Posts published in June, 2010

Should There Be A Different High School Diploma For College Prep?

Texas seniors must now take a fourth year of math and science to graduate with the recommended diploma required by most universities. Math and science have the lowest passing rates in the classroom and the state TAKS tests. Failure rates are likely to get worse as the state brings in new end-of-course exams and could push students toward the minimum diploma, which would limit college opportunities. Texas offers three types of diplomas: the minimum, the recommended program needed for college and the distinguished diploma for academically advanced students. Some reformers fear that these three different diplomas will lead to premature tracking of students in grades 9 and 10. It might cut off options to go to 4 year colleges. But there are no definitive studies that support or refute this concern.

Low Income Students Shut Out Of Selective Colleges

A new book by Century Foundation, Rewarding Strivers, contains a chapter  by Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University and Jeff Strohl. It shows the numbers of four year colleges in the top two tiers of selectivity as measured by Barron”s has increased significantly. Below are comments by Inside Higher Education on June 18 concerning this trend.

“As more colleges have moved up the ‘quality’ scale,  Carnevale and Strohl show that the institutions have become slightly more racially and ethnically diverse, but students from lower-income backgrounds have made virtually no progress in gaining access to more selective colleges.  By 2006, students from the lowest socioeconomic quartile made up 5 percent of students at the most competitive colleges, 7 percent of students at highly competitive colleges, and 8 percent of students at very competitive colleges, up from 3.4 and 8 percent, respectively, in 1982.  They end up disproportionately in nonselective four-year colleges and in open-access two-year institutions.

“When one considers the differences between the inputs and outcomes at the more selective institutions and at nonselective ones  — per-student spending that is 4-5 times as great, and far higher graduation rates and entry-level earnings of students — the stratification by socioeconomic income (and to a lesser but still meaningful extent by race and ethnicity) means that the higher education system operates as an  ‘engine of inequality,’  Carnevale said, noting the major lawsuits that have been filed (and often won) in many states over inequality of access to elementary and secondary education…”

So, “if you can’t move low-income and minority kids en masse into the high-quality systems” of colleges, Carnevale said, the likelier alternative to improving the lot of students ill-served by higher education is to strengthen the quality of the institutions they do attend — “two-year schools and lower-end four-year colleges.”  The Obama administration (which Carnevale has advised in both formal and informal ways) took steps in this direction with its proposed American Graduation initiative, which would have poured $10 billion into community colleges, but had to be scaled back significantly. Moreover, it is not clear exactly what new policies and practices will improve the performance of broad access colleges.

Is On Line College Instruction Effective?

  Than answer is that we do not know and the scattered small scale research is inconclusive. Since a Department of Education meta-analysis last summer concluded that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” many advocates now consider the matter closed. Not so fast, say researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The Education Department’s study was deeply flawed and its implications have been overblown, say the authors of a working paper released this month by the bureau. There are many methodolgical disputes, and no clear consensus yet. Also we need more studies of the cost savings from on line education, before any conclusions are warranted..

New Secondary School Assessment Designs Are Better Aligned With College Instruction

  The USA Department of Education will spend 350 million for new k-12 assessments in the next few years. These are designs by consortuims who want to move beyond the current emphasis on multiple choice bubble tests in state tests. You can read their frameworks for new designs. At least three state consortia will vie for $350 million in federal financing to design assessments aligned to the common-core standards. As part of Race to the Top, the competition aims to spur states to band together to create measures of academic achievement that are comparable across states. Two consortia – the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC – will compete for $320 million in funding. A smaller group, the State Consortium on Board Examination Systems, also will compete for funding.

Community College Finance Cuts Undermine The College Dream

ECS  provided this summary of the ominous community college funding context :

In this economy, community colleges are widely seen as the solution to many problems. But with state financing slashed almost everywhere, many institutions have cut so deeply into their course offerings and their faculty rosters that they cannot begin to handle the influx of students. In some parts of the country, the budget stresses are so serious that the whole concept of community colleges as open-access institutions – where anyone, with any educational background, can enroll at any point in life – is becoming more an aspiration than a reality. (New York Times, 06/23/10)

But what will happen when some of the money is restored?  Should it be spent on just restoring  and intensifying the existing model of community colleges, or will it lead to some changes in basic assumptions like more on- line delivery? Should the 16 week course be the approach to most education, including developmental education where students need to retake a whole course rather than a module ?  Sometimes fiscal famine leads to non-incremental change.

Education Commision Of The States Provides State Policy Guidance To Lower College Remediation

ECS has been working on the remdiation issue for several years, and now has a report that reflects this cumulative effort. A policy framework challenges states to look more carefully at meeting the needs of remedial education students. This framework is very inclusive and can be applied by state policy makers now.

The framework argues for making remedial education a key component of state strategies to increase college attainment. It challenges states to look more carefully at the data they collect, funds they appropriate, ways they assess and place students, instructional models they utilize and the accountability mechanisms they rely on to meet the needs of remedial education students.

The paper argues that we must look beyond the current view that remedial education is a symptom of our collective failures to prepare students for higher education. With approximately 42 million adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in our nation who do not have a college degree and are lacking college-ready skills, it is time to treat remedial education as an important and necessary solution to our nation’s goal to have the highest college attainment rates in the world by 2025

Students Are Bored In High School Classes

The national survey of high school student engagement -HSSE- goes beyond the usual measures of student attendance and discipline. It measures students reactions to their teachers and class content. The latest survey of high school students (HSSSE) results show a familiar theme: bored, disconnected students want more from schools. Two thirds of the students are bored every day in a high school class. Eighty one percent say the material is not interesting and 42% say it is not relevant. The overall picture is discouraging for strong college preparation.

Louisiana Horse Trade: Higher Tuition But Increased College Completion

The LA GRAD Act that allows colleges to increase tuition by up to 10% this fall won final legislative approval in the Louisiana House. The Governor Bobby Jindal-backed Louisiana Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas Act grants colleges additional tuition authority if they agree to meet certain performance standards, such as improved graduation rates. The tuition authority can be taken away if schools fail to meet their goals. Colleges can only implement 10% hikes until they meet regional tuition peer averages. (Baton Rouge Advocate, 06/21/10)

Recommended Book For Summer Reading

     My nomination is Anya Kamenetz, DIYU: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and The Coming Transformation of Higher Education.It is a tour of all kinds of technological learning, independent study , and the future economics of higher education. A major chapter is how college tuition is caught in a cost spiral and how to stop it. It ends with a resouce guide fo a Do-It-Yourself Education. The publisher is Chelsea Green Company.

College Enrollment Surges But Will College Completion?

  First the good news: The nation’s colleges are attracting record numbers of new students as more Hispanics finish high school and young adults opt to pursue a higher education rather than languish in a weak job market. A Pew Research Center study highlights the growing diversity in higher education amid debate over the role of race in college admissions. Newly released government figures show that freshman enrollment surged 6% in 2008 to a record 2.6 million, mostly due to rising minority enrollment.

 But the new enrollment is heavily weighted towards students who do not have a high probability of college completion such as low income, part time students who are Latino. Moreover, community colleges absorb the brunt of the new students, and they are experiencing significant financial cuts in most states. Consequently, college progress and completion strategies need to be increased by reallocating existing college resources.