Education / 2013

College Track: Creating a Pathway to College in Boyle Heights

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by College Track

In this country, there exists a persistent gap between the academic achievements of low income, predominantly African American and Latino students and their high income, white peers. In California, less than 16% of students of color graduate from high school with the required classes to attend a University of California or California State University campus. On a nation wide scale, only 22% of low-income students earn a bachelors degree within 6 years of high school. Students are not getting the support necessary to navigate the college landscape to college completion. We aim to provide this support. College Track is a national educational non-profit organization working to increase high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation rates among low-income students. Our ultimate goal is to transform communities—like Boyle Heights, where our Los Angeles center is located—into places where all students have the opportunity to graduate from a 4-year university. We do this by opening College Track centers—centrally located in communities demonstrating significant need—where our students receive academic and college readiness support in a learning ‘hub’ environment. Through this work we narrow the achievement gap and build college-going cultures in the neighborhoods where our centers are located. Currently, the organization supports more than 1,400 students at centers in East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Aurora, Colorado, and now Los Angeles. College Track strongly believes that if you give motivated students the resources and tools to succeed, they will. College Track was founded by volunteer counselors who discovered that many students were motivated enough, but lacked resources to access college. College Track helps students with their academics, coaches them through the required tests, prepares them for the culture of higher education, supports them through the application process, and mentors them throughout college. These are kids who have the will to succeed, but lack the support to be successful. We provide them with that support, so that they in turn can reach their goals. The student who is accepted into the College Track program receives academic and mentoring support for up to ten years, starting in their freshman year of high school through their college graduation. There is no other program like this in the country. College Track students currently attend more than 75 four-year institutions including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, University of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Cruz), Howard University, Spelman College, and Columbia. Programming consists of: Our Academic Summer Advancement Program prepares rising 9th graders for the challenges of high school. Academic Affairs provides comprehensive academic planning, tutoring, monitoring and support. Student Life provides students with opportunities to explore their passions and engage in their communities. College Affairs guides students in all aspects of college admissions and support with scholarships. College Success supports students once they are in college, through advising, financial assistance, and social engagement. Over the course of four years, students receive support equivalent to one extra year of high school. At the suggestion of Mayor Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Deasy, and given the scarcity of educational support in the neighborhood, College Track began an expansion of its services to Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles this school year. The students here deeply need and deserve a safe space with caring and nurturing adults who help them with their high school academics, prepare them for the culture of higher education, support them through the college and scholarship applications, and mentor them all through their college years. College Track is partnering with two of the small schools affiliated with Roosevelt Senior High School in Boyle Heights – The Academy of Medical and Health Sciences, and the Math Science & Technology Magnet Academy. College Track is co-located on the Roosevelt campus for our inaugural year and has plans to expand off site as our program grows. Our first class is comprised of 30 freshmen from each of these Academies, for a total of 60 students. We will continue to grow the center by adding an additional cohort of 60 freshmen a year. By 2015-16, our Boyle Heights center will be fully enrolled with four cohorts of students, totaling roughly 240. College Track strongly believes that neighborhoods and schools must work more effectively together to support the healthy development of youth. College Track and its partners have the opportunity to radically improve the academic and life outcomes for students in Boyle Heights.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

College Track’s program and services are linked to a proven model of college preparation and completion. Today, our national strategy stems from sixteen years of outstanding program results: 100% percent of our seniors graduate high school, compared to an average of 50% in the districts we serve, 90% are admitted to a four-year college, compared to roughly 15% of students of the same demographic, 80% of students who complete our high school program have graduated from, or are still attending college. Over time, College Track increases the number of college-bound students of color in each community we serve. College Track students are often the first in their families to attend college, and with this example, their families, neighborhoods, schools, and peers adopt a mindset that a college degree is the expectation, not the exception.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

College Track is partnering with two of the small schools affiliated with Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights – The Academy of Medical & Health Sciences, and the Math Science & Technology Magnet Academy. Our first class is comprised of 30 students from each of these Academies. Boyle Heights native Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas is supporting College Track philanthropically, and by launching the Peapod Music & Arts Academy, which provides instruction in performing arts. Other partners inclide Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the California Endowment, and collaborations with several CBOs including the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, Homeboy Industries, and Proyecto Pastoral, creating a strong community base to support out work.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

College Track’s primary measure of impact is graduation rates. We track students’ college status and progress through college graduation and compare results to national and regional averages for similar demographics of students. College Track has the following primary goals for impact: 1) 75% program retention; 2) 100% of our students graduate high school; 3) 90% matriculate into four-year college programs; 4) 75% graduate from college in six or more years.

