Posts published in July, 2009

California Ineligible For Race To The Top Federal Competition

Because California law precludes linking state test data to specific teachers, one out of nine of the nation’s school children are not able to be part of Obama’s  5  billion dollar  stimulus money. The legislature passed the law to preclude using state test scores for teacher evaluation at the behest of the powerful teacher unions. The Republican  Governor says he wants to change the law , but he will confront a Democrat controlled legislature. California has huge remedial problems in its state colleges and California State University.  Race to the top included college readiness as a funding criteria.

Education Week Story On Common Core Standards: An Excerpt


Draft Content Standards Elicit Mixed Reviews

A draft of common academic standards, meant to bring greater coherence to the nation’s English and mathematics lessons, is drawing a mix of enthusiastic, ambivalent, and barbed responses from those who have seen it.

The working document, which was unexpectedly put out for public consumption yesterday, is meant to serve as the first step of a standards-writing process, led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The crafting and review of those academic guidelines is expected to play out at least through the end of the year.

The draft that was circulated on the Web yesterday attempts to set “college- and career-readiness” standards for English and math—the skills students need to succeed in credit-bearing postsecondary courses and workforce-training programs.

Draft Common Core State Standards

From there, the NGA, CCSSO, and other organizations collaborating on the project will attempt to move back through the K-12 system, crafting English and math standards for earlier grades. Eventually, it will be up to state education leaders to accept or reject the final documents, after they have gone through several iterations, officials from the governors’ and chiefs’ organizations say.

Unlike some standards documents, the draft does not break out skills and knowledge by grade level—a level of detail that is expected to come, in some form, later. Instead, it spells out core standards, concepts, and principles in English and math in very simple terms, then provides more detailed explanations of what is meant by that guidance. It also offers sample texts for English, such as the Declaration of Independence, and sample problems, or “performance tasks” in math.

Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have signed on to the common standards work so far, according to the NGA.

The draft document began drawing public reaction after it was unexpectedly posted on the Web site of Core Knowledge, a Charlottesville, Va., organization that advocates grounding students in a foundational and specific set of content across subjects.

My Concerns About State Common Core Standards

On July 1 Edweek blogger Michelle McNeil published the expert panels to review the NGA/CCSSO draft of common core standards. I cannot find anyone on the list who is affiliated as a faculty member or staff at a community or technical college. This seems odd because the draft standards claim that they apply to both college and workforce preparation. University professors are prominent, but their grasp of workforce preparation in programs that are 2 years or less is probably limited. I just visited technical colleges in the Southeast, and they are very different form 4 year colleges in terms of their job preparation.

 The burden of proof is on the standards group at to demonstate college preparation are the same. One way to do this is to have a good grasp of  skills needed for exemplar job clusters. and job training programs.

State Common Core Standards Draft : My Comments

The NGA/CCSSO led effort of 46 states is circulating a draft to select reviewers, but the draft was leaked and is now on an EDweek an article by Sean Cavanagh and Catherine Gerwertz. Also, in their article are my own concerns about the assertion in the draft that college and career readiness standards are the same. I do not think this case has been proven with the evidence in the report.  Also, I remain concerned about buy in from community and technical colleges to the assertion that college readiness equals readiness for entrance to workforce preparation programs for jobs that are above the poverty line.

College Completion: A Comparison Of States Return on Investments

The Delta Cost Project  released a white paper—The Dreaded P Word: An Examination of Productivity in Public Postsecondary Education— that presents a new market-based methodology for estimating productivity in state public higher education systems, and compares results across the states. The new measure relates state and student spending on higher education to the market value of degrees and credentials produced.

The market-based productivity estimates show that the costs per credential are lowest in the states of Florida, Colorado, Washington, Utah and North Dakota; these states convert resources into credentials that have value in their marketplaces. The least productive states – those with the highest costs per credential – are Alaska, Wyoming, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The market-based methodology uses data on state median earnings by education level to weight each state’s certificate and degree production so it reflects the market value of the credential. The weighted certificate and degree awards are then compared to state and student spending on higher education, producing a market-based productivity estimate (spending per credential). The methodology was developed by Patrick Kelly, Senior Associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), and author of the report (download it now).

