The College Puzzle Blog
Prior PostingsAbout
Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

High drop out rates. Another youth killed on city streets. Teaching to the Test? Who cares? Too few. That’s our challenge.


Guest Blog, by Daniel F. Bassill, President of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Thank you for inviting me to write a guest blog. I’ve spent the past 30 years leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago that connects inner city kids with workplace volunteers. I’ve also had an advertising career where my job was to tell people in forty states that we had 400 stores near them, with merchandise they might want. We did this with print advertising, radio and TV, reaching 20 million people three each week, and with a variety of public awareness activities.

What does this have to do with education and preparing kids for college and careers? Everything.

What I’ve learned from my leadership of volunteers is that until we get volunteers personally connected, invested, in an issue, they only provide a minimum amount of time, talent toward their volunteer service. However, when a volunteer bonds with a youth, and with the organization, many become willing to do much more to help the child succeed in school. Some become surrogate parents. Others become leaders.

If we don’t create more leaders, who are personally involved with helping inner city kids to college and careers, we cant make the changes we write about on these blogs and we can’t reach all of the kids who need our help.

We need a marketing strategy, based on collaboration of those who are self- interested in this cause.

This blog has many informative articles about poverty, No Child Left Behind, and other issues related to education and preparing kids for college. One that I found really interesting was an article about the wealth gap, which helps explain the reason kids in poor communities do less well in school than kids in more affluent communities.
The tutor/mentor blog, which I write, has many additional links, and uses graphics like the one I’ve attached to show a goal of connecting people from different groups in common actions that last for many years. You can see this and other concept maps here.

In addition, we use computer generated maps to show where poverty and poor schools are most concentrated, and thus, where more resources are needed to help kids have a better chance of staying in school, and leaving with the education and the adult network, they need to compete in college and in work. However, unless we dramatically increase the number of people reading these articles, reflecting, and then acting, with time, talent, money, and their vote, we won’t build the public will power, and the distribution of resources, needed to make a significant dent in the problem.

This is a marketing and advertising challenge, not just a social service problem. It’s an education challenge, but not just a K-12 one. The challenge is to increase the number of adult learners who read these blogs, follow these links, and then use this information in their own actions and efforts to help poor kids.
I’m passionate about volunteer based tutoring/mentoring because I see it as one of the best forms of civic engagement. This passion has grown over 30 years, as I’ve learned more about the problem and been more personally involved in the solution. Thus, my strategy is to recruit volunteers to become tutors/mentors, and grow their involvement over a period of years.

A comprehensive tutor/mentor program, like Cabrini Connections, is a bridge, connecting youth in poverty, with adults who don’t live in poverty, but who can open doors to jobs and careers, if we can keep them connected to the kids, and our programs, for enough years.

While the Cabrini Connections program has 100 volunteers involved each year, the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy supports more than 200 tutor and/or mentor programs in Chicago and many more in other parts of the country. If we help volunteers connect in many programs, in many cities, we increase the army of volunteers who become personally connected, and become evangelists who take this strategy back to their workplace, their university, and/or their faith groups and social/civic networks.

It’s a long term strategy aimed at increasing the size of the choir, or the village of people, who need to be helping kids in economically disadvantaged communities move through high school, college or vocational training, and into 21st century jobs and careers. Since we don’t have the $250 million per year that Montgomery Ward spent on advertising, we need a collaboration strategy to generate this type of public involvement.
How can universities help? Stanford and other universities have huge alumni bases in Chicago and other big cities. If business school and alumni teams from different universities adopt the Tutor/Mentor Connection as their own strategy, creating learning circles that build better understanding of problems and solutions, we can unleash the talent of top universities who use their advertising, marketing, communications skills to help us get more people involved, informed, engaged.

As we pilot this process in Chicago, the alumni networks of these universities can distribute this type of leadership to every city in the country.

I host a conference every May and November in Chicago and hope that some of the people reading this will participate, as a first step in forming these types of leadership teams, so that as the 2008-09 school year, this leadership is helping mobilize more volunteers for tutor/mentor programs, in all cities, not just Chicago.
It does take a village to raise a child. However, it takes a few organizers to mobilize the village. The future starts with us

Copyright 2006 My College Puzzle