Preparing to Dream aims to improve postsecondary access and success among all of the Houston region's students, but especially among low-income students and those who are the first generation in their family to pursue postsecondary education.
Each district in the initiative has developed its own goals, specific to its three-year pilot project. Progress toward these goals are monitored along the way by the teams, with support from Houston A+ Challenge and National College Access Network.
In addition, indicators of success for the entire initiative include (but are not limited to):
- More students successfully completing college preparatory or accelerated learning classes (honors, advanced placement and dual credit/enrollment)
- Higher student scores on college entrance exams
- Fewer students requiring developmental or "catch up" classes in college
- More students completing financial aid forms and qualifying for financial aid
- District and/or school policy changes aimed at improving college access and success
- Cross-district, region-wide collaboration and sharing of best strategies
Five school districts participate in the Preparing to Dream initiative:
National College Access Network and Houston A+ Challenge guide the initiative with national data experts, core team coaches, and on-the-ground facilitation.
In addition, a regionwide coordinating board engages business, civic and higher educational leadership in the initiative. The coordinating board includes representation from the Greater Houston P-16+ Council, the Center for Houston's Future and the Greater Houston Partnership, NCAN and Houston A+ Challenge.
During the 2007-08 school year, each school district assembled vertical teams consisting of district officials, principals, teachers, parents and students to analyze student achievement data, college-going rates and trends, district demographics and current college access programs. Teams were assisted by nationally recognized data coaches and core team coaches of Texas educational leaders. Data was used to identify problems, establish priorities, and develop implementation plans for three-year initiatives aimed at improving student outcomes and transforming district culture. Starting in the 2008-09 school year, these plans are now being put into action.
Preparing to Dream is supported by a $3.54 million grant from Houston Endowment, a local philanthropic organization that has also heavily invested in Achieving the Dream, a nationwide initiative to improve access, persistence and attainment at the community college level for the same student populations.
During the first year, each district received a $25,000 planning grant to assist their work, in addition to support through coaching, conferences and sharing of best practices. Three-year 'investment' grants of $225,000 will allow them to enact their diverse action plans. District matching funds are also used.
In 2008, TG, a nonprofit student loan guarantor for Texas families, provided an additional $142,000 specifically for student and parent engagement in Preparing to Dream via focus groups, trainings and learning sessions.
Preparing to Dream Results
- See preliminary outcome highlights from the entire project
- Preparing to Dream: Learning, Outcomes and Results
Reflections: Preparing to Dream
“This is the first time that the entire community (parents, students and schools) has come together to create a comprehensive program that will remove barriers from students accessing post-secondary education.”
Goose Creek CISD
"I was afraid about the thought of going to college, but now I am ready after the summer college trip and being a part of the Dream Team."
Student, Aldine High School