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PSCCN + Postsecondary Transition

The Puget Sound College and Career Network (PSCCN) established in 2010, partners with districts, community organizations, postsecondary institutions and more across King and Pierce counties in Washington State, to advance equitable access to postsecondary credentials for students through policy and practice at the leadership and practitioner levels. Spring 2020 found the PSCCN team and education partners facing the onset of the unknown ways COVID-19 and its related challenges would impact education, and all levels of our lives. An early concern that emerged for PSCCN’s partners students was ensuring the graduating high school class of 2020 would receive the support necessary to successfully transition to their postsecondary programs in summer 2020 and beyond.

Of course, if reading this in NCAN’s newsletter, you may have already been working to address this and other topics long before Spring 2020. This was also the case for PSCCN and their partners who have worked together over time to identify and address barriers impacting student success in enrolling and completing their postsecondary programs. So, as schools transitioned to online learning, and students, families and educators alike grappled with how to make meaning with the constantly evolving COVID directives, social -emotional tolls on life and more, the PSCCN team consulted with partners to find relevant strategies to address the student enrollment challenge that was emerging. 

At leadership convenings in May 2020, PSCCN presented to district and community and technical colleges an opportunity to join workgroups to develop and deepen existing institutional partnerships and using best practice strategies to support the transition of Class of 2020 into their postsecondary plans. Key considerations were identifying how to reduce barriers for incoming college students, leverage expertise and support of K-12, CBOs, and college partners, and acknowledging and addressing additional the known and potential impacts of COVID-19 on students and communities of color.

In early 2021, PSCCN recruited a smaller group of partners, with a more explicit continuous improvement framework, identifying specific change ideas and a longer lead time to student enrollment, and intentional inclusion of student feedback to inform strategies. For partners, 2021 finds staff and institutions with more experience and expertise engaging with and supporting students virtually; while the newness of COVID made the urgency of all strategies critical in 2020, in this new group the focus has shifted to smaller, more intentional approaches to build on the existing supports. Finally, PSCCN is approaching the work with more intentionality for the explicit need for healing and grace for students and partners this year, using thoughtful, focused approaches to address compounding and cascading impacts of COVID on the students, people and systems we support.

This is a summary of what was learned that can be applied right away. 

Note:

  • CBO’s were not a part of the 2020 workgroups, but do play an important role in supporting similar partnerships.
  • The strategies below include regional and national best practices, many implemented by partners outside the workgroups; we encourage you to continue to use strategies already in place and consider implementing others that you have not yet used. 
  • Many of the strategies named below were possible before COVID and distance learning, and we underscore that starting with intention to identify and eliminate to racial equity gaps should be a core focus of any partnership during and post COVID partnerships.

Partner Institutions - 2020

Districts

Colleges

  • Highline Public Schools
  • Fife School District
  • Clover Park School District
  • Bethel School District 
  • Franklin Pierce
  • Highline College
  • Tacoma Community College
  • Bates Technical College
  • Pierce College
  • Clover Park Technical College 
  • Pacific Lutheran University 

Partner Institutions - 2021

Districts

Colleges

  • Clover Park School District
  • Bethel School District 
  • Fife School District


 

  • Clover Park Technical College 

Learning Summary from Workgroups

Key strategies:

  • Meet Regularly
    • Create a meeting cadence with a range of representatives with both student-facing expertise and can commit institutional resources to the group's strategies.
  • Simplify and Consolidate Student Facing Outreach
    • Especially with virtual outreach, use joint marketing for collaborative events that give students a central entry point.
    • Regional/joint webinars, messaging and more are great opportunities to maximize your reach out resources.
  • Create Warm Handoffs for Students with a Face and a Name 
    • Identify a key student-facing contact at the college or university for prospective students to minimize the burden of navigating multiple offices and touchpoints. 

Best Practices to Implement - Partnerships

  • Data and racial equity come first.
    • Using data, identify which students the group is focusing on, using a lens of which student populations historically and currently have not been well supported by the systems.
    • Develop a shared process to access student-level data, using existing data-sharing resources and systems first, then building new processes as needed.
  • Build handoff focused relationships with seniors and college enrollment staff well before spring.
    • As early as late fall, districts and colleges should be deepening connections between students and key college staff, to equip students with contacts and enrollment support that will carry beyond financial aid and application completion. 
  • Develop individual and institution success markers.
    • As a college, district, or CBO, identify what your outcomes could look like individually and collectively with partners in transition work. Be clear about the partnership’s shared student population, how the group’s strategies will support that student population, and be prepared with institution/organization-specific strategies to identify and support students that fall outside of the partnership scope.
  • Develop strong foundations with ample time to learn about stakeholders within partnerships
    • Early on in your shared work, prioritize building relationships, and learning about what each partner brings to the table - staff capacity, expertise, and strategies already being utilized, known challenges, and hopes for the partnership. Building in this necessary time allows the group to understand their individual and collective starting points of the work to develop achievable goals.
  • Tend to the Trees and the Forest
    • Develop a shared expectation that partners will look for and develop systemic responses to barriers and ongoing challenges that the partnership comes across.

Student Support 

  • Senior surveys can be a crucial support. 
    • Developing, dissemination and using a survey for seniors can provide guidance for senior year and post-graduation support strategies, so plan to send out and analyze in early spring. Consider asking for post-high school contact information so students can be reached over the summer, prior to postsecondary enrollment. 
  • Start the explicit transition handoffs in spring.
    • Co-create with partners a communication and strategy timeline that identifies where districts are leading the work, where it is shared, and where colleges lead.
      • Also, if counselors and student facing staff are not available over the summer, plan for what support will look like.
  • Consider students and student facing staff (HS, CBO, College) as expert guides in the partnership.
    • Engage both student and student facing staff to identify what is not working as they navigate the enrollment process - from paperwork barriers to connecting with campus resources, etc. Be prepared to find ways to bridge these challenges in the short term, while also building a commitment to address systemic challenges in the long term.

Want to explore ways you could implement a continuous improvement framework on your own postsecondary transition strategies? Check out Shift Online Learning to get started.

Still thinking about what strategies to implement to help support the class of 2021? Here are resources to help you determine activities to prioritize this spring:

PSCCN is deeply grateful to our workgroup partners for sharing their time and commitment to learning together over the summer, and we encourage others to share their own best practices with us so that we can amplify those as well. We are committed to continuing the transition work throughout this year, both through high touch support and creating opportunities for shared resources and learning across the region. Stay tuned to learn more about King County Promise, another initiative facilitated by PSCCN with planned launch in 2022.