Encourage Cooperation Among Public Schools and Colleges and Universities

The state should encourage public colleges and universities to develop programs in association with the public schools in their areas.


Background
Texas provides a continuum of educational opportunities. All elements of the state s education programs are (conceptually, at least) part of one system. The quality of the state s higher education system depends on the quality of Texas public schools. Similarly, the public schools quality depends on a cadre of qualified and tra ined teachers who are products (primarily) of state colleges of education. Despite this interconnectedness, schools and colleges operate independently. Research done by the Comptroller of Public Accounts as part of the Forces of Change project suggests that this anachronism can no longer be sustained the problems of public education have rapidly become the problems of higher education. While school reform efforts in recent years have centered on elementary and secondary education, involving higher education can yield important benefits for all sectors of education.

For example, inadequate high school preparation resulted in the creation of the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP). This diagnostic test is used to determine if entering college freshmen can do college work. The test covers reading, writing and math skil ls; students not passing the test are required to complete remediation courses. The increasing number of entering students who cannot pass the TASP examination means colleges and universities mus t spend significant sums on remedial courses in English and mathematics. Also, the high dropout rate in the public schools reduces the pool of qualified applicants for colleges, compounding efforts to increase minority representation.

Compared to Texas elementary and secondary schools, the state s colleges and universities are well funded, but under-utilized. Establishing programs that link these two levels of education could give the public schools access to a much greater variety of academic and techni cal resources without incurring substantial new costs to taxpayers. Colleges and universities would gain a larger pool of students who are ready for college, saving millions in expenditures for remedial education.

Public schools and higher education institutions are financed very differently and have separate governing and coordinating boards. As a result, while there are strong moral and intellectual incentives for colleges to develop partnerships with local school s, there are few financial incentives to encourage collaboration among the institutions. Professors generally are not rewarded for their efforts in the public schools. In fact, the publish or perish mentality at most colleges and universities is a disincentive for faculty to devote time to public school improvement.

When collaborations work, they often work very well. Research suggests that some important benefits can accrue from successful school-college collaborations. Successful programs have been developed to teach high school students col lege-level courses, to teach writing in inner-city schools and to improve the graduation rates of minority and at-risk students. 1 In many universities, colleges of education are strengthening their ties with local schools, emphasizing field-based teacher preparation to reform the teacher education program.

Beyond the required collaboration in teacher preparation programs, the most well developed collaborations relate to science and mathematics instruction in public schools and programs to help disadvantage d minorities. These have been developed to meet two critical challenges facing the schools: reforming science and math instruction and improving the educational achievement of disadvantaged students. Both types of collaborative activity are present in Texa s, although neither reflects a coordinated state effort at higher education/public school collaboration.

The student apprenticeship program coordinated by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of many national efforts in whic h health and science related institutions aggressively recruit high school students who exhibit potential for health and science careers. Students study science at their high schools for three years and spend afternoons during their senior year at the Heal th Science Center working on laboratory projects in pathology, biochemistry, microbiology and other fields. At the center, students are treated as adults and even make presentations in laboratory meetings. The program helps build student interest in a care er in the health professions, a vital undertaking given that the National Science Foundation estimates that of all high school sophomores who show an interest in science careers, only 5 percent will earn a baccalaureate degree in the field, and only 1 perc ent will earn a doctoral degree. So far, 68 students have participated in the biomedical program with the San Antonio Independent School District and 66 of those students went to college with at least one scholarship. 2

Programs to help disadvantaged students are even more numerous. For example, Texas Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) program, economically disadvantaged high school students spend several weeks during the summer on a college campus. The program helps prepare these students for college li fe, both academically and socially. Other programs match minority college students with youngsters in public schools. The older college students act as mentors and tutors and are role models for these students.


Recommendations
A. The Texas Higher Educati on Coordinating Board in cooperation with the Texas Education Agency should develop policies that actively encourage and reward public higher education institutions and faculties for building substantive links with schools in their area.

Rewards to institutions could include incentive funding through the performance-based budget system currently under development. Also, faculty interaction with public schools could be a factor in tenure decisions.

B. The Commissioner of Education should be granted the authority to place low-performing or unaccredited school districts under the direct management of a neighboring higher education institution.

If the Commissioner of Education determined that a school district would benefit from the help of neighboring public or private universities or colleges, the higher education institution could provide educational administration or instructional support an d receive state compensation commensurate with their efforts.

Other benefits include the creation of communica tion networks for research projects, distance learning, college course work at the high school site for advanced students and increased interaction among teachers and faculty in academic disciplines. Also, college libraries should be available to senior hi gh school students. Expanded student internships could be offered to recruit talented high school students for careers in science, mathematics and health care.

C. Colleges of education should be encouraged to adopt a school district or primary, middle or high school. This would enable the colleges to test and develop new, innovative ways to deliver educational services.

D. The state should explore developing a community service requirement for all graduate students, regardless of academic discipline.

This work should include educationally related community service. Similarly, a community service component could be created for undergraduate degrees. The requirement could be met by volunteering to work in local public schools for specified periods und er the direction of the host school faculty. Developing a community service program could provide Texas schools with a corps of young tutors and mentors delivering valuable services to Texas children.


Implications
The most important benefit for both schools and colleges is the improvement of student learning and development. For schools, benefits can include fiscal savings, improved teacher professionalism, freedom from bureaucracy, access to college facilities, net working, building community support and improving the prestige of superintendents, principals and teachers. For colleges, benefits include better prepared high school graduates, recruitment opportunities, research opportunities and enhanced pedagogical and curricular interaction.


Fiscal Impact
There would be no significant fiscal impact from this recommendation. However, increased collaboration can lead to better use of existing resources at all levels of education, yielding potential long-term financial benefits. To the extent that collaborati ve efforts are successful at raising graduation rates and student achievement, they can lower overall education expenditures by making the system more efficient. For example, under the current system Texas incurs substantial costs when students are require d to repeat a grade. To the extent that educational improvement can reduce grade retention, overall costs for public education should decline. Similarly, if this policy results in better information for prospective college students about the skills they wi ll need to succeed in college, expenditures for remedial education should fall as students become better prepared for college work.



Endnotes
1 South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, Choosing South Carolina s Future: A Plan for Higher Education in the 1990 s (Columbia, South Carolina, July 11, 1991), p. 90.
2 The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Office of News and Information, News (May 19, 1992), p. 1.