How the ISA Model Promotes “College for All”

By Dr. Stephanie Wood-Garnett

ISA President


David Conley, an expert on what students need to be prepared for college asserts that schools must create a college going culture in order to focus their students on making college their goal. He identifies four critical elements of college readiness: 1) key cognitive strategies, 2) key content knowledge, 3) self-management skills, and 4) knowledge about postsecondary education. High schools need to address all four areas. (“What Makes a Student College Ready?” Educational Leadership, 2008.)

The ISA model draws on Conley’s research. ISA’s content-area coaches work with classroom teachers to focus instruction on those key cognitive strategies (e.g., higher order thinking skills), key content knowledge (e.g., big ideas and critical skills in math, literature, science, and history), and self management skills (e.g., note taking, and persistence) so that students will be prepared for college.

Through Distributed Counseling, ISA schools give students the opportunity to develop both the self-management skills and college knowledge needed to enroll and succeed in college. All students have teacher advocate-advisors who meet regularly with their advisees and get to know them and their families well. In advisory classes with the guidance of their advisor, students review their transcripts, monitor their progress, learn study skills, problem solve adolescent issues, and work on college searches, admission and financial applications, and essays.
Independent external evaluations show that the ISA model pays off. After high school, 90% of ISA graduates continue to the third semester in college compared to 77% of students nationwide. After four years, 81% of ISA students have graduated or are still enrolled and working toward a degree.

For more results of the ISA model, visit our By the Numbers page on our website.