Preservice Teachers Are Creating a College Culture for At-Risk Middle School Students

This mid-point report from a seven-year study about building a college culture investigates how a multifaceted approach including mentoring, technology, campus visits, parent involvement, and tutoring impacts at-risk middle school students’ college aspirations and eventual success gaining college acceptance. Based on NAEP report data, many young adolescents may not be adequately prepared for postsecondary education and workforce success. This longitudinal study follows a student cohort (n = 50) starting in their sixth grade year, uses a quasi-experimental design including three comparison groups, and collects data from surveys, interviews, written reflective statements, and student academic measures to evaluate efforts and outcomes of building a college culture. Midpoint findings suggest that experiencing college life through campus visits and vicariously through mentoring experiences with preservice teachers may be linked to improvements in at-risk middle school students’ perceptions of college. Digital story-writing projects and on-campus writing marathons helped these students gain insight on their academic and career futures. Different strategies have been implemented to increase parental participation in building a college culture. Because many of these students need higher grades, the project shifts emphasis during year three to academic tutoring by preservice teachers as the students enter eighth grade.

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Published in Research in Middle Level Education Online, 2008