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Academic Counseling in Schools Gets Boost from New State Grants




Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of Communications
Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

$1.8 million to Help Students Prepare for College

Twenty-three Minnesota schools were awarded a total of $1.8 million in grants this month to expand and enhance academic counseling and advising for students entering high school, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education announced today. Funding for the grants was approved in the 2007 legislative session and signed by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The competitive grants will support schools in their work to help primarily ninth-grade students successfully plan and prepare for postsecondary education. Strategies vary from one grantee to another. Some schools are providing more one-on-one academic counseling to students; others are engaging students in new activities including advanced courses, career exploration, mentoring and campus visits; and others are adopting new Web-based planning and advising tools. Many are employing a combination of approaches.

"Students make important choices early in life about which courses to take and about whether school is a priority for them," said Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. "Far too often, they make choices without a clear understanding of how those choices will affect their long-term options. These grants will help schools reach more students with important experiences and information as they transition into high school."

Forty-six proposals were received and 23 were selected for funding by review committee representing counselors, teachers, administrators and higher education representatives. Proposals were sought from schools across the state, and in particular, schools serving students from groups traditionally under-represented in higher education. All grantees will work with community partners to enhance their programs for students. Grantees are required to match at least 50 percent of the grant award through collaborative work from postsecondary institutions, business, industry and community organizations.

Grant recipients range in size and scope from a cooperative of 10 school districts in the Red Lake Falls area to a school project for students in Parkers Prairie to an inter-district collaborative for students attending alternative learning centers.

2008 Grant Recipients

Albert Lea Area Schools, $10,000. (Dreams to Reality)
A proven freshman transition and peer support program will be implemented to help new-entering freshmen transition successfully to high school. Students will develop a four- to six-year career plan to expose all ninth grade students to various career options and the academic pathways necessary for the career. Students and their families will be introduced to an online academic guidance program incorporating career exploration and planning, three-year course planning for high school and postsecondary educational planning. A course information and career planning event will be scheduled each spring in collaboration with business and industry, Riverland Community College and the area Chamber of Commerce.

Apple Valley High School, $70,000. (Project Success Program)
Using small group sessions, individual counseling sessions, guest speakers, classroom presentations, parent information sessions, field trips and job shadowing, a counselor will work to improve career and college knowledge among targeted students to increase the proportion of students who graduate and enroll directly into at a postsecondary institution. Each of the 100 to 250 targeted students will meet with the counselor four times during the 2008-2009 school year, will create an online portfolio, and will create a four-year high school course plan. Project partners are: Augsburg College, Normandale Community College, Inver Hills Community College, the AVID Program, Apple Valley Job Shadow Business Partners and Feed My Starving Children.

Bemidji High School, $73,000. (Linking Lumberjack Learners to Success)
A full-time licensed counselor will work solely with ninth grade students and will implement a freshman transition peer support program to increase student achievement by increasing student enrollment in advanced courses. The counselor will meet regularly with all ninth grade students in small groups and individually to develop five-year plans and online academic and career portfolios. School staff will be trained in new methods to welcome, mentor and support students as they transition to high school. Informational meetings with parents will be held to encourage and promote school success and postsecondary planning. Program partners are Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College, Leech Lake Tribal College, North Country Cooperative Center, Boys and Girls Club and Healthy Community/Healthy Kids.

Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative, Chaska, $63,086. (Project Scholar Bound)
The project will serve 50 ninth-grade students entering high school and an additional 150 ninth-grade students receiving specialized educational services by alternative learning center instructors. Students will receive academic support and counseling services from their case managers and counselors and develop a continuous learning plan to help prepare them to graduate from high school with the preparation necessary for college enrollment and successful transition into college life. The counselors will meet with students individually on career and college expectations, arrange for ACT and PSAT testing, and provide information on accessing financial aid and postsecondary educational options. Program partners are Dunwoody College of Technology, Normandale Community College and the Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative member school districts.

Centennial Senior High School, Circle Pines, $100,000. (Creating Channels to Academic Achievement)
A licensed counselor will be added to the staff to facilitate a postsecondary readiness initiative providing direct services to approximately 100 ninth- and tenth-grade students who are typically underrepresented in higher education. The new counselor will facilitate connections between students, families and higher education institutions by providing a Web-based tool that empowers students to own their journeys toward success in higher education. Ninth- and tenth-graders from groups typically underrepresented in higher education will receive face-to-face and online support. The University of Minnesota will partner with Centennial High School.

Central High School, St. Paul, $94,809. (Road to Achievement Made Possible)
Program components for the target freshmen cohort include: a new mentorship program connecting freshmen with local college students for monthly discussions on all aspects of the postsecondary experience; developing and maintaining a web-based high school/postsecondary plan during after-school sessions; teaching, practicing and reinforcing necessary skills for success in rigorous high school programs and college; increasing enrollment in honors-level courses; and involving parents in their student's academic success and career planning through the district's "6-Year Plan" for students. The program's partners are the University of Minnesota and its statewide Ramp-up to Readiness network.

