College readiness gets an early boost
A new partnership between Rosemount High School and Inver Hills Community College is giving 50 RHS sophomores a head start on preparing for life after graduation.
RHS is one of three area high schools currently serving as a pilot location for a program called Leading And Developing Readiness. Funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the program reaches out to students in the academic middle - from the 30th to the 70th percentile - and by working college-level reading work into their English curriculum is meant to prepare them for the realities of post-secondary education.
That's not always automatic. According to Inver Hills dean Doug Binsfeld, 80 percent of students who enrolled in the school two years ago had to take developmental math classes for no credit just to get up to college level, and 50 percent of students had to take developmental reading.
"They just weren't prepared," Binsfeld said.
If they continue with the program in their junior year, the students involved in the LADR program can start to earn college credit. Over two years they can earn 13 credits while taking classes at RHS.
Binsfeld came to Inver Hills two years ago with a goal to find new ways to reach out to the community. This grant has helped him do that, and a chance meeting with RHS assistant principal Kim Budde last year helped bring the program to Rosemount. The LADR program is also in place this year at Burnsville and Simley high schools.
RHS already has post-secondary enrollment options, but those are available primarily to high-achieving students through programs like Advanced Placement and College in Schools. Budde liked the LADR program because it reaches out to students who could perhaps use a push in their preparation for life after high school.
Budde said many students simply assume they'll go to college once high school is done but don't give much thought to what they have to do to prepare. They get to their junior or senior year and are surprised by the work they still have to do.
"They come to school. They give great effort. They work hard to turn in their assignments," Budde said. "They're good kids, but they don't always push themselves with the rigor and they don't always push themselves beyond high school until the last minute."
The LADR program attempts to remedy that by bringing college curriculum into the high school. Inver Hills teacher Kim Elvecrog worked with Heather Trager, who is teaching the LADR classes at RHS to integrate the college and high school curriculum. Elvecrog also visited Trager's class as a guest lecturer last week, and students will visit Inver Hills multiple times if they stay in the program.
The program may expand to math classes in future years.
Elvecrog volunteered to be the college's representative for the program. She likes the idea that she is helping students get ready for college. She knows that for some students this program is the only place to get answers about the next step in their education.
"Many of these students will become first-generation college students," she said. "They don't have people at home to go to for advice."
RHS and Inver Hills worked together to identify students for the LADR program. All students in the high school's academic middle took the Accuplacer test MnSCU schools use to identify incoming students' ability levels. The college used those results to pick out students who could use some help, then RHS administrators looked through that list to identify the best candidates. There was a parent night earlier this year to introduce the program.
Binsfeld said response to the program has been good.
"We're very pleased with it, and we think we can have a great impact on a lot of students in the near future," he said.
Getting things up and running has taken some adjustments at RHS. The school was already updating its English curriculum, but Budde said the school is making adjustments as they are needed.
"We're moving forward," she said. "We're excited about this. We're going to be very logical, not jump right in."