Tight Budget Ends DISD's Successful Program to Keep College-Bound Kids Motivated by Texts

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Alton
Dallas ISD was one of the first districts in the country to implement a text messaging program for college-bound grads. Unfortunately, it's not in the budget to repeat the program.

Between the excitement surrounding high school graduation and the ensuing laziness of the summer months, it's not uncommon for many college-bound students to flame out. In particular, first generation college students have trouble following through with their fall university plans in the summer months after high school graduation.

It's a phenomenon educators and sociologists call "summer melt". A Harvard study recently noted that as many as 20 percent of Dallas, and other urban area, college-bound graduates lose momentum and do not attend college in the fall.

Two years ago, Johns Hopkins University selected Dallas ISD as a guinea pig in its experiment to motivate college-bound graduates. The university kickstarted a district-wide text messaging program, in which guidance counselors sent periodic personal, inspirational messages to recent graduates through the summer months.

Dallas ISD was one of four districts across the country selected for the pilot program. As a whole, the initiative was a success, and recently, school districts have been reviving the program to help bridge the gap between high school graduation and college enrollment.

Despite its success, Dallas ISD is not one of the districts to be resuscitating the program.

Dr. Linda Johnson, executive director of Dallas ISD's college and career readiness program, said it's not because of lack of interest. "Dallas ended up having the highest success rate," she said, detailing how Dallas ISD saw a gain in 4 percentage points for college enrollment with kids who received the text messages.

It sounds like a marginal number, but Johnson said programs like this have a huge effect on helping motivate students to attend college in the fall. "Someone's going to have to help these kids navigate that system," she said, "and there has to be a shared environment between the high school and college."

But the program, financed by Johns Hopkins University, only allotted funding for one summer. Between the costs of additional counselor services and texting charges, DISD was unable to continue the program past that first summer. Meanwhile, St. Louis and other cities are implementing their own text messaging programs for the first time this summer.

Richardson ISD is considering creating a summer text messaging program in the future. Sarah Jensen, deputy director for the college access and success program with Commit!, said Richardson also send e-mail updates over the summer and lets students know that school counselors will be available for them over the break.

But since only about 6 percent of students read e-mails every day, and no kid in his right mind is going back to school during the summer, text messages are the most useful method -- about 63 percent of teens send text messages daily, and we suspect that number has only gotten higher since this 2012 Pew Center study.

"These programs to help at least some number of student who don't have anyone to connect them from high school to college," says Johnson. Unfortunately, DISD has all but washed its hands of the program, says Johnson, as it's just not in the district budget. It's up to individual universities to fund another program if they want to keep momentum strong for incoming students, which could only benefit a select few Dallas students.


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15 comments
RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

"district-wide text messaging program, in which guidance counselors sent periodic personal, inspirational messages to recent graduates through the summer months."......"Someone's going to have to help these kids navigate that system," she said, "and there has to be a shared environment between the high school and college."

The actual program, as described in the first quote, doesn't have anything to do with whatever the heck she's talking about in the second quote.

I'm glad DISD isn't going to be funding this.  College isn't a right or an obligation, it's an option.  If you have to externally motivate someone to participate in an optional course of action, it isn't the right course of action for that person.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

A smart wireless provider might team up with institutions of higher learning and local high schools to put something together that is mutually beneficial. Seems like it would be a smart investment on behalf of the colleges & data providers

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

How much could a text msg program cost? This story sounds ridiculous.

J_A_
J_A_

Geez how much more can we coddle these kids? Now they need motivational text messages to go to college? Trust me, no one sends my ass motivational messages to get to work everyday.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

A Harvard study recently noted that as many as 20 percent of Dallas, and other urban area, college-bound graduates lose momentum and do not attend college in the fall. 

So how much did this study cost ? 

And who paid for it ?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Solution: text the parent(s) once with a message like "bug your kid every day about going to college".

wcvemail
wcvemail

First! and first I'd heard of this program.

RustyShackleford
RustyShackleford

@RTGolden1 so anybody who ended up in college because their parents encouraged and pointed out the benefits to them never should have ended up there? Parents are the original "external motivators".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@J_A_

Dear Janice, that wireless bill isn't going to pay itself. - GTFU and go to work.

Sincerely, ATT.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@oakclifftownie

Those are very good questions, Townie, so I spent a few minutes on Google. The Heckscher Foundation for Children paid $28,627 via grant to two prof's and at least one grad student (from whose resume I got the info.) Founded in 1921 by a rich dude, "The primary aim of the Heckscher Foundation’s grantmaking is to “level the playing field” for underserved youth by providing access to education..."


You're welcome.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@RustyShackleford Not at all.  I used manual labor to motivate my kids to make concrete plans for post-graduation.  A parent has a vested interest in motivating their kid to go to college.  A parent has that obligation, that duty, to push their kid to excel.  I do not have an obligation to encourage your kid to go to college, and I certainly don't want to pay for a program that does it.

Although, as Bucky points out, most cell programs have free unlimited text messages.  As far as that goes, there's a free app that will automatically send prepared text messages out at scheduled times.  Total overhead: $0.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

That's more my guess. More is the shame then, to lose the program. Whadyawannabet that the budget was eaten up by a sweetheart hire of someone's cousin or church buddy.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

@ozonelarryb This, just like programs designed to help underserved kids go to college end up getting the former Super's kid into Harvard.


There is no good idea DISD can't ruin.

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