Supporting All Students for College, Career, and Civic Engagement

Dale Erquiaga
May 29, 2018 · 4 min read

A Reflection on the 2018 Milliken Dialogues and Policy Summit

In the U.S., nearly half of all students graduate high school without a clear path forward, unprepared to attend college or enter a career. Too many of these young people simply did not have access to opportunities to build the knowledge and skills required to graduate college and career ready. Students need better information, tools, hard and soft skills, and support services if they are to be more prepared for life after high school.

With that problem in mind, Communities In Schools (CIS) held the first annual Milliken Dialogues and Policy Summit, here in Washington D.C. on April 25th, 2018. This public policy forum brought together CIS affiliate leaders, alumni, policymakers, partners, advocates, and school leaders to discuss innovative solutions to ensure that more young people are prepared for life after high school.

The 2018 Milliken Dialogues and Policy Summit

At the 2018 Milliken Dialogues, we released the results of a newly conducted Gallup poll, commissioned on behalf of Communities In Schools. The poll revealed that only one in four U.S. adults (25 percent) believe most high school students are prepared for success in college. Roughly the same percentage of respondents (22 percent) believe high school graduates are prepared for success in the workplace.

Experts in attendance agreed that the poll results were grave, but most were not surprised. “I view those results as a call to arms for all educators,” said Shelton Jefferies, Superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools in North Carolina.

The poll results demonstrated the path that needs to be taken to improve student readiness. Respondents were also asked to choose among a list of potential programs and interventions that would be most helpful in improving student preparedness for college and career. Financial planning and management ranked at the top alongside social and life skills.

Event attendees also discussed other skills that young people need for success after graduation and beyond. Lonestar College Chancellor Stephen C. Head described the need for schools to ensure that students are emotionally prepared for college. “They need to know how to show up on time, how to handle conflict resolution, how to handle the issues in their lives that we all have,” he said.

Robert Logan of AVID also spoke about the “soft skills” that students need to thrive, like grit and knowing when to ask for help.

Speakers from a wide range of fields shared their work, highlighting innovative partnerships and policy solutions to help students gain access to better information, tools, hard and soft skills, and support services.

One of the most vocal advocates for better student preparation was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who delivered a keynote address during the Dialogues and then participated in a moderated discussion with Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education and fellow Chicago native.

Mayor Emanuel discussed his provocative new requirement that all high school seniors in Chicago have a college or career readiness plan in place in order to graduate. “[High School] graduation is not the destination, it is a milestone on the journey of education,” he said.

Certainly, one of the most important perspectives on the issue was from young people.

Communities In School of San Antonio alumnus and San Antonio City Council Member Rey Saldaña moderated a conversation in response to these results with alumni from Year Up, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Communities In Schools of Jacksonville. Read more about their discussion here on the CIS Blog.

The Work Ahead

The summit was important, but now we roll up our sleeves. We’re committed to keeping the conversation going through advocacy, research, and self-reflection. I’m excited to share with you a sampling of what comes next for Communities In Schools:

The 2018 Bill and Jean Milliken Alumni Fellowship

Through the Milliken Center for Innovation and Student Success, we are accepting applications for a Communities In Schools alumnus/a to spend nine months working alongside CIS National staff in an exploration of some of the most important and compelling issues facing the students we serve. The focus is derived from the Milliken Dialogues and an array of potential projects were suggested by participants at the event. Click here to learn more.

College and Career Readiness Research Agenda

To make sure that this conversation informs our own work, we recently planned a 5-year research agenda to ensure that our students graduate high school college and/or career ready. On July 9, we will launch that work by bringing together members of our network, researchers, subject matter experts, business leaders, funders, and Alumni to help us co-design a plan.

Tying it all Together

At Communities In Schools, our mission is to be all in for kids. That’s why our volunteers and staff members work tirelessly with communities across the country, empowering young people to overcome circumstances and systems that keep them from success. For the nearly 1.5 million students we serve, these connections have the power to change the trajectory of their lives.

We envision a future in which every child in America has a community of support that enables them to reach their full potential. And to achieve that vision we must be bold. We must be strong advocates for youth, drive the national conversation, reimagine the potential of education, and change the widespread systems that hold young people back.

With that in mind, plans are already underway for next year’s policy summit, which will focus on reducing school discipline disparities. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates and help us keep the dialogue going.

Dale Erquiaga

Written by

President & CEO, Communities In Schools National

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