Chaska School District, $100,000. (STEP into Success)
Ninth grade students who are from groups traditionally under-represented in postsecondary programs will be provided with information, tools and skills necessary to meet the academic and social challenges of higher education without the need for remedial coursework. The existing ninth-grade advisory career curriculum will be strengthened and a weekly after-school program will be offered focusing on increasing awareness of postsecondary options and connecting them to academic success. Regular parent information meetings on postsecondary planning will be provided. The University of Minnesota is a project partner.

Ivan Sand Community School, Elk River, $98,823. (Success Academy)
Part-time counseling and clerical staff will work with 50 to 55 ninth grade transition program students from School District 728. The counselor will plan and provide individual and group activities to include: scheduling one period a day in a Success Academy class; creating individualized academic and higher education plans; completing a variety of assessments in math, reading and career exploration; visits with representatives from colleges, business and industry. Students will use online resources for exploration of higher education opportunities and career development. The project will be designed to increase students' abilities to identify personal barriers and establish strategies to overcome these barriers and gain success in higher education. Project partners are Anoka Hennepin Technical College, Anoka Ramsey Community College, Elk River/Zimmerman Boys and Girls Club, First National Bank of Elk River, Hennepin Technical College, Elk River Rotary and Education to Employment.

Kennedy High School, Bloomington, $100,000. (ACE Postsecondary Program)
The school will develop postsecondary educational plans for 350 ninth-grade students that enable students to see the relevance of their classes for their future, better prepare ninth-grade students academically for postsecondary opportunities and improve parent and student satisfaction with the school's postsecondary option services. The high school will establish a welcoming center to provide a positive experience for enrolling students and a site for students to have their future plans immediately addressed. Program partners are Normandale Community College, Hennepin Technical College, Rotary Club, Park-Nicollet Clinics, Faith Community Team and Educational Talent Search.

Lanesboro High School, $17,764. (College Readiness Headstart)
An academic counselor will work with 30 ninth-grade students to provide the individualized aspect of academic planning and advising on college preparation. A Web-based software program will be used to help identify failing grades and subsequent interventions to address student needs. New software will assist students in accessing resources, tracking progress and reporting to parents. Postsecondary partnership activities with Minnesota State College Southeast Technical and Hiawatha Valley Education District will raise awareness and provide opportunities for students to gain college credit and an understanding of what it takes to succeed in postsecondary education.

Minneapolis Public Schools, Washburn High School, $100,000. (Excellence is My College Counselor)
A licensed school counselor will be dedicated to ninth-grade students and will identify students not being served, provide outreach to students during the summer through a five-day high school orientation program, coordinate college access and student support agencies, partner with Achieve Minneapolis to help students fulfill ninth- grade requirements of the district's online college and career planning program and develop a training model for volunteers. The students will gain knowledge and prepare for various postsecondary options.

Northeast Metro District 916 and Intermediate District 287, Little Canada, $99,309.
Direct support through advisory groups will be provided to 80 first-year students attending area learning centers in Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, Little Canada and Columbia Heights. A project coordinator will oversee the use of appropriate training materials and processes; enhancement of career awareness course materials and development of tools to emphasize postsecondary education options; provision for on-site training for advisors; regional training for school counselors to influence school reform; and training by college counselors on topics including college entry requirements, financial aid, and career prospects. Century College will be the project partner.

Parkers Prairie High School, $28,185. (Stepping Into My Future)
The grant will be used to implement a Web-based academic planning program to ensure high-quality academic advising for the eighth-grade class in both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years. Students will take assessments to identify their learning styles, interests and aptitudes. Students, parents, and staff will work collaboratively to create a six-year plan for each student that will combine the student's skills and interests with the courses necessary to be successful in their postsecondary aspirations. Program partners are Runestone Area Education District and Alexandria Technical College.

Pine to Prairie Cooperative Center, Red Lake Falls, $100,000. (Ninth Grade Today, College Tomorrow! Be Prepared)
A counselor will work with students in classrooms, in small groups and individually. Online resources will be used to increase enrollment in rigorous coursework and help students monitor and improve their GPAs. Students will experience college life through activities in college labs and college visits. By the end of ninth grade, the 423 ninth-grade students from ten school districts will have individual academic plans that include career goals. The ten school districts receiving student services are Ada-Borup, Bagley, Fertile-Beltrami, Fosston Norman County East, Norman County West, Red Lake County Central-Oklee, Red Lake Falls, Waubun and Win-E-Mac. Project partners include: Northland Community and Technical College; University of Minnesota, Crookston; Ingenuity Frontier; Northwest Private Industry Council, Inc.; City of Fosston; Garden Valley Telephone Company; Hendrum Economic Development Authority; Plummer Lions; Red Lake Falls Civic & Commerce Association; Twin Valley Economic Development Committee; Twin Valley Booster Club; and the White Earth Reservation Tribal Council.

