It Only Takes Five Minutes to Start

January 29, 2020

Written by:

Michael Giazzoni, PhD, Director, College in High School, University of Pittsburgh

We’re so busy in concurrent enrollment.

We work in a complex arena, serving a number of audiences. We deal with problems like changing institutional priorities, registration snafus, visits to schools, confused faculty, overenthusiastic teachers, student and parent complaints, and our own long-term planning. And that was just in the past hour.

But once in a while, something cuts through it all and brings me up short.

This time, it was the quotation below from the news report Inequities in Advanced Coursework from The Education Trust. The report discusses how Black and Latino students are underrepresented in advanced coursework. Shamefully for my state,

… Pennsylvania is at or near the bottom of all states for access to advanced coursework opportunities at every level … for both Black and Latino students. In fact, Pennsylvania is worst in the country when it comes to giving Black students access to gifted and talented programs and Latino students access to AP courses. [emphases added]

Pennsylvania is one of only three states without active state CE legislation or funding, and it shows: sub-par CE programs exist, CE opportunities in our state are woefully sparse, and where CE programs do exist, they are usually provided to those populations that already have advantages.

When I read the report, in a brief moment of clarity, I wondered, “To what extent am I part of the problem?” When we provide opportunities to students who already receive many advantages, and we don’t provide them everywhere they are needed, are we contributing to inequity? As Christina Samuels reminds us in her article published on January 7 in Edweek, the disparity in opportunities might not be the fault of any one individual, “—but it’s someone’s fault.”

I was also reminded of how I work on equity issues as much as I can, but the busyness of running a program often prevents me from giving focus where I would prefer—thus reinforcing the problem that disturbs us all.

I’m proud that in our case, our program has expanded into underserved areas and has partial funding for students in need. But I have to be honest that we can do more, especially in a state where so little is being done. And others can do better in states where much is already being done.

Thankfully, no matter your state’s situation, the tools for everyone are out there. CHSA recently released the reports Unlocking Potential and Funding for Equity, which provide guidance for almost every situation: for states where CE is fully funded and well-regulated, to states like mine, where very basic work needs to be done. Let me say that again, for myself as much as for anyone. The tools are out there.

It’s daunting to consider how we might improve opportunities on a statewide level. Luckily, we don’t have to do it all, and we don’t have to do it alone. We can begin by reaching out to others and by instituting small changes. Let’s not dismiss small changes: no large change ever began with anything different.

I appreciate your reading to the end of this piece, but will you do me one last favor? Let’s take five minutes now, together, with everyone else who is reading this article, to download Unlocking Potential and Funding for Equity, look up the information relevant to our location, and consider what small, concrete action we can take this week to address inequity. Our challenges are all different, and our actions will be different as well.

Let’s not forget that it is a privilege to be busy. We can put that privilege to work for others—even if only for five minutes to start.