College prep in middle school

Published 7:56 am Friday, September 17, 2010

Samantha Grunewald writes in her agenda Thursday morning during the sixth-grade Ramp-up to Readiness class at Ellis Middle School.

Samuel Sanchez’s favorite actor is Will Smith. During Thursday’s sixth-hour College Readiness class, Sanchez, a sixth-grader, listed off some of the movies Smith had acted in.

After he was done, Camille Osmonson, Ellis Middle School’s college readiness coordinator, asked the class whether Smith had played one role or many in his movie career. Osmonson told the class everyone has many roles to play. The key to these roles, as the learning objective reads on Osmonson’s whiteboard, is to start prioritizing them.

Prioritizing roles is but one lesson in the new College Readiness course all sixth-graders are required to take at Ellis Middle School this year. The course is part of a University of Minnesota-designed education initiative called Ramp-Up to Readiness. Last Spring, Ellis Middle School was one of eight pilot schools selected across the state to apply curriculum designed to get students prepared to obtain some sort of post-secondary education.

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“We want kids … to be ready to make the decision to get into college,” Katie Berglund, Ellis Middle School’s principal said.

Since Ellis is a pilot school for the program, which was created by the U of M’s College Readiness Consortium, it must report statistics and surveys gathered in the College Readiness course throughout the school year. Ellis is unique in that it’s the only school in the program, and therefore in the state, that offers a full-year College Readiness class.

The Ramp-Up to Readiness program sets five goals for students to accomplish by the time they graduate from high school. Students must be ready to academically succeed, to do well in the admissions process, to be ready to pursue a career, to be financially ready for post-secondary schooling and to be ready for personal and social settings in an academic environment.

To that end, the program creates smaller curriculum goals, or levels, that pilot schools must either incorporate into their current curriculum or find ways that their curriculums are already matching the program’s. In Ellis’s case, the first two levels of the each of the program’s goals will be covered in Osmonson’s class.

Osmonson, Ellis’s only College Readiness instructor, has taught kids ranging from kindergarteners to eighth-graders for the past twelve years. According to her, the class exposes kids to the idea of what to expect from colleges, universities, technical schools, and certification programs while teaching them organizational skills, study habits and thinking ahead.