Too often, this is not the case. Well-meaning programs often fail to coordinate their work to meet the needs of students. High schools often wait until their students' junior or senior years to focus on college preparation. Underfunded programs with great ideas struggle around the corner from businesses that have resources available to be put to work in meaningful ways.
In recent years, the Education Fund has recognized how important it is to first understand the resources available as well as the gaps, and then build local partnerships to get the support and services to students that need them the most. We began work with four schools in the city to conduct a rigorous assessment of the resources and activities in place to help our neediest students get to college and succeed when they get there.
This inventory was part of an initiative funded nationally by the Citi Foundation and locally by the ACE Group, to raise college enrollment and success in low-income areas and communities of color and among students who are the first in their families to attend college.
The inventory, called a postsecondary-success asset map, showed us that our school and community leaders - despite hard work and best intentions - were waiting too long to introduce our students to college-level coursework and the many exciting options available to them after high school. We learned that college preparation is not a moment. It is a process. And we are improving that process. Today, conversations about college are a critical part of freshman orientation in our partner schools.
The inventory also pointed out that our students who made it to college struggled with writing. After bringing higher education and high-school faculty together to explore this challenge, high-school teachers began teaching college-level essay writing, and higher-education faculty began to understand that students who could write essays for standardized tests could make the shift to college essays with a little help.
The city has found a way to step up, and now we need the state to do their part to support our hardworking students and teachers. In the meantime, we all have a role in helping to multiply the success of the Bloomsburg 10 until college enrollment - and persistence to graduation - is the norm.
Darren A. Spielman is the president and chief executive of the Philadelphia Education Fund.