To maximize effectiveness and sustainability, student supports should be integrated into the design of the school and its curriculum and instruction. This helps ensure that all students are reached and that supports are normalized rather than stigmatized.
Strategically embedded support
“Comprehensive support systems” are strategically embedded into the design of the school. For example, to ensure comprehensive support for its students, the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) includes “advisories, early college seminars or after-school tutoring/mentoring [as] a required part of a student’s schedule” (MCNC Student Support website).
There are some common structures that facilitate support across a range of student needs. For instance, academic support structures for dual enrolled students may include individualized learning plans, credit retrieval programs, college remediation centers, and tutoring and mentoring at both the high school and college. Social-emotional support can be provided through teacher-led advisories, early college seminars, and community service programs. Early college seminars can also be an effective form of college preparation support. These seminars expose students to college expectations, provide academic support to students in college classes, monitor their progress, and assist them with college applications (MCNC Student Support website).
Examine the big picture
The principal at CAL Prep emphasizes the need to look at the big picture — including schedules and school structure — when planning and implementing supports. As she says, “Don’t be afraid to change — structures, schedules, anything. If you have a larger school, maybe this means finding a pocket of change, or it means sitting down and overhauling structures. Make sure with all change that everything you do connects back to your vision, which should be a means of solving and addressing the problem statement.”
At CAL Prep, staff wanted to be sure that they were pushing all students towards college readiness. This meant helping some students catch up and pushing some students even further than they already were.
Integrate college preparation supports
By design, Friendship Collegiate Academy’s (FCA) early college program tackles most of the known predictors of college enrollment for historically underrepresented groups of students. FCA clearly conveys the goal of college attendance; provides students with college tours, visits, and fairs; promotes rigorous course-taking through the dual enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum; and involves parents directly in the process. These are four of the five critical indicators of successful college enrollment identified in a national study of early intervention/pre-college programs (Perna & Swail, 2002). Through its pre-AP/pre-early college program, FCA also incorporates the fifth critical component: starting college readiness interventions by the 8th grade so that students have the opportunity to take a college-going curriculum in high school (Vogt, 2007a).
Extra academic supports
High school teachers, college faculty, and college students offer a wide variety of academic and personal supports to students throughout their years at Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Early College School. These services are designed to help students overcome barriers to learning that they may have faced in previous school settings, such as poor reading, writing, math, or organizational skills. This range of supports also prepares students for the greater challenge of college work. In particular, three academic supports play an important role in helping STAR students succeed in college courses: extra academic support, tutoring, and a year-long course designed to teach college-level study skills (Newton & Vogt, 2008).
Tools and resources
- Friendship Collegiate Academy’s college counseling and support program, described in Making the College Admissions and Financial Aid Process Transparent by Kristen Vogt aligns with the critical indicators of college enrollment for historically underrepresented groups of students.
- The transition plan at STAR Early College School guides the support embedded throughout the students’ introduction to and participation in college learning, as described in Ensuring College Success: Scaffolding Experiences for Students and Faculty in an Early College School by Anne Newton and Kristen Vogt.
- Does your school’s current design (including its schedule and structure) support effective implementation of and coordination among supports? How could the school’s design be changed to improve the provision of supports?
- To what extent are your support programs and services scattered or distinct? What shifts in school structure or policy could make these supports more coordinated and aligned?
Research indicates that to be most effective and sustainable, student supports should be woven into a school’s overall design. As Weinstein states, we should “encourage the field to move away from ‘little programs’ scattered around to universal policies and programs that enhance all the capacities of all children to be college ready. This work points to a paradigm shift in thinking about supports: about support as being located primarily in the design of the school, its curriculum, and instruction. Accessing support becomes normative for all and non-stigmatized” (Weinstein, 2011, p. 1).
An important part of school design is thoughtful consideration of schedules to allow time for pull-out instruction and/or intervention periods during the regular school day. Early college schools with the strongest support systems were able to integrate supports into the school day as much as possible. They also provided before- and after-school programming when staff, space, and funding allowed (Jaeger & Venezia, 2011).
Weinstein (2011) recommends that schools focus on the “allocation of support resources,” which entails decisions about how to coordinate and integrate supports into the school’s design. As Weinstein writes, “Utilizing a three-tier framework of intervention (drawn from public health, mental health, and special education), most of the effort or allocation must go to building the most supportive school features and classroom instruction as a universal and most far-reaching strategy. The availability of targeted and intensive interventions (with groups or individual students) by teachers and support disciplines must be ensured but not made primary” (p. 19).
In line with this recommendation, Grubb and Anyon (2011) highlight the need for a collaborative school governance and accountability structure focused on a broadened range of student outcomes.Next Principle