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Jack Friedlander: SBCC, School Districts Collaborate to Promote Academic, Career Success

Get Focused, Stay Focused! Initiative aims to help all students find a clear educational pathway

During a time when the state of California’s funding for education is at a 40-year low controlling for inflation, school districts, community colleges and universities are under increased pressure to improve students’ academic achievement, college attendance and degree completion rates.

Dr. Jack Friedlander
Dr. Jack Friedlander

School districts are being asked to increase the number of students who graduate with college- and career-ready skills. Community colleges are being asked to make substantial gains in the completion rates of students receiving certificates, associate degrees and/or transfer to a four-year university within three years of entering the institution.

Moreover, President Barack Obama has stated that for the nation to maintain its economic vitality in the highly competitive global economy of the 21st century, universities will need to double the percentage of students who earn a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2020. 

Get Focused, Stay Focused! Initiative

In order to meet the aforementioned challenges, SBCC is partnering with the school districts in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara on an innovative program called the Get Focused, Stay Focused! Initiative. We have every reason to believe that this initiative will make a tremendous difference for high school students becoming college- and career-ready upon graduation from high school and in the percentage who enroll in college and then complete their associate, bachelor or higher degrees in the most efficient manner possible.

The goals of the Get-focused, Stay-Focused! Initiative call for high school students to:

» Graduate with college- and career-ready skills

» Have an informed declared major

» Develop a 10-year career and education plan to achieve their educational and career objectives

Get Focused, Stay Focused! is a collaborative program with SBCC, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Carpinteria Unified School District, the Santa Barbara County Education Office and Partners in Education.

Nearly all area high school ninth-graders take a freshman transition course where they develop an online 10-year education plan that is driven by their career interests. Students then complete 16 modules per year that are incorporated into their 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade social studies or English classes. These modules, which are designed to meet the new K-12 common core standards, require students to update their 10-year plan each successive year they are enrolled in high school.

The core components of Get Focused, Stay Focused! are noted below.

Eighth to Ninth Grade Summer Bridge

» Participate in a transition program to prepare for high school and the Dual Enrollment Freshman Transition (DEFT) course

» Learn high school study skills and expectations

In Ninth Grade: Career Choices

» Take the semester-long Dual Enrollment Freshman Transition (DEFT) course

» Create an online 10-Year Career and Education Plan

» Answer the questions: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?

In 10th Grade: Developing Attitudes and Aptitudes that Promote College & Career Readiness

» Research high-demand careers

» Determine appropriate post-secondary option/pathway

» Learn about college access and affordability

» Continue to envision a productive future through autobiographical writing

» Update 10-Year Career and Education Plan

In 11th Grade: Determining Your Informed Major and Post-Secondary Education Path

» Research STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related careers

» Reaffirm or change chosen career path

» Choose a major to match chosen career

» Find colleges that offer your major

» Prepare for college applications

» Update 10-Year Career and Education Plan

In 12th Grade: Preparing to Act on Your 10-Year Career and Education Plan

» Apply to college/post-secondary planning

» Apply for scholarships and financial aid

» Update resume, cover letter, and portfolio

» Mock interview and job applications

» Write a Student Education Plan

» Update 10-Year Career and Education Plan

End of High School

» Preferably graduate with at least 12 and as many as 30 college units of Dual Enrollment courses that satisfy lower-division college graduation requirements

» Update 10-Year Career and Education Plan

» College Ready: No need for remedial coursework upon entering college

» Enter college/post-secondary training with an informed declared major

End of Community College

» Certificate or degree completion and/or transfer to a four-year college or university

Goal for the End of Post-Secondary Education and Training

» Working in chosen career field

Educational and Economic Benefits of This Initiative

Research consistently shows that students who have well-defined career goals and have a clear educational pathway for their attainment are more likely to graduate from high school college-ready and career-ready, enter college needing little or no remediation, be twice as likely to persist in college beyond the first year, and continue to complete their associate degree within three years, and for those desiring to do so, earn a bachelor’s degree within six years after entering a community college or university.

Achieving these outcomes will save state and local governments well more than $2 billion a year to fund remedial classes offered at the nation’s community colleges. The cost of remediation is substantially greater than $2 billion per year when federal financial aid and tuition fees paid by students are counted.

Moreover, research studies found that in 2008-09, the state of California spent close to $491 million for students who dropped out of community colleges during their first year of attendance. The vast majority of these students entered the colleges in need of remediation and/or did not have a well-defined career and educational objective as evidenced by their not completing at least nine college-level semester credits in a major field of study during their first year of college.

Labor market statistics indicate that if California could award just 2 percent more associate degrees and 1 percent more bachelor’s degrees, the state’s economy could grow by $20 billion each year this increase was achieved. Tax revenue would increase by $1.2 billion and 174,000 new jobs could be created. A highly and well-educated workforce is the key to our state and our nation’s economic recovery.

In these times of limited funding, local educators are pooling their collective resources to produce a highly educated workforce ready to successfully compete for the current jobs and jobs that have yet to be developed in our 21st century global economy. We are also committed to prepare students to be well-informed and active participants in the civic life of their communities, state, nation and global society.

— Dr. Jack Friedlander is SBCC’s acting superintendent/president.

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