In schools today, we have an aspirations gap. This is the difference between what students aspire to achieve and what they actually accomplish. Just last week the ACT and Excelencia in Education released a report showing that 83% of Hispanic students aspire to earn a post-secondary degree. Despite these high aspirations, only 24% of Hispanic students who took the ACT met at least three core subject College Readiness Benchmarks. Further, only 62% of Hispanic graduates enroll in college immediately after high school. The Naviance College and Career Readiness Curriculum aims to help address this challenge for students and schools, by ensuring that all students acquire college knowledge, develop non-cognitive skills, see what’s possible, and are empowered to take ownership of their education and post-secondary path.
The Naviance Curriculum was created with a mission to give all students the knowledge of how to reach their goals, regardless of circumstance and background. We wanted to help schools provide the same quality information to all students in an engaging and easy to understand interface. But figuring out how to reach students in a way that was meaningful to them was a challenge that took a lot of trial and error over the two plus years of development. We worked with hundreds of students all over the country to get it right, gathering college-related and other post-secondary planning questions from first-generation high school students. A team of experts worked to answer those questions in the Curriculum. Through investigating school challenges, current research, and talking with students, parents, school counselors, and administrators, the solution of a blended learning college and career readiness curriculum was born.
Along with making sure the Curriculum satisfied all of the students’ needs, we also made sure it satisfied the needs of the schools and districts that would be using it. Therefore, we aligned the Curriculum to the American School Counselor Association’s National Standards for Students (2004). Each lesson is aligned to one or more of ASCA’s National Model domains of Academic, Career, and Personal/Social Development. Lessons are also matched to standards, competencies, and indicators within each domain. The Curriculum also incorporates instruction on the five major factors related to college readiness as outlined by the U.S. Department of Education, including knowledge of the college readiness process, reaching out to adult supporters, academic preparedness, the financial aid process, and guidance through the college application process.
After finalizing the Curriculum, however, we still wanted to validate its efficacy with students in a classroom setting, being used in the manner that it was designed for. In the fall of the 2014, the Curriculum Pilot was delivered to over 200 11th graders from schools in California, Minnesota, Texas, and Virginia. We spent time with participants at every pilot school site to discuss their response to the Curriculum, and we worked directly with educators to implement it back into the Curriculum. Best of all, after participating in the Naviance Curriculum, pre- and post-assessment data revealed that over 50% of students showed readiness gains. On average, students experienced an eight-percent point increase in college knowledge and financial aid literacy, and those who completed a higher number of lessons showed a more significant increase in post-assessment scores. Now, when we think about the future of bridging the aspirations gap, we’re confident that we’re on the right track.