to help you analyze what your school’s college-going culture looks like now, including what’s going well and what the struggles are. We also include a report done based on one school’s use of these materials. Finally, we include a list of existing resources, like middle school college-readiness curriculum guides, from which you can draw in developing your school's college-going culture.
- Surveys and protocols
- A case study: Hope College Prep Academy
- Resources targeted to developing a college-going culture in middle schools
These surveys and protocols were designed to help you understand more deeply the existing college-going culture at your school. They can facilitate conversations with staff, students, and parents on college-readiness for the middle grades. While these tools were designed for use by an external party, they can be used to begin discussions internally or evolve into other materials. The nine components of a college-going culture on which they are based stem from UCLA Education Professor Patricia McDonough's extensive work on what a college-going culture should look like. The included surveys and protocols are:
(the following are .pdf files that will open in a new window and require Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Distribute this survey to all students for a collective student body perspective. For a large school, a smaller group of students may be more efficient, but should be selected to represent the full student population.
Student focus group protocol
For a greater depth in understanding than what can be learned from a survey, a neutral facilitator can use the protocol with 1-3 small groups of students (about 6-10 students per group).
Use this survey to collect the perspectives of as many parents as possible.
Teacher interview protocol
A neutral interviewer can follow the questions in this protocol to get the perspectives of middle school teachers; if not all teachers will be interviewed, aim to interview enough teachers to cover all subject areas and grade levels.
Principal interview protocol
This protocol for interviews with school principals may also be used to interview vice principals and other school administrators.
Counselor interview protocol
This protocol may be used to understand the perspective of school counselors, college/career counselors, and other support personnel who work with middle school students.
Office Manager interview protocol
Including the perspective of the school’s office manager or front office staff helps to provide a comprehensive understanding of the college-going culture in a school.
The full report
This case study demonstrates what one school learned from using the surveys and protocols and the type of report that might result from it.
This table summary of the case study highlights the school’s strengths and weaknesses in each of the nine components of a college-going culture and identifies priorities in further developing its college-going culture.
This is a compilation of existing products that aim to assist in creating a college-going culture for middle schools. We’ve searched the web, scoured the websites, and put together a list of all the resources we could find with brief summaries of each. You can use the matrix to narrow down the list of products that best fit your needs.
This toolkit was created by Su Jin Jez, Ph. D. of WestEd for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, July 2009.
For more information, contact Su Jin Jez, currently Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration and Associate Director of the Education Doctorate Program at California State University, Sacramento (916-278-5955), or Kristen Vogt, Associate Director for Early College (609-452-7007 x115).