GOOD

College Unbound

How Big Picture Learning is revolutionizing what it means to go to college.


How Big Picture Learning is revolutionizing what it means to go to college.


John Legend, George W. Bush, and Arne Duncan may not have much in common. But all three have declared education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Abysmal achievement and graduation rates have led students, parents, educators, employers, and politicians to demand better from our education system. And while the bulk of this energy has been directed toward K-12 education, much of the current impetus for reform comes from increasing concern about the lack of college preparation and post-secondary success, especially for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.

But once students get to college, only a fraction thrive. Fewer than 60 percent of students that enter four-year colleges will graduate six years later. And less than 10 percent of students from the lowest socioeconomic background ever receive degrees.

These statistics—along with years of seeing enthusiastic high school graduates head off to college only to rapidly return disillusioned and in debt—troubled Dennis Littky. He has a successful history of shaking up high school education, as a principal and as one of the founders of Big Picture Learning, a nonprofit organization which has started over 100 schools internationally and influenced many more.

“Big Picture graduates complete college at a much higher rate than their counterparts,” Littky explains, “But still, too many ain’t making it. It’s like giving half a vaccination. All the successes we’ve achieved on the high school level and so many students still not graduating from college. It haunted me.”

Littky teamed up with public policy scholar Jamie Scurry-Fahy and they started by asking: “What do our students need to be successful parents, citizens, workers, changemakers?” After almost two years of research, conversations, and meetings with potential partners, Littky and Scurry-Fahy secured initial funding from the Lumina and Nellie Mae foundations and established a diploma-granting relationship with Roger Williams University. Last Year, they launched College Unbound.

I’ve been to three traditional academic institutions,” says Bryan, a 26-year-old first-year student at College Unbound. “They see education as an externalized process. You’re force-fed what they feel you need to know. What we’re doing here is an organic process that comes from inside. We set our own course and follow our interests through internships and projects.”

Bryan grew up in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury. After receiving his GED he attended various colleges, but they all left him wanting more, so he left them. As a first-year student in the program, Bryan now lives in a triple-decker house in Providence, Rhode Island with nine other students.

Like all 13 College Unbound students (about half of whom came to College Unbound straight out of high school and half of whom are of non-traditional age), Bryan spends Monday, Thursday, and Friday taking seminars. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he works at the International Gallery for Heritage and Culture, where he is helping the organization’s founders develop programming. Faculty from College Unbound meet with Bryan and the International Gallery’s founders every few weeks to ensure that he is learning and providing useful services to the organization.

All of his classmates have similar real-world learning opportunities. These experiences are the centerpiece of each student’s studies, making everyone architects of their own curricula. Ariel Wilburn and Michael Reaves are at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence, where they run trainings for middle school students. Talia Lundy is working with the producer of a new ABC television show being shot in Rhode Island. Alex Villagomez works on sustainable building projects at a rural camp. Mike McCarthy is doing outreach for the Providence Zen Center.

“Often for college faculty it’s about creating a ‘mini-me,’” says Scurry-Fahy, co-director of College Unbound. “We’ve got to let go of that. It’s about finding out from students what they want to know and be able to do. Then it’s our job to help them figure out what they’ll need in their toolbox in order to learn those things.” Faculty work with students during seminars, through frequent written correspondence, and in weekly one-on-one meetings to draw connections between seminar work and the experiences students are having outside the classroom.

Further, all students learn grant-writing and are responsible for crafting at least two proposals each year, one of which goes to support international projects, which College Unbound students conduct during the summer. Because students are engaged year-round, they save tuition and join the workforce faster by earning a bachelor’s degree in just three years.

While the exact future of College Unbound is still unclear, Littky says that it is still in the pilot stage. He and his colleagues continue to explore a number of approaches for bringing the innovative design to scale. One possibility would be to establish a national consortium of colleges and universities that would offer College Unbound as an option within existing institutions. Along these lines, Southern New Hampshire University plans to launch a College Unbound program next year. Community groups from New Orleans and Detroit have also approached the organization about hosting programs. Another expansion model is to develop a partnership with the military that would allow service people to earn credits for military experience.

While it may sound like a wild mix of growth strategies, that’s sort of the point. “We have the opportunity to provide disruptive innovations in multiple realms of higher ed at once,” says Adam Bush, who directs College Unbound’s curricular partnerships.

Students like Lundy, a second-year College Unbound student are hungry for the alternative: “When I think about traditional college it kills me. The loans, the boredom, I would have dropped out. I didn’t see education as a valuable thing until I came here. Everyone should be able to have this.”


Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture
NASA

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less
Science

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health