Community Colleges Teaching Everybody

Much appreciation to my TLN colleague, Anthony Cody, for his recent blog over at Teacher Magazine on community colleges.

When family issues required me to change my work schedule, I was blessed to be able to move from high school to a full-time position at a community college. For a teacher, it’s the best of worlds: Freed from many of the non-teaching burdens of secondary and focused on teaching rather than the publish-or-perish tenure treadmill of the universities.

Lest we forget, many of the students who come to community college are “ready” for four-year, academically, but may not be ready financially. However as Anthony reminds us, not every child who graduates high school does so in the top ten percent of the class. Where do those average students go? Many of them end up at community college. So do many laid off or frustrated workers, single mothers, new citizens, and thousands of others looking for a fresh start.

Most of the fastest growing technical career fields require two years or less of training, many others can be jumpstarted at the community college; then advanced at other institutions later.

The community colleges face many problems of their own. If you haven’t seen it, check out the John Merrow piece, “Discounted Dreams” on struggles of community college students. Also helpful is the report Basic Skills for Complex Lives, from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. One problem Merrow and others have exposed is the resistance among four-year institutions to accepting the transfer credits of community college students (primarily for economic not academic reasons).

Nevertheless, community colleges are proving to be resilient and resourceful in providing access to education for broader and broader segments of our population.

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