An example of the methodology is presented in  (using data for the state of Alabama). The cost per degree/certificate using reported awards is $59,380, while the weighted cost (factoring in the value of the credentials on the market) is $56,280. The difference arises because after weighting the completion data, a smaller share of all awards are accounted for at the sub-baccalaureate level (21 percent) than when using the reported share of certificates and associate’s degrees (28 percent). Thus, the “productivity” of Alabama’s public higher education system is higher (i.e., the cost of completion is lower) than would be expected looking at degree/certificate production alone.

Low Income Students And Parents Do Not Agree On College Prospects

The Southern Regional Education Board- -has a new report on Keeping Middle Grades Students On The Path To High School Success. It is a comprehensive report , but I was interested with the college statistics on page 29. 87% of the middle grades students said they were going on to college, but only 73% of the low income parents believed their child is “college material”. Only, 20% of the parents encouraged their child to seriously consider or apply to college, and 57% said the decision to attend college is up to the student. But only 15% of the students said they would rely on themselves for college information.

Clearly, we need to do a better job of providing parents of low income middle grade students about college.  The students need to have much more college knowledge because college completion and entry can be predicted with high probability at the end of grade9.

Obama’s Community College Proposal: A Contrary View

Obama”s proposal outlined in the prior post is blasted by American Enterprise Institute education director Frederick Hess in his latest blog-

Hess says the proposal will not reform community colleges and is a subsidy for the status quo. He claims community colleges are an outmoded system that gives credentials of uncertain value. Even though community college completion rates are low Obama proposes to just let them process more bodies. Like the major education stimulus program, the administration talks about college  reform , but has no teeth in the proposal.

His critique can only be evaluated once we see the legislative language the President proposes. But the 12 billion over 10 years for community colleges implies a persistent effort if reform is to succeed. Whatever the outcome, Obama has put community colleges in the national limelight more than any President.

Obama Announces Major Initiative For Community Colleges


“Now is the time to build a firmer, stronger foundation for growth that will not only withstand future economic storms, but one that helps us thrive and compete in a global economy. It’s time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future.”
– President Barack Obama

In an increasingly competitive world economy, America’s economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers. In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as those requiring no college experience. To meet this economic imperative, President Barack Obama asks every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training and set a new national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Today, at Macomb Community College in Michigan, he outlined his plan to reform our nation’s community colleges, calling for an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020 and new initiatives to teach Americans the skills they will need to compete with workers from other nations. He outlined new initiatives to increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities. These steps — an unprecedented increase in the support for community colleges — will help rebuild the capacity and competitiveness of America’s workforce.

The announcement comes a day after the Council of Economic Advisers released a report describing how the U.S. labor market is expected to grow and develop in the coming years. The CEA described an expected shift toward jobs that require workers with greater analytical and interactive skills and summarized the attributes of a well-functioning education and training system designed for the jobs of the future.


Fifty years ago, President Harry Truman called for a national network of community colleges to dramatically expand opportunities for veterans returning from World War II. Today, faced with rapid technological change and global competition, community colleges are needed more than ever to raise American skills and education levels and keep American businesses competitive. President Barack Obama called for an additional 5 million community college degrees and certificates by 2020 and new steps to ensure that those credentials will help graduates get ahead in their careers. Together, these steps will cost $12 billion over the next decade. The administration will pay for them as part of a package that cuts waste out of the student loan program, increases Pell Grant scholarships, and reduces the deficit.

Community colleges are the largest part of our higher education system, enrolling more than 6 million students, and growing rapidly. They feature affordable tuition, open admission policies, flexible course schedules, and convenient locations, and they are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. They are also capable of working with businesses, industry and government to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs such as nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs, and of providing customized training at the worksite.

Business and industry play an important role in training the workforce of the future and meeting the on-going demands of the marketplace. Many community colleges are already working with businesses to develop programs and classes ranging from degrees to certified training courses for retraining and on-going training for enhancing skills. For example, Cisco’s Networking Academy is working with community colleges to train students throughout the country on technology-based jobs and it is expanding this platform to train for broadband infrastructure and health care information technology.

