Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow says the university is developing better ways to track students’ success, reach out to students in Arizona’s rural areas, and expand and diversify the K-12 teacher pool.
Now ASU is working on taking E-Advisor down to a middle school level. Students will identify what they’re excited about, learn what they need to do in middle school, courses to take in high school, and what they’ll need to do after high school.
“If you’re like me, no one in my family ever went to college before,” Crow told K-12 leaders at a statewide conference attended by school administrators and school board members December in Phoenix. “I have siblings who didn’t graduate from high school. When you’re just a kid and you’re not from a family that knows about college, how do you know what to do?”
In addition, ASU’s vice president for educational opportunity and student success works with school districts statewide to coordinate 300 programs intended to increase college-going rates.
“Having said all that, people think that we think that everyone should go to college,” Crow said. “We don’t think everyone should go to college. We think enough people should go to college that can help our country to be successful, and that’s more than are going now.”
Those who don’t go to college, need to develop technical skills, move on to community college, and get a mechanism to engage in the economy, Crow said.
Q: How is ASU tracking students’ success in classes and what is the university doing and planning to do to improve it?
A: We know the keystroke patterns of students taking certain classes to help us understand how they’re doing. We know the outcome of every student in every section of every class.
The keystroke – understanding how the student is learning – helps us discern where to put our energy. It’s a fantastic program that we’ve been able to develop with a company called Knewton.
Now, we’re trying to take that experience and get it down from our level into K-12.
For us, there were a series of killer courses where 35 to 50 percent of students pass the course with at least a C. We’re now applying this adaptive learning technology to all those courses – economics, chemistry, psychology 101. What we’re seeing in doing that is marked improvement in graduation rates and retention rates. Our 4-year graduation rate has improved by 13 points in the past five years.
Q: What is ASU doing to reach out to students in rural school areas?
A: This state is huge. It’s physically the fifth largest state in the union.
Here’s what we’ve been doing.
One, we’re trying to reach out to every high school physically. If we’re not visiting your high school, and you think that we should be, you need to let me know that.
Number two, we have been expanding and branching. We now have an academic center in Lake Havasu. We have an active partnership at Eastern Arizona College in the Thatcher and Safford area where we are offering baccalaureate degrees with them.
We’ve greatly expanded our online presence. We’ve greatly expanded the way we reach prospective students through a greatly enhanced online presence including mechanisms for students to become engaged.
We have many more summer programs, summer camp programs, and many more kinds of things.
It often is the case that a lot of families – even school board members and others – they’ll not understand how we work for in-state students.
We have a stated annual tuition of about $10,000 a year, but our average tuition paid by a family from Arizona for their child, not including any loans, is under $4,000 a year.
For almost more than a quarter of the students, there’s no tuition at all, because of either merit-based financial aid or need-based financial aid. We’re deeply committed to access.
At ASU, half the students graduate with no debt. Students who graduate with debt, graduate with among the lowest debt in the country.
Q: What is ASU doing to better prepare, expand and diversify the pool of K-12 teachers?
A: What we’re trying to do is figure out how to better prepare our teachers. We’re restructuring how we teach and we’re better selecting who comes into the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
We’re finding massive levels of under-preparation in math and science. It turns out that many students going to colleges of education are working to avoid math and science so we’re reworking our curriculum, redoing our methodological approaches.
We’re working on how to stay connected to a teacher once they leave so it’s a work in progress.
We restructured the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. We exited the faculty who weren’t interested in teacher production, who weren’t interested in innovation, but other things.
We’re also running two charter schools – one in the Phoenix Elementary School District and one in the Higley Unified School District – in which we have to see if the things we talk about actually walk. There’s talking the talk, and then there’s walking the walk.
We’ve taken the (Phoenix) school from not successful to very successful, living on the same thin dime that everyone is living on. What we’re trying to do there is take everything that we know and apply it in those learning environments.
Our principal strategy at the moment relative to getting more and broader diversity of gender (among teachers), diversity of ethnicity, diversity of subjects studied in college is we asked our dean of the teachers college to attack that problem.
She has a metric she is held accountable for that is 10 percent of all of our other undergraduates from each college – architecture, engineering, history, or whatever – will have teaching certificates with no additional penalty to their educational experience.
We believe through that maneuver, which is underway, we will broaden the gender diversity of (teachers). We’re seeing some substantial progress.
We’re trying to make it procedurally easier to acquire the teaching certificate. In subjects like engineering where it’s more male dominated at the moment, almost no one gets a teaching certificate. They now have an objective that 10 percent must.
We’re graduating 1,500 engineers a year. If 150 of them were also certified as teachers, we think that’s a fantastic outcome. That’s the way that we’re approaching it.
(The interview was edited for length and clarity.)