Publication Date: April 21, 2017
This powerful book explores how institutions of higher education can successfully serve students who have experienced poverty, toxic stress, trauma, or abuse. Introducing a new concept called “lasticity,” Karen Gross offers an approach to addressing inequities that focuses on the many positive attributes these students have acquired due to their low socioeconomic status (SES) and other life factors. Drawing on her experience as a college president, the book outlines practical steps that institutions can take to create structures of support and opportunity that build reciprocal trust. Students must trust their institutions and professors, professors must trust their students, and eventually students must learn to trust themselves. Breakaway Learners is must reading for anyone interested in closing the gap between low-SES and high-SES students in today’s colleges and universities. The strategies presented can also be adapted to the K–12 setting. Visit the book’s website at breakawaylearners.com.
Karen Gross is a Washington, DC–based advisor and consultant to non-profit schools, organizations, and governments. She was president of Southern Vermont College and senior policy advisor to the United States Department of Education. She is the author of a children’s book series, Lady Lucy’s Quest.
"More than a student-centered learning approach to education, Gross suggests that the educational system as a whole should assist students in developing lasticity, a term she uses to describe the quality necessary to enable breakaway students not only to complete their degrees, but also to succeed as adults in the working environment."
"Breakaway Learners is a timely edition to the ongoing yet critical discussion about post-secondary student success. Gross's work offers practical insights and examples for educators to tap into ‘at-risk’ students’ academic potential rather than solely focusing on their deficits."
—Journal of Children and Poverty
"The book underscores the critical need for a high-quality college education; the significance of adequate and necessary postsecondary preparation; and the imperative for greater, deeper collaboration among higher education and K–12 partners, community support services leaders, and government officials. This book is a must-read for academics, policymakers, teachers, social service providers, police chiefs, and government officials.”
—Martha Kanter, former under secretary, U.S. Department of Education
“We need to pay attention to what Karen Gross says; the challenges are real, the need urgent. In a policy landscape as contentious as that of education reform, many of Gross’s observations and recommendations will be controversial, as she readily acknowledges. But however sharply one might dissent from one point or another, no one will come away from this book without a deep sense of reward. Read this book, then share it.”
—Mark Huddleston, president, University of New Hampshire
"Karen Gross offers practical ideas based on her research and, more importantly, on her substantial leadership in assisting our nation’s colleges and universities serving at-risk students. Gross’s dedication to low-income students was clear when she was college president, and now she urges other leaders to commit to these students as well."
—Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania
“Karen Gross's new concept of lasticity fundamentally challenges the norms of our education system and seeks to create an authentic K–16 pipeline. She renames vulnerable students “breakaway students” and recognizes that the key to teaching these young people is by honoring that the act of learning requires trust. Her bold vision for education, grounded in real in-the-trenches experience, turns the current deficiency model into an interactive one, where trust is paramount and the educator is as much a learner as the student.”
—Mary Frances Bisselle, head of school at Hathaway Brown
“Karen Gross asks schools, teachers, and administrators to change, because without change we cannot improve education or compete with other countries during the 21st century. It takes courage and tremendous effort to offer both a new paradigm and a new educational concept: "lasticity." The author deserves enormous credit for rocking the proverbial boat.”
—Irwin Adler, public school principal
“This book should be a must-read for the educational establishment. Too much educational policy and methodology is driven by barnacle-encrusted thinking. Karen Gross lays the groundwork for some new and refreshing thinking that is long overdue.”
—Wallace Altes, Altes Executive Consulting, LLC
“This book lays out a holistic set of solutions to a whole set of problems. Karen shows how to construct bridges for learning.”
—Iván Figueroa, director of Mountaineer Scholars Program & Diversity Initiatives, Southern Vermont College