Getting Help When and Where Needed
Helping students strive for academic excellence and the programs and services used to plant this seed is essentially the subject of our feature articles in this edition — what’s being done to close the achievement gap.
Our cover story profiles the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and TRIO — two federally funded programs with similar goals but different approaches.
The goal of both programs is to extend college opportunity to low-income students. GEAR UP targets students at the middle school level, while TRIO programs primarily target students at the high school and undergraduate levels. Some education advocates and legislators believe the programs are duplicative. They question whether there is truly a need for both programs. Consequently, issues surrounding funding and effectiveness have at times plagued GEAR UP and TRIO. Others, however, say both programs are worthy of support and can and should continue to coexist. What is the future of these two programs? (see story, pg. 26).
And what is the future of remedial aka “developmental” education? It is another issue over which some educators and legislators do not see eye to eye. A popular sentiment is that higher education institutions, particularly four-year schools, should not spend money on remedial education.
Remedial education is poorly misunderstood, some educators say — suffering from two misconceptions — first, that it costs too much, and second, that most of the students in remedial education courses are minority. Kendra Hamilton examines the “rhetoric and reality” of remedial education (see story, pg. 31).
“Fulfilling Their Potential” (see story, pg. 36) is an article that many people can relate to. Pamela Burdman looks at academic support centers on some college campuses in California — Berkeley being one of them. Unfortunately, students who take advantage of tutoring services often are stigmatized, perceived by their peers, and in some cases instructors, as being academically unprepared. However, a UCLA administrator put it best when he said, “the pedagogy of our programs is to work with students not on surviving, but on excelling.” That’s really what it is about — preparing students to excel, not just survive in college.
My excel-not-just-survive story involves a friend who struggled with calculus in high school. His father hired a tutor for him, and after a few sessions with the tutor, my friend said it was like “eureka!” He had grasped what for him became the key to successfully solving calculus equations. As a result, he not only survived calculus, but truly excelled at it and subsequently went on to tutor others. Coincidentally enough, he graduated from Berkeley.
It’s unfortunate that receiving academic support often is stigmatized, not to mention underutilized. And too often, it is students of color who do not take advantage of these services for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is what others will deduce about their academic abilities. I think what “Fulfilling Their Potential” highlights best is that as colleges and universities become even more competitive, even the “top” students can benefit from a little extra help.
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