Monday, August 28, 2017

Higher Education report card alarming

source: The Willits News, Friday Aug.25, 2017

According to a new report from the California Campaign for College opportunity, the state is falling short in meeting both the needs of an economy in need of a well educated workforce and students in regard to college preparation, access, affordability and completion.
The report, issued earlier this summer grades the state on those four criteria and the results are not encouraging. The Golden State fails in providing college access to students and in college completion and also scores a “C” in affordability. College preparation ranked the highest with a “B-” grade for a less than stellar overall grade point average of 1.17.

The college preparation grade measures whether the state’s high school graduates are academically ready to successfully engage in college work. According to the non-profit’s analysis, to produce 1.7 million additional adults with college credentials by 2025, California would need 100 percent of students to finish high school, but only 69 percent actually do, according to the cohort graduation rate for the class of 2014.
Additionally, the data shows only 47 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds enrolled in college, while only 6.3 percent of 25 to 49-year-olds with no college credentials enrolled. To produce the required number of adults with college credentials over the next eight years, the report’s authors estimate the state would need to increase production of undergraduate degrees annually by 23,000 from a baseline of 420,000. Only 12,584 additional degrees were given over the baseline in the 2014-15 academic year for completed university work.

It is alarming that today, just under half of adults in our state have a college degree or credential, as is pointed out by the report’s metrics. If a growing demand for a more educated workforce requires that 60 percent of adults have a college degree or credential by 2025, as Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity asserted, that means the state must produce close to 2 million more degrees over the next decade, a daunting task but one which can be achieved with some dedication and with a commitment from elected officials to provide much needed resources and funding.

Locally, educators are taking some steps to ensure that students have the tools to succeed and to meet the workforce demands of the future. Sanhedrin High School, once a credit recovery school has been transformed this year by the Willits Unified School District as a career Technical Education (CTE) site.
WUSD Superintendent Mark Westerburg said last year his first year on the job would be to focus on repairing the district’s aging facilities and added he would direct his efforts, along with district staff, during his second year to curriculum. So far he seems to be on track with his stated goals.

According to Westerburg, high school students who don’t attend WHS can instead choose to go the vocational education route by participating and choosing vocational programs at Sanhedrin, in order to graduate with marketable skills in multiple focus areas, or develop a personalized program that best fits their needs.
Willits students in grades 6 through 12 also have the option of attending Willits Charter School where this year staff are updating technology, including use of Google classroom and giving upper class students access to Chromebooks, as well as other platforms to ensure academic success and engagement.

Director Jennifer Lockwood said more Advanced Placement classes have also been added to address college accessibility at the school including the addition of AP courses in US history, environmental science, Spanish and calculus.
Educational success of course starts at the lower grades and Willits families have access to Willits Charter School, a free K-5 school for local students. According to Director Kara McClellan, this year teachers plan to emphasize history and social science, along with core academic subjects. There is also a push to strengthen the school’s art programs, music and other academic programs.

Westerburg said the district offers a smaller sized school like Sherwood Elementary where multi-grade classrooms allow for more one-on-one instruction with teachers. Middle School students can also select independent study options managed through Sherwood.
There is a lot state elected leaders can do to achieve the goal of ensuring students have the degrees and credentials needed to succeed and meet the state’s workforce demands including expanding financial aid funding in state and community colleges for low income families and students, reducing the time it takes for students to get through college programs and making sure completion of the college ready (referred to as A-G requirements) for students becomes a reality to open up doors for more of them to gain admission into the UC and CSU systems.

Only by maximizing our local efforts in these areas with the support and accountability from elected officials can the gaps in college preparation access, completion and affordability be bridged.
Ariel Carmona Jr is the city editor for The Willits News. He can be reached by email at or by phone at (707) 841-2123.