Pine River/Backus High School, Pine River, $32,790. (Crossroads to the Future)
A school counselor will conduct individual meetings with ninth-grade students and parents, ninth-grade team meeting interventions with students, aid students in developing personal education plans online, develop a peer tutoring program for struggling students and provide students with job shadowing and college visits. The new initiative will be designed to increase enrollment in rigorous high school classes, to promote career and college investigation and to provide academic support for students. Project partners include Central Lakes College and Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena.

Richfield High School, Richfield, $92,400. (Richfield Ramp-Up)
Sixty students, to include several students from the Richfield Middle School AVID program, will work with a specialized English teacher who will provide explicit instruction related to successful habits, thinking skills, study skills, reading, writing to learn, speaking and career opportunities, in addition to rigorous academics. A dedicated counselor will engage students in an academic career and life planning process, increase awareness of and access to multiple postsecondary opportunities, assist students in preparing for and succeeding in college. Counselors will participate in training to increase their capacity to support college readiness for students facing multiple challenges across schools. Project partners include: the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Normandale Community College.

Robbinsdale Area Schools, New Hope, $99,998.
The Robbinsdale Schools will target ninth-grade students with transition activities, an advisory program, a career and college center, a Web site, large group presentations and coordination with the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program coordinators. To increase the number of students who graduate within four years, a specific caseload of 75 students in the AVID program will be targeted for support. A new college advising counselor will support the targeted caseload through mentoring, monitoring graduation plans and comprehensive college advising. Program partners are Mosaic Youth Center and the Cargill Foundation.

Russell/Tyler/Ruthton Schools & Lynd Schools, Tyler, $97,254. (All Aboard for Learning)
Through a partnership between Russell/Tyler/Ruthton Public Schools, Lynd Public School, RTR Booster Club and Southwest Minnesota State University, students in grades eight and nine will develop individual education plans, have access to courses with rigorous academic standards and will be mentored by students from Southwest Minnesota State University who can provide students with encouragement and insight into the college experience. Employers and civic organizations will provide and internships and career exploration opportunities to students.

St. Peter High School, St. Peter, $99,708. (Linking to Learning II)
This program for ninth graders will be coordinated by a newly-hired counselor and will include providing counseling and advising to students; supporting participation in summer camp opportunities and jump-start programs in math and science; organizing and facilitating monthly parent meetings to provide one-on-one consultation; establishing/training a student support team to work with parents during monthly meetings; and coordinating career awareness opportunities through the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce Business and Education Committee. Program partners are Minnesota State University, Mankato; Gustavus Adolphus College; and the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce.

Shakopee Schools, $96,000. (College for All: Ramp-Up to Readiness)
A licensed counselor will coordinate efforts to improve the college preparedness of tenth grade students. The students will develop postsecondary plans that map out courses and experiences they need to gain admission and thrive at a postsecondary institution. Students will monitor their progress toward the goals of their postsecondary plan. Through intensive professional development and increased advisor duties, site teams of principals, guidance counselors, teachers and paraprofessional tutors will improve students' college preparedness and provide program experiences to junior high students as they plan for high school and postsecondary education. The University of Minnesota will be a project partner.

South Washington County Schools, Cottage Grove, $100,000.(Navigation 101)
The grant will allow for a comprehensive advising and college planning initiative to be implemented with 605 ninth-grade students in the district. Advisors will deliver a structured curriculum during homeroom time to help students identify aspirations, set and pursue their goals. Students will develop personalized learning plans, create portfolios and conduct student-led conferences in the spring with parents. Two cohorts (40-50 students) from first-generation college families will participate in an extended curriculum and support program. Professional development and ongoing support is included to help all advisors become effective facilitators and coaches. Partnerships with Century College and 3M combined with parent outreach activities will support student engagement and college readiness.

Tech High School, St. Cloud, $87,367. (Transitions Always Made Easy Project)
A full-time licensed counselor will coordinate and deliver project components to the ninth graders at Tech High School, with specific services for students who are at risk academically. The counselor will review assessment and diagnostic data of students and consult with counselors, teachers, administrators and advisors to structure the program. Student activities will include intensive academic advising to help students prepare an education and career portfolio that defines a multi-year plan for academic and career goals, selection of core or college preparation courses, and the establishment of an early alert system that will lead to academic intervention. The counselor will work with partners to increase the number of students in concurrent enrollment classes, examination-based courses like Advanced Placement, and a summer bridge program. Project partners are St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical College.

Winona Area Public Schools, $61,113. (Healthy Futures)
A newly hired school counselor will work with eighth- and ninth-grade students from low-income households, who would be the first generation to attend postsecondary education, and students of color. The goals are to increase self-awareness, engagement in school courses and activities, increase enrollment in challenging courses and development of plans to attend college. The counselor will work with students individually during the school day, in small groups after school and in community meetings during the evenings. Project partners include Winona State University and the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce.

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