Reflections on and Impact of the Goddard Riverside Options-NYCDOE Training Program

July 3, 2017

By Georgia Kioukis and Kimberly Edmunds, Equal Measure

Over the past decade, the importance of connecting all students to postsecondary options has gained substantial attention nationally. Educators increasingly recognize the need to expand postsecondary options and supports to reach more students — not just the top academic performers. Many also recognize the depth of support that students require to not only navigate the college application process, but to persist through college.

Driven by the need to provide equitable and high-quality college advising services to all high school students in New York City, the Goddard Riverside Options Center (an NCAN member) and the New York City Department of Education’s (NYCDOE) Office of Postsecondary Readiness partnered on a six-day training series. The series was based on the Options Institute, an intensive certificate course to train educators and professionals from community-based organizations (CBOs) on how to guide students through the postsecondary process. From 2010-2016, the Options-NYCDOE training reached almost all high schools in New York City, serving more than 1,600 school- and CBO-based staff of various positions, expertise, and experience.

Equal Measure conducted a two-year evaluation of the Options-NYCDOE training program, which concluded in July 2016. Our evaluation focused on answering the following question:

What is the impact of Options-NYCDOE training in helping to shift educator knowledge and practice in NYC high schools to support a greater number of students in achieving college acceptance, enrollment, and persistence?

The evaluation team worked with program leaders to develop three areas in which participating school counselors, college advisors, teachers, administrators, and others were expected to experience change during and after the training: 1) Participant knowledge and practice, 2) Participant-student interactions, and 3) Participant-school staff interactions.

How Did Participants’ Knowledge and Practice Change?

Educators who attended the training learned about a range of policies and practices that affect postsecondary options. The training led to substantial knowledge gains, building the capacity of high school staff by equipping them to help more students reach college-going milestones and benchmarks, and preparing them to provide college advising services to all students.

For example, follow-up survey results showed that 83 percent of participants strongly agreed or agreed that they experienced a gain in knowledge about how to provide students with quality recommendation letters, and 81 percent strongly agreed or agreed that the training better enabled them to support students with different college and post-graduation needs (out of a group of 158 participants).

Participants were also provided with broader access to professional resources and new opportunities for professional networking with peers in similar positions at schools and organizations across New York City. Time dedicated to action planning during each session prompted them to develop specific, measurable goals to improve college advising services at their schools.

How Did Participants’ Interactions with Students Change?

According to follow-up survey results, participants began to use more intentional and equitable advising practices. They began reaching a broader range of students and providing them with more individualized supports. Because the Options-NYCDOE training demystified the complicated financial aid process and helped participants understand the important components of applying for financial aid, they were better able to support students in filling out the FAFSA, developing a financial aid timeline, and comparing financial aid packages.

Serving the needs of New York City’s highly diverse population and working with non-U.S. born students with various immigration statuses was another major topic of the training. With information on all the options for these students and new tools, participants felt empowered and better equipped to support them. They also wanted to help students become their own advocates and decision makers.

How Did Participants’ Interactions with School Staff Change?

In some cases, participants returned to schools as college-going champions, yet changes in interactions with their colleagues were less pronounced than those with their students. These changes occurred in part because of the challenge of managing large caseloads and carving out time for coordinating joint work with colleagues.

However, many participants indicated that they worked hard to continue the momentum started during the training by sharing what they learned with colleagues and administrators, even if this sharing involved brief exchanges. Many of the tools provided by the training could be easily reproduced and shared with other school counselors, as well as teachers and support staff, to promote collective responsibility when assisting students with the college-going process.

Looking Forward

Goddard is exploring various ways to replicate the Options training program both regionally and nationally. On a regional level, they hope to use their current trainers to scale the training to the broader NYC metro area. Nationally, Goddard staff have partnered with local education agencies and CBOs using a train-the-trainer model in order to build out respective capacities. They have tested this latter model in Chicago and Puerto Rico.

Check out the first and second blogs in the series to learn more about our work with the Goddard Riverside-Options Training Program.

Georgia Kioukis is a Director at Equal Measure.

Kimberly Edmunds is a Senior Consultant at Equal Measure.

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