In Boyle Heights over the coming year, we expect the following: • College Track will double students served from 60 to 120. • Via our math support program, 55% of students will meet the math readiness benchmark on the ACT predictor test in 2013-14, compared to 38% of students during 2012-13. • Via our Academic Affairs Program, 70% of students will earn a GPA of 2.75 or higher in 2013-14 (minimum GPA required to be eligible for a California State University), compared to 55% of students in 2012-13. • We will retain 90% of students.

In order to achieve our goals, staff monitors all students closely to ensure individual program goals are completed and that challenges students encounter do not go unaddressed. Indicators used to track student success include daily attendance, academic performance, and test scores. Additionally, college application indicators, such as application deadlines, completion, admission, and scholarships awarded, are also monitored by College Track staff, as well as leadership and extracurricular interests, and community service hours. College Track’s Director of Program Evaluation and Planning, designs and monitors a set of tracking tools that measure organizational performance based on the stated expectations for scholar achievement and attendance. Progress is measured on an ongoing basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, by semester, and annually.)

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Only one-third of Boyle Heights residents 25 years-old or older have a high school diploma, and only 5% of these residents have a college degree. Additionally, close to 50% of students from Boyle Heights never complete high school. On a host of academic measures, schools in Boyle Heights have historically been very low performing. In 2010, 41% of Roosevelt High School students graduated high school in four years, and only 22% of those graduates were eligible to attend a four-year university. At Hollenbeck Middle School, only 6% of 8th grade students scored proficient or advanced in math and 19% in English language arts (ELA). At Roosevelt High School, only 5% of students are proficient or advanced in math and 26% in ELA. We intend to change all of this.

College Track’s services are linked to a proven model of college preparation and success. Over the past 16 years, 100% percent of our seniors graduate high school compared to an average of 50% in the districts we serve, over 90% are admitted to a four-year school compared to roughly 15% of students of the same demographic, and 80% of students who completed our high school program have graduated from, or are still attending college.

Over time, CT increases the number of college bound students of color in each of the districts and cities we serve. For example, in 2008 when we opened our center in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood, only 6 African-American students graduated from the neighborhood high school eligible to attend a 4-year university. Since graduating our first class in San Francisco in 2012, we have sent 120 students to college from the Bayview, and we are poised to increase the San Francisco Unified School District’s college bound African-American students by 30% by 2016. We expect to see similar results and impact for our Boyle Heights center.

Specifically, this work will benefit Los Angeles by:

1) Positively impacting academic outcomes for Boyle Heights, Roosevelt High School, and in time, the LAUSD.

2) Creating a pathway to college for underprivileged students in Boyle Heights who would not have the opportunity to pursue a 4-year degree were it not for our support.

3) Transforming Boyle Heights into a community where it is the expectation, not the exception, for students to pursue and obtain a 4-year degree.

4) Contributing to the economic vitality of the city, by creating a strong, educated work force in one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

“We need to see more College Tracks. Ideally I’d want to live in a world where we wouldn’t need College Track, where every student would be going to college. But we do need College Track, and just one center was not enough,” David Cruz, Class of 2004.

By 2050, we will work in a world where there would not need to be College Track. By 2050, we will have provided direct impact to low-income students across Los Angeles, and nationwide. These communities will be transformed, and college will be the norm. We will continue to work in collaboration with KIPP, Teach for America, Posse, and others to determine best practices and develop a pipeline for getting underprivileged students in Los Angeles through college. Our city will value the mindset and resources needed to do this, and will adopt and support these practices. By 2050, all students in Los Angeles will have the tools, role models, support and resources to complete college and pursue their dreams. This in turn will contribute to a thriving, healthy Los Angeles, where the skills, tools, and gifts of each of its residents are recognized and valued.