The American Graduation Initiative will build on the strengths of community colleges and usher in new innovations and reforms for the 21st century economy.  It will:

·        Call for 5 Million Additional Community College Graduates: In February, President Obama called for America to once again lead the world in college degrees by 2020. Affordable, open-enrollment community colleges will play a critical role in meeting that goal. Today, he set a complementary goal: an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020, including students who earn certificates and associate degrees or who continue on to graduate from four-year colleges and universities.

·        Create the Community College Challenge Fund: Too often community colleges are underfunded and underappreciated, lacking the resources they need to improve instruction, build ties with businesses, and adopt other reforms. Under President Obama’s plan, new competitive grants would enable community colleges and states to innovate and expand proven reforms. These efforts will be evaluated carefully, and the approaches that demonstrate improved educational and employment outcomes will receive continued federal support and become models for widespread adoption. Colleges could:

o  Build partnerships with businesses and the workforce investment system to create career pathways where workers can earn new credentials and promotions step-by-step, worksite education programs to build basic skills, and curriculum coordinated with internship and job placements.
o  Expand course offerings and offer dual enrollment at high schools and universities, promote the transfer of credit among colleges, and align graduation and entrance requirements of high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.
o  Improve remedial and adult education programs, accelerating students’ progress and integrating developmental classes into academic and vocational classes.
o  Offer their students more than just a course catalog, through comprehensive, personalized services to help them plan their careers and stay in school.

In addition, the initiative will support a new research center with a mission to develop and implement new measures of community colleges’ success so prospective students and businesses could get a clear sense of how effective schools are in helping students — including the most disadvantaged — learn, graduate, and secure good jobs.

·        Fund Innovative Strategies to Promote College Completion: Nearly half of students who enter community college intending to earn a degree or transfer to a four-year college fail to reach their goal within six years.  The College Access and Completion Fund will finance the innovation, evaluation, and expansion of efforts to increase college graduation rates and close achievement gaps, including those at community colleges. Promising approaches include performance-based scholarships, learning communities of students, professors and counselors, colleges tailored to promote the success of working adults, and funding formulas based on student progress and success as well as initial enrollment. Resources would also be provided to improve states’ efforts to track student progress, completion, and success in the workplace.

·        Modernize Community College Facilities: Often built decades ago, community colleges are struggling to keep up with rising enrollments. Many colleges face large needs due to deferred maintenance or lack the modern facilities and equipment needed to train students in technical and other growing fields. Insufficient classroom space can force students to delay needed courses and reduce completion rates. President Obama is proposing a new $2.5 billion fund to catalyze $10 billion in community college facility investments that will expand the colleges’ ability to meet employer and student needs. The resources could be used to pay the interest on bonds or other debt, seed capital campaigns, or create state revolving loan funds.

·        Create a New Online Skills Laboratory: Online educational software has the potential to help students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone.  Interactive software can tailor instruction to individual students like human tutors do, while simulations and multimedia software offer experiential learning. Online instruction can also be a powerful tool for extending learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs. New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.


Today’s new initiatives complement President Obama’s existing agenda for higher education. At this time of economic hardship and uncertainty, the Administration’s agenda will build the country’s capacity, innovation and confidence to drive the nation to first place in the highly skilled workforce crucial for success in the 21st century. These initiatives include:

·        Expanding Pell Grants and College Tax Credits:  The Recovery Act increased Pell Grants by $500 to $5,350 and created the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit for four years of college tuition. Now, the Administration is working to make these policies permanent and ensure the Pell Grant continues to grow faster than inflation. Together, the Recovery Act and President’s Budget call for nearly $200 billion in college scholarships and tax credits over the next decade.

·        Reforming the Student Loan Program to Save Billions: Guaranteed student loans earn banks and other lenders large profits set by the political process rather than won in a competitive marketplace. The Administration will replace guaranteed loans with direct loans, which are administered by private-sector companies, like Sallie Mae and Accenture, selected through a competitive process and paid based upon performance. Direct loans have essentially the same terms for students, are more reliable and efficient, and will save billions of dollars to finance these investments in community colleges as well as increase Pell Grant scholarships and other investments in college opportunity.

