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Ramp-Up to Readiness

More than just another college prep program

By Peggy Rader

Ramp up to readiness

September 24, 2008

It's no coincidence that so many colleges and administrative units at the University have been inviting the state demographer's office to make presentations during the past few years. The face of Minnesota is changing—quite literally—and the University must take that into account when planning for its own future.

The United States is now one of the few developed nations in which young adults are less likely to have postsecondary degrees than preceding generations. That trend is almost certain to continue if higher education doesn't take new approaches to college readiness.

In Minnesota and across the nation, the segments of the student population that are growing the fastest—students of color and low-income students—are currently much less likely than their white and affluent peers to enter and succeed in higher education.

In recognition of these facts and to help address the access issues they reveal, the University created the Consortium for College Readiness, headed by former senior administrator in the St. Paul school system, Kent Pekel, and housed in the Office of the Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration.

"Closing America's college readiness gap will require far-reaching changes in our secondary schools, from the content of the curriculum to the quality of instruction to the number of minutes in the day and the number of days in the academic year," Pekel says. "But along with making changes in the structure of schools and the nature of schooling, we must also find new and much more effective ways to put each student in the driver's seat of his or her own educational journey."

Although under-represented kids have not typically been college-bound in the past, surveys show that currently they want very much to experience postsecondary education. They just don't know how to get there. One high school student in St. Paul, surveyed by University researchers, said, "The reason so many students 'fall through the cracks' in high school even though they want to go to college, is because all the resources are set up for students who already know what to do. But those resources aren't any good for kids who don't even know the resources are there. The students who use those resources are probably going to be the ones who will be successful anyway. It's everyone else who needs a clue."

This fall, the consortium is launching the development phase of a signature program to help children of color and children in poverty to become thoroughly prepared to be accepted into, to succeed at, and to complete education past high school.

Called Ramp-Up to Readiness, the program is being developed throughout the 2008-09 school year in 11 area junior and senior high schools. The goal of Ramp-Up to Readiness, whose project director is Theresa Battle, is to provide junior and senior high school students with the information and support they need to translate their high educational aspirations into action.

After this year of development and a trial implementation year in 2009-2010, other schools across Minnesota will have the opportunity in 2010-2011 to adopt the program with the goal of increasing both the number and the diversity of their students who graduate from high school ready for college and other forms of postsecondary education.

"The students who will benefit most immediately and dramatically from participation in Ramp-Up to Readiness will be those who otherwise would not put themselves or be placed by others on the path to postsecondary education," Pekel says. "But it also will benefit students who are on the college-prep track but who otherwise would have little understanding of the knowledge, skills, and habits they need to succeed at a postsecondary institution once they get in."

The program partners are developing specific steps for grade levels seven through 12 designed to prepare students intellectually and emotionally for postsecondary work. A specific curriculum is being developed for use by participants and a mentoring program, based on extensive drop-out prevention research in the University's College of Education and Human Development, will provide one-on-one support for students. For details about the program's structure and the various partners involved in developing and rolling out Ramp-Up to Readiness, visit