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College Is Coming to Southwest Fresno. Will Students Be Ready?



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In a few years, students will be able to take courses toward a nursing degree at Fresno City College’s planned satellite campus in southwest Fresno.
Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith delivered the good news at a public forum for the new campus held last week at Gatson Middle School.
The forum provided an opportunity for residents to ask questions and comment on all aspects of the nearly 40-acre, $89 million campus scheduled for completion in 2023.
Rising to the top: Questions about whether southwest students and adults are properly prepared to attend college.

Guaranteed Slots in Nursing Program

Students at the satellite campus completing prerequisite courses will be guaranteed slots in the Registered Nursing Associate Degree Program at Fresno City College’s main campus.
“This work isn’t easy, but it is a priority,” Goldsmith said. “We are resourcing it as a priority and we are going to continue to do so.”
FCC also partners with Sunnyside and Duncan Polytechnical high school on pathways for its nursing program, which is the largest in the state and the second largest nationally.

Will Southwest Residents Benefit From the Campus?

Educators, city officials, and economic analysts predict that the campus will help lift up poverty-riddled southwest Fresno.
But resident Brunette Harris predicted during the forum that southwest residents won’t benefit much from the new school.

Photo of Brunette Harris
“I want to know who is going to be attending this college because we are the dumbest people in the state of California.” — Brunette Harris, southwest Fresno resident
“I want to know who is going to be attending this college because we are the dumbest people in the state of California,” Harris said.
To back up her claim, Harris quoted information in the city’s Southwest Fresno Specific Plan published in May 2017.
“According to their data, 43.7 percent of adults ages 18-plus do not graduate from high school or receive a GED,” said Harris, referring to southwest residents. “That’s in comparison to the city of Fresno, which is 24.7 percent, the county, which is 26.3 and the state, which is 18.7.”
What’s more, 45 percent of residents age 25 and older have not completed high school, and only 7 percent have earned a college degree.
Responding to Harris, Goldsmith said the statistics are concerning, and “entails the reason why we need to have a college here.”
“It talks about why we need to be able to have education because I don’t think this is the dumbest population,” Goldsmith said. “I think this is a population that hasn’t had the resources to have the education that they need.”

More Investment In Youth Education

“I don’t think this is the dumbest population. I think this is a population that hasn’t had the resources to have the education that they need.”— Carole Goldsmith, Fresno City College president
Harris remained unmoved.
“Just because you put a college over here, how is that going to want to make them want to go to school when they are not getting education in elementary or at Edison (High School)?” she asked.
Harris said that she is not necessarily against the satellite campus, but would like to see more investment in youth educational facilities and programs.
She quoted the specific plan, which states that Edison High’s three-year average Academic Performance Index is approximately 760, which is below the state standard of 800.
The plan also reported that several elementary schools score in the high 600s on the API.
“These elementary and secondary school academic indicators indicate a need for greater academic achievement among children and youth living in southwest Fresno,” said Harris, again quoting the specific plan.

Districts Stepping Up

The state produced its last API report in 2013. Since that time, said Amy Idsvoog, Fresno Unified’s communication analyst, student academic performance has improved.
According to the California School Dashboard, the program the state designated to replace API, Edison High has a nearly 94 percent graduation rate compared to the state average of about 84 percent.
Edison is also 30.2 points above the standard in English Language Arts, Idsvoog said. Although its math scores are below standard, Idsvoog said they’ve maintained from the year prior.
“While we absolutely know there is more to do to ensure all students are academically successful and ready for college and careers, we need to stop and acknowledge the upward trajectory and progress being made throughout our district and in all regions,” Idsvoog said.
Over the years, the district has made several changes to improve student academic performance such as expanding dual immersion, eliminating combination classes, expanding alternative education, and investing in special education.
“Our board has made significant investments to ensure students have both academic and social-emotional support as both are vital in preparing a student for life beyond graduation,” Idsvood said.

Aiming High and Reaching Those Goals

“As educators, we are obligated to support families in raising the future of our community and the world.” — Randy Morris, Washington Unified Superintendent
Eric Payne, who represents southwest Fresno as a State Center Community College District trustee, said that Fresno Unified is off to a good start in supporting students. But he also wants to see more done.
“Fresno Unified needs to report disaggregated student achievement on a regular and consistent basis and not just once a year when the state data comes out,” Payne said. “We need to know how black, white, Latino, and Hmong students are doing academically at least quarterly so that we can support them.”
Payne said he would also like to hear the district’s plan to ensure that each student is getting high quality differentiated instruction.
“We cannot let them use poverty, cultural differences, or zip code as an excuse for why our students are not on grade level,” Payne said.
Washington Unified School District has made significant investments to improve student success, said Superintendent Randy Morris.
Its participation in Footsteps 2 Brilliance, a free literacy application to encourage students to read, is a clear example, Morris said.
Since its implementation in 2017, students have read nearly 19 million words and over 62,000 books.
“As educators, we are obligated to support families in raising the future of our community and the world,” Morris said.

Parking and Student Enrollment

Parking at the satellite campus was another big topic at the forum.
Goldsmith said there will be ample parking for students and staff.
She expects 1,000 students to enroll at the campus in the first phase: “I think, seriously, we are going to be full that first semester.”