Students of color are less likely to be prepared for college or high-earning jobs after graduation. According to the Center for American Progress, “Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are currently underrepresented in high-wage jobs but overrepresented in low-wage work and among the unemployed.” The reason for this, explains the organization, is that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students may not always be sufficiently prepared in primary and secondary school. Sometimes, they lack college preparation; other times, they may not be connected with internships or apprenticeships. Furthermore, they are not earning the credentials that they need to secure higher-paying jobs after high school. This education inequity doesn’t just start in high school either. Students need to start preparing for this future long before they begin their secondary education.
Though the issue here is clear, districts don’t have unlimited funding to better prepare students. “The financing systems of public schools in the US ensure that community wealth disparities carry over into education. By relying largely on property taxes to fund schools, which can vary widely between wealthy and poor areas, districts create funding gaps from the word go,” reports American University.
How can school districts with limited resources better prepare these students? Let’s go over the most important steps.
Career Planning for Students
In order for students to be prepared for high school and college, they need robust career planning. If students are not aware of the options available to them, they will be unable to identify pathways that prepare them for financially stable futures.
How can school districts improve this planning?
For starters, teachers can be better informed about careers. “By partnering with local and state employers, teachers can access labor market information and incorporate that data into their career curricula. . . . Teachers can bring that real-world knowledge back to the classroom to help their students understand and develop certain skills and discuss what career options exist,” explains the Center for American Progress.
Learning this information can be part of teachers’ professional development training.
Also, students need to be able to access information about careers that they may want to explore. Students of color can benefit from seeing professionals who look like them in historically underrepresented fields. Students can explore careers in the following ways:
- Pursuing dual enrollment courses at community colleges or universities
- Interning with local employers
- Perusing career planning websites
- Listening to talks from minority professionals
These partnerships with local employers don’t have to stress districts’ budgets either. Companies are recruiting students earlier than ever before, in high school, so they are interested in developing these programs in their own best interests.
“That means that although companies are currently developing their pipelines to include high school students, half of the high school population still remains untapped. With about 50% capacity left within the high school talent pool, companies need to begin implementing programs that attract promising high school students sooner rather than later,” reports NextStepU.
Offering College Guidance
Pioneering school districts have already made strides to diminishing the gap in inequitable student outcomes. For instance, school districts have incorporated the following changes:
- Courses that build students’ social and organizational skills
- Mentoring for high school and middle school students from local undergraduates
- “De-tracking,” which puts students of all achievement levels into college preparatory classes
- Programs and preparatory software that help students understand undergraduate expectations and ease transitions
These programs need planning to implement, but the long-term cost-benefit analysis proves their effectiveness. Private foundations and city governments have also helped districts pay for programs like these.
The long-term cost benefits for students and communities are clear. Students can feel more secure when they actually enter college, apprenticeships, technical schools, or high school CTE courses.
“Many incoming students are not confident in their career path and almost two-thirds of students feel overwhelmed by the process of selecting a major,” explains Businesswire. This lack of direction, in turn, can increase a students’ time to get their degree and the cost of the degree. With college planning, students are more prepared to enter a major that they have explored and actively chosen.
Building Community for Student Accountability
One of the most effective ways to address education inequity is by creating community around a student. When schools encourage family support, students succeed.
“In community schools, every family and community member is a partner in the effort to build on students’ strengths, engage them as learners, and enable them to reach their full potential,” states Brookings. Case studies reveal that adopting programs that loop in parents, guardians, and other community members can be a budget-friendly option for low-income schools.
Districts with budget constraints that want to implement these equitable initiatives should consider Choices360, a tool that helps students explore their interests and options in high school and beyond. Here are a few of its key benefits.
Choices360 can help students explore careers that interest them. Based on their year in school, students are asked to complete activities that support their career planning. You can design a curriculum that is tailored to your students or that is part of the standard curriculum offered by the platform.
Choices360 also simplifies college preparatory planning for students. For instance, students are encouraged to explore and plan for different majors and consider colleges that they may want to attend. Then, they are asked to link these plans to the careers that most interest them.
After students complete their plans, teachers, counselors, or other staff members can leave comments or run reports on students’ interests. They can also add reminders or events to students’ calendars so they can stay up to date on their planning.
Community School Development
One of the key markers in a community school is building more family engagement. Choices360 can simplify parental and family engagement in college and career planning by offering parental access to students’ four- to six-year plans. Teachers, staff, administrators, and parents can all be involved in planning students’ career outcomes, building a community approach to student success.
Building a More Equitable Future
Students of color and first-generation college students are not securing the same levels of financial success as their more privileged peers. But this education inequity can be remedied by helping students prepare for the next stages in their lives more consistently.
Methods like informing teachers and parents about college and career readiness and building communities of engagement are smart places to start. Choices360 provides the necessary accountability and curricula for school districts, teachers, parents, and students.
Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.
To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!