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.

What does a secondary school with collge-going culture look like ?

What is “College-Going Culture” in a Secondary School?

Professor Patricia McDonough at UCLA ( has visited many low-income high schools to discover the key elements of a school culture that creates better college preparation and enrollment.

In schools where most disadvantaged students go to college, certain common factors are obvious. These schools create a COLLEGE CULTURE that all students and their families experience. Where such a culture exists, all students are prepared for a full range of postsecondary options through structural, motivational, and experiential college preparatory opportunities. In these schools…

  • School leadership is committed to building a college culture

  • All school personnel provide a consistent message to students that supports their quest for a college preparatory K-12 experience

  • All counselors are college counselors

  • Counselors, teachers, and families are partners in preparing students for college

Schools with a “college culture” usually exhibit most or all of the following Nine Critical Principles of a College Culture:

College Talk: Clear, ongoing communication among students, teachers, administrators, and families about what it takes to get to college

Clear Expectations: Explicit, clear-defined goals, communicated in ways that make them part of the culture of the school

Information and Resources: Comprehensive, up-to-date college information and resources, easily accessible by all students, families, and school personnel

Comprehensive Counseling Model: View of counseling that makes all student interactions with counseling staff opportunities for college counseling

Testing and Curriculum: Information about and access to “gatekeeping” tests (PSAT, SAT., etc.) and courses (A-G, AP, etc.) for all students

Faculty Involvement: Informed, active participation from school faculty in the creation and maintenance of a college culture

Family involvement: Meaningful engagement on the part of family members in the process of building a college culture

College Partnerships: Active links in a variety of forms between the school and local colleges and universities

Articulation: Ongoing coordination between counselors and teachers among all schools in a feeder group

Schools that want to change their college-going rates can work to balance their delivery of all nine of these principles. Start with an honest inventory, then move to change.


Copyright 2006 My College Puzzle