Posts published in April, 2011

Huge Class Sizes In California Threaten College Readiness

Even before the negotiations collapsed concerning tax extensions, California’s class sizes were ballooning. Now we are exacerbating class size increases, but there is no research to predict or understand future implications. Class size studies have focused on ranges from 30 to 15. Results are contested, but no study has examined the California’s “natural experiment” of moving many classes in K-4 from 20 to 1 to 35-40 to 1 in a few years.

Moreover, almost all research is on grades K-8, but high school classes in social studies for example, are climbing into the 35-40 range in several districts. We are flying blind into an uncertain future. The only cap on class size in California seems to be the square foot size of the classroom.

The latest round of class size reductions came in the 1990’s spurred in part by a well designed random control experiment in Tennessee. But the Tennessee classes were reduced from 25-27 to 15. The greatest impact on Tennessee seemed to be in K-2 grades for disadvantaged children. In 1996, California Governor Pete Wilson sponsored a bill to reduce class sizes to 20 to 1 in grades K-3. This reduction has been eviscerated by the recent state budget cuts, and most districts will probably exceed 30 students in K-4 in the future.

Research on class size impact in secondary grades is very scant across the United States. The secondary grades in California often have class sizes in 30-40 range, but we know little about how the impact varies depending on secondary subjects. For example, now grade 9 English classes are rising from 20- to 37 in Chaffey High School District.  California reduced English class size in grade 9 to 20 pupils, but no definitive evaluation was ever conducted.

Not only are class sizes being increased, but the support personnel for teachers (coaches, aides, curriculum specialists) are gone also. I talked recently with a staff development expert in math who took his promising approach to other states because of California’s huge classes and inadequate infrastructure to support teacher development. I was a part of the team that evaluated the 20 to 1 classes in California from 1996 to 2002. One thing was clear; parents preferred smaller classes even if they some concerns about teacher quality. What will gigantic classes do to parental support for California schools? What types of teachers succeed in very large classes?

 California research organizations need to study the impact of such large classes immediately. They will find little guidance from most current research base that uses 30 to 1 as its ceiling ratio – a class size California will only be able to dream about. Perhaps there are strategies to reallocate limited district and school funds that will reduce class sizes, but research is not clear on how to do this in such a constrained fiscal environment.

Hispanics And Asians Are Key For College Growth

School enrollment projected to continue overall growth
Public and private K-12 student enrollment grew 10% between fall 1994 and fall 2007. K-12 public and nonpublic student enrollment is expected to grow another 6% between 2007 and 2019. Hispanic K-12 public school enrollment is anticipated to jump 36% for Hispanic students, and 31% for Asian/Pacific Islander students.

Source: Hussar, W.J., and Bailey, T.M. (2011). Projections of Education Statistics to 2019 (NCES 2011-017). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, D.C.

Achieve Finds College Readiness Absent From State Accountability


Achieve’s annual survey of states found that half of the states use at least one of these critical college- and career-ready indicators in their accountability system (see for details). However, for an accountability system to truly reflect the goal of college and career readiness for all students it must use a rich, comprehensive set of indicators in multiple ways, including publicly reporting the data in a meaningful way, setting clear targets for schools to improve, and providing clear incentives and consequences that drive schools to improve performance and meet the established targets.

Despite some progress in states beginning to value college and career readiness in their accountability systems, for nearly half the states, federal accountability and state accountability are one in the same. That is, the state accountability system goes no farther than what the federal government requires. Given that reality, what the federal government requires for accountability matters. Current federal high school accountability, for example, requires state-set proficiency scores on state-developed, end-of-course or comprehensive reading and math tests once in high school and a measurement of graduation rates. This requirement is essentially silent on the level of expectations and certainly does not value or incentivize states that are organizing their education reform efforts around college and career readiness. In fact, current federal requirements – with the mandate of all students be proficient by 2014 and the sanctions for those schools and districts that fall short – may undermine the efforts of leading reform states.

USC Report Urges California To Expand Private Colleges To Meet Enrollment Increase




California must turn to non-profit and for-profit private colleges and universities to meet the future demand for a more educated workforce, a new report urges.

With state schools over capacity and crippled by budget cuts, the slate of recommendations includes having private schools teach classes on public campuses and state funding for non-profit private schools to grow their enrollment by up to 10 percent, according to the study released Monday by the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at USC.

“We’re facing a perfect storm. The economy of the state and country is at risk if we don’t have more students participating in higher education,” said USC University Professor William G. Tierney, Wilbur-Keiffer Professor of Higher Education and director of the center. Tierney co-authored the report with Guilbert Hentschke, a professor and the Richard T. Cooper and Mary Catherine Cooper Chair in Public School Administration at the Rossier School of Education.

President Obama in his State of the Union address called for the United States to regain the top spot in the world after falling to ninth based on the percentage of young adults who finish college. California is expected to face an estimated shortfall of one million college-educated workers by 2025, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Meanwhile, students attending the University of California system paid 32 percent more in fees last year – and three times what they would have paid a decade ago. And Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed slashing $1 billion from the state’s universities and $400 million from community colleges. That leaves two choices, some educational leaders have said: Raise tuition or cut enrollment at public campuses.

“State legislatures are strapped. Public education institutions are downsizing. The result is paralysis,” Tierney said.

