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EL Education Students Thrive in College

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    Anne Vilen

The evidence is in. Teaching and nurturing students’ academic mindsets—such as persistence, collaboration, and responsibility—expedites the transition to college and careers, where these habits are often the tipping point between failure and success. A thank-you letter to principal Luke Clamp from a recent graduate of River Bluff High School in Lexington, South Carolina who is now thriving at a selective regional college confirms that learning how to learn sets students up for success in college.

Dear Dr. Clamp,

I have spent the first month of college observing the rough transition all of my friends are undergoing, while noticing the simplicity of mine. I am not having to learn how to manage my time well, because my high school taught me that. I am not having to learn the importance of independence and responsibility, because my high school taught me that as well. I have not been thrown off by how much tests contribute to my overall grade, or how little homework counts, because my high school’s grading policy is almost identical to the one in college. So many parts of college that are new and scary to most people have not been new or scary to me because of where I came from.

So I want to say thank you. I want to thank you and all the River Bluff staff who stepped out of their comfort zones into something new and different. . . . The atmosphere that you have created by hiring a world-changing staff is unbelievable. They have pushed me, let me mess up, and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. The freedom that River Bluff gives students to succeed, fall, learn, and grow on their own is the very thing that has made my transition into college absolutely seamless. I know that there have been many obstacles [to launching a new school and implementing the EL Education model]. Probably some days people wonder if all of this insanely out-of-the-box stuff is worth it. Please take it from a college student who really misses her high school family. It is absolutely worth it!

Best,
Haley Darnell
Anderson University, South Carolina

And, there’s more evidence. Our National Conference keynote speaker, Dr. Camille Farrington, described a growing body of research that concludes academic mindsets are both motivators for and outcomes of deeper learning. When students believe that they belong to the learning community, can succeed at school, will improve with effort, and that schoolwork has meaning for them, they thrive as students and are prepared to solve the pressing social, political, environmental, and technical problems of the 21st century. Also at the National Conference, Student presenters Edward Brown, a graduate from The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts, who is now a junior at Brown University, and Erika Cabrera, a graduate of Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City, now in her first year at Dartmouth College, echo Haley Darnell’s discovery. Listen to their comments on how EL Education prepares students for scholarly pursuits beyond high school graduation.

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