Five Questions with GtCNN: Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd

Thursday, November 10, 2016
  1. What systematic reforms are needed to ensure all students receive the individual supports they need to complete high school ready for postsecondary education or training?

  • • We need to rethink the “No Child Left Behind” concept. This concept only worked for the top 30% of high school graduating classes.  Unfortunately, we left the remaining 70% of the high school class behind.
  • • We need to identify students’ needs, align services that are based on promising practices, and use evidence based practices to promote student success.
  • • We need to rethink standardized testing and use alternative and multiple assessment tools.
  • • There must be better alignment between secondary and postsecondary curricula that reduces time to graduation and degree completion by removing barriers to student success; high school curricula should be aligned to give the student deeper levels of “meaningful and measurable College Readiness/Success Skills,” by reducing the needs for remedial and foundation skills once student transitions from high schools to postsecondary institution.

  1. What is the most effective way for higher education and K-12 to work together to support the success of disconnected youth?

  2. There are no “disconnected youth.” There are disconnected systems that create a deficit in achievement levels for students.

  3. As I alluded to earlier, there has to be a consistent coupling and integration of curricula (content and skill sets geared for student success) between secondary and postsecondary institutions.

  4. The process of educating our youth must be engaging and not simply driven by the Eurocentric model of education; yet, it must be culturally specific. 

  5. Gateway to College has proven to be such a model. By simply modifying the learning milieu and engaging students by using meaningful and intentional student success wrap around support services and strategies, positive results of student engagement, persistence, completion, and graduation can be experienced.

  1. What is the value of dual enrollment for young people and for their communities?

  2. It is a great opportunity for students to gain some college credits and experience college courses while attending high school. It helps them to understand the rigor and depth of college courses and they benefit from a cost savings for credits.

  3. The monetary values are cost savings for a high school student who takes college courses while enrolled in high school, cost saving for parents. 

  4. Having said that, dual enrollment is not for every student and not for every subject area.  For the student who takes college courses while attending high school, earning dual credit courses will ultimately lead to faster/earlier graduation and time to completion, which will have perpetual higher earning potential rates for the student. 


  1. College access has been receiving considerable attention in recent years. What are the biggest hurdles that remain in this area?


  • • Inadequate funding for college access.
  • • Low state funding and high tuition rates.
  • • Rethinking standardized testing, using multiple assessment tools, college readiness and remedial and foundation skills.
  • • Needing a coherent secondary to postsecondary education strategy.
  • • Current system of funding does not address and cannot accommodate the wrap around support services that are high touch and at a higher price point.
  • • Well intentioned advocates that are not practitioners but are advocating for policies to transform a system with complexities of both secondary and postsecondary institutions (i.e. bargaining agreements, state and local policies, and organization’s structure/limitations).
  • • Restrictive accreditation agency policies and compliance.

  1. What advice would you give to civic and state leaders who want to take more of a role in addressing high school graduation and college completion rates?


  • • Advocate to fully fund early childhood education. 
  • • Our completion and graduation challenges do not start and take root in high school. The challenges start well before that. We need to fully fund education at every level.
  • • Encourage and advocate for meaningful parent engagement, which is paramount to each child’s success.
  • • Advocate for competitive wages for teachers throughout the spectrum of the education. 
  • • Provide teachers the technology and human resources that they need to ensure student success.
  • • Advocate for safe and welcoming schools, including physical structures.
  • • Adequately fund after-school programs, such as tutoring and mentoring.
  • • Provide students with academic and social skills necessary so they are better prepared for college upon attaining their high school diplomas. 
• Investing in all levels of education should not be solely viewed as another funding mandate, but as a moral obligation and imperative.      

Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd is the president of Saint Paul College and a member of the Gateway Presidents' Circle.
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