·        Simplifying the Student Aid Application: The application for federal student aid has as many as 153 questions, creating major obstacle in the path of aspiring college students. More than a million students fail to apply for aid because of the application’s complexity. The Obama Administration is simplifying the financial aid process by modernizing the online application, seeking legislation that will eliminate unnecessary questions, and creating an easy process for students to use tax data to apply. The end result will be a modernized application that requests only easily obtainable personal information

·        Helping Unemployed Workers Get New Skills: In May, President Obama expanded opportunities for unemployed workers to go to a community college and earn new skills. The Department of Education has clarified that these workers should not be denied student aid based upon incomes they no longer earn, and the Department of Labor is working with states to allow workers to keep their unemployment benefits while receiving education and training.

·        Expanding the Perkins Loan Program: The low-cost Perkins loan program is an important option for students who need to borrow more than allowed under the larger Stafford loan program. The Administration will expand it from $1 billion a year to $6 billion a year, making loans available to 2.7 million more students and at 2,600 additional colleges and universities.

·        Helping Families Save for College: The President’s Middle Class Task Force has directed the Department of the Treasury to investigate improvements to 529 savings plans to help families save for college more effectively and efficiently.

Secondary Students Are Not Engaged In Academic Work

A study of high school student engagement reveals some major concerns about college preparation and completion (see Engagement within a high school context is about a student’s relationship with the school community (adults, peers, curriculum, facilities, etc). HSEE uses a national sample of grades 9-12 to find that:

  • Fewer than half of the students go to high school because of what happens within the classroom environment
  • A great majority of students are bored every day, if not in every class
  • 43% spend 0-1 hour doing written homework, 83% spend 5 hours or less
  • 55% spend 0 or 1 hour per week reading and studying for class, 90% spend 5 hours or fewer
  • Students want more active learning such as peer working groups and presentations
  • Girls report being more engaged across all dimensions of high school engagement than boys. (Girls were 58% of 4 year college graduates in 2006).

This study reveals many of them are at risk students who will not experience college success.

Gates Provides 5 Million to Columbia For Community College Success Research Synthesis

The Community College Research Center (CCRC), Teachers College, Columbia University,  announced a three-year $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to carry out research to help identify the most productive investments in community colleges for the foundation’s Postsecondary Success (PS) initiative. Because of their open-access admission policies and relatively low tuition rates, community colleges enroll a high proportion of young adults from low-income families. The goal of the PS initiative, launched last year, is to double the number of low-income students who by age 26 earn a postsecondary degree or credential.

Led by director Thomas Bailey, CCRC will produce a set of concrete recommendations for the PS initiative by early 2012. These recommendations will be based on a synthesis of knowledge gained from past research, from ongoing studies by other organizations, and from a new set of CCRC studies chosen to fill gaps in what is known about strategies for increasing community college student success.

The ambitious goal of the PS initiative recognizes the value of a college education in reducing inequities in American society. Earning a college credential is indeed key to gaining entrance to career-path employment for young adults from disadvantaged populations. In announcing the initiative, Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success, at the Gates Foundation, voiced a concern that has long motivated CCRC researchers: “College enrollment rates have grown rapidly over the past forty years, but completion rates haven’t kept pace. Getting students to college isn’t enough-we must help them get through college.”

The new studies–each conducted using a mixed-method approach involving both quantitative and qualitative components–will examine seven strategies that are based on promising but largely untested ideas about what works to increase community college completion rates for low-income young adults: (1) assessing incoming students’ needs, not just their level of  academic skills (this is sometimes called “actionable assessment”); (2) providing highly structured and focused programs; (3) offering high-quality and engaging online courses; (4) accelerating the pace of remedial instruction and thereby reducing the time needed to complete that instruction; (5) contextualizing basic skills instruction in the teaching of academic or occupational content; (6) providing underprepared students with “student success” courses and other non-academic supports; and (7) aligning programs and services to support student progression and success.

CCRC will examine these strategies in terms of their impact on student success, their cost-effectiveness, and their feasibility. The research team will also identify program characteristics and organizational practices that support effective implementation of each strategy on a large scale.

Since 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $4 billion in grants and scholarships to increase opportunity in the U.S. by improving college-ready high school graduation rates and college completion rates.

For more information about the multi-study research project, please visit: