Professors Daniel Willingham and David Conley Work With Educators at Middle College National Consortium's Winter Leadership Conference

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Over 130 school leaders attended Middle College National Consortium’s Annual Winter Leadership Conference. Professors Daniel Willingham and David Conley spoke to the interrelated issues of what it takes to become a good thinker and how to prepare students to be college ready. MCNC's university partner, NCREST, reported on its research with consortium school students concerning what it found to be the most important elements in helping students succeed in college.

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“This conference gave us a road map to making all students ready for college. The hard work that lies before us is to continue to ratchet up the challenging work that we give our students without overwhelming them.”Add a quote

Over 130 principals, assistant principals, counselors and teacher leaders attended Middle College National Consortium’s Winter Leadership Conference held in Redondo Beach, California earlier this month. Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Virginia, and Dr. David Conley, Professor of Educational Policy at the University of Oregon, were the featured speakers.

Many conference participants commented that the findings of both researchers concerning how students develop cognitive skills are closely aligned with the work of the Middle College National Consortium schools. Willingham emphasized that students’ minds are malleable and need to be challenged in order to grow. He pointed to research that has shown that in order to promote learning in the classroom, facts matter, facts are learned best in context, not as rote lists, and learning occurs best when it is part of a student's self-image.

Dr. Conley spoke to the crisis of the vast numbers of students who are not college ready and who are not learning in the classroom. His research has shown that writing a 3 to 5 page research paper, fluency in algebra, and the ability to evaluate the credibility of sources are critical skills that students need to be successful in college. It was noted that many of Dr. Conley’s suggestions regarding what schools must do to meet the cognitive needs of students-including extensive writing across the curriculum, emphasis on math and its integration into science and the social sciences, and ensuring that all students have equal access to key “college knowledge”, are practiced by Middle College National Consortium schools.

Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, founder and director of the Middle College National Consortium, and a leader in the early college movement, stated that, “This conference gave us a road map to making all students ready for college. The hard work that lies before us is to continue to ratchet up the challenging work that we give our students without overwhelming them.”

Preceding the actual conference, NCREST (National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching), Columbia University Teachers College, MCNC’s university partner, held it’s annual Technical Assistance Pre-Conference Session entitled “Helping Students Succeed in College”. Based on its research with students in Middle College Consortium schools, NCREST discovered that the five most important elements in helping students succeed in college are: the expectations of high school teachers, perseverance in high school courses, perseverance in college coursework, rigor in college courses and a sense of belonging to the school.

The Middle College National Consortium is a leader in the movement to establish and sustain dual enrollment schools (high school and college) as a viable and necessary educational model. Its mission is to develop small schools in which high school students, especially those who have been previously under-served in their schools, can earn both a high school diploma and either an Associate's Degree or transferable college credits upon graduation.

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