Education is an important political topic on the national scene, and statements made at national education forums are taken seriously. Therefore, when a speaker at the US News STEM Solutions Conference in San Diego says that “Ninety-nine percent of school kids are failed by the K-12 system,” experts on both sides of the aisle take notes. Certainly, most teachers and those in the education industry are going to object to those numbers, and others will seek to define what “failed” means.
Others still, will take those words as a challenge to improve the current situation. A few organizations such as AVID, Reality Changers, and the Posse Foundation have been striving to make a difference for students of color, low-income students, and students who will represent the first generation of college grads in their family.
Posse has been around for 26 years. While it is not just for minority or at-risk youth, the organization is set on developing and promoting future leaders that represent the diversity of the nation. Upwards of 50 universities partner with Posse, and a strong STEM component was added seven years ago. Matthew Fasciano is the chief operating officer of Posse. He says, “We’re preparing students to believe that they deserve to be in college, that college is for them.” Students who are engaged with the Posse Foundation receive tuition scholarships and social and academic support throughout their four years of college. Posse students have a 90 percent graduation rate.
Christopher Yanov spend five years working with gang members. When he realized that a number of the youth he was working with “knew more people that had been shot or killed than had gone to college” he know he had to do something. Without the support of the group, “0 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls graduate from high school,” Yanov said. Starting with just 4 people in a church, Reality Changers has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships and made college possible for student who never before had that opportunity.
Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) is a program in 44 states that trains teachers through professional development in order to teach them how to reach minority, low-income and first-generation students. AVID’s CEO, Sandy Husk, says the organization “provides the structure, access, heart, and rigor to those who need help in getting students to succeed. It’s a system that changes teacher behavior and language and provides strategies that empower teachers to prepare students for success. The lever is changing the behavior of teachers, teaching them instructional strategies that engage kids.”