Here are the eight recommendations outlined in the USC report “Making It Happen: Increasing College Access and Attainment in California Higher Education:”

-Initiate state funding for students to take classes offered by private institutions, especially in high-demand majors such as nursing, science, engineering and math.

-Create a common course numbering system between all accredited institutions to allow easy transfer of courses between the UC, CSU, private non-profit and for-profit systems. The study’s authors say a lack of cooperation across the various postsecondary systems results in students taking more courses than necessary.

-Offer state incentives for non-profit private institutions to increase student enrollment by up to 10 percent.

-Move aggressively toward an online learning program for introductory courses in professional degree programs such as business, marketing and accounting to free up seats in brick-and-mortar classrooms.

-Change the “quasi-cartel” licensing requirements used to keep some out-of-state programs from competing in California.

-Exert greater oversight over the state’s for-profit institutions without scaring away potential providers. In fall 2008, California had about 158,000 students attending two- and four-year for-profit institutions – many of them at-risk students. “If we closed the for-profit sector down today where would these students go and at what price to taxpayers?” the study’s authors write.

-Outsource remedial education by allowing private providers to offer intensive remedial writing and math classes through senior year and the summer before college.

-Create a statewide planning board including all public and private institutions that can monitor and change policies geared toward achieving student enrollment capacity.

Tierney has spent over two decades researching college access for underrepresented youth.

Hentschke served as dean of the USC Rossier School of Education from 1988 to 2000. His research focuses on the finance and governance of public, non-profit and for-profit education organizations.

The National University System funded the study and report.

For a full copy of the report, go to


State Incentive For College Graduation Gets Response from Colleges


TN colleges get creative to increase graduation rate
By Jennifer Brooks, the Tennessean
The state of Tennessee gave colleges their marching orders: Raise your graduation rates, or else. If graduation rates decline, so does state support for that institution. So state colleges and universities are getting creative in their efforts to make sure the students they enroll leave with diplomas in hand.

How To Reduce The Burden Of Student Loans

How to Reduce the Burden of Student Loans  : Guest Blogger Chris Jacobsen

If you thought the path into college was rough, you’ve probably not heard the horror stories about student loans from those who’ve graduated. They’re stuck in the unenviable position of having the degree they’ve always wanted, yet burdened by a load of debt that they must repay for the better part of their lives. Student debt is becoming worse by the day as college costs soar and students are left with no way out but to borrow at exorbitant rates in order to afford an education. Not everyone can go to college on their parents’ savings or by the strength of their wealth, so they do have to borrow to meet their tuition fees and other expenses. However, with just a little careful planning, students can reduce this burden considerably:

  • Go in for a federal loan instead of a private loan – there are many repayment options and deferment plans if you’re beset by money problems and unable to make your monthly payments. Choose from the Parent Plus, Grad Plus, unsubsidized Stafford, subsidized Stafford, and the Perkins loans.
  • Apply for a loan well in advance because the competition is fierce and you don’t want to lose out because you’ve been tardy in sending in your application.
  • Enroll in a degree that will allow you to find work in the public sector – you can take advantage of loan forgiveness programs that allow you to write off your student loan if you work in the public sector or in nonprofit organizations for a period of ten years. There are conditions to these programs – you will be asked to work in rural areas or low-income environments, so if you’re ok with this, choose to become a nurse, a teacher, a cop, a civil servant, or any other public service professional.
  • Minimize your expenses in college and start putting aside money every month to pay back your student loan. You could take on a part-time job, save some of your allowance, and generally live frugally in order to reduce the burden of your debt when you graduate.
  • Once you graduate, find out how much you owe every month, and how many years you have to repay your debt. Based on your monthly income, you can decide if you want to decrease your monthly payment and increase the number of years you have to repay your loan. This helps you avoid delinquency (missed payments) or worse, a default (avoidance of payment altogether).
  • Take advantage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) which allows borrowers of qualified federal loans to pay back their debt on a sliding scale based on their income using Income Based Repayment (IBR). If you earn less than your monthly due, this rule allows you to reduce your monthly due to 10 percent of your income. This makes you a debtor for a longer period of time, but at least you avoid the consequences of delinquency (poor credit history, difficulty in securing any kind of loan) and default (wage garnishment, withholding of income tax refunds and Social Security benefits, turning over of debts to collection agencies).
  • There are also other options when you cannot meet your monthly payments – one of them is loan deferment which allows you to defer payment on your loan for a certain time period. You could take advantage of this option if you’re going back to school or if you lose your job and are unable to make payments on your loan. When you go in for a deferment, there are some loans that waive even the interest due; but for others (mostly unsubsidized loans), you may have to pay at least the interest due every month in order to prevent it from accumulating and adding to your overall debt.
  • Another option to consider is loan forbearance where the lender allows you to temporarily suspend payment because of financial hardship or similar reasons.  

Before you take advantage of all these repayment options, remember that putting off the repayment of a loan or paying less every month means that you remain a debtor for a longer period of time. So plan your future even before you join college – it helps you avoid debt and lead a peaceful life.


This guest post is contributed by Chris Jacobson who writes on the topic of Criminal Justice Degree Online . Chris can be reached at his email id: chris.jacobson7-AT-gmail-Dot-com

Florida Moves To Deny Tenure To 2 And 4 year College Professors

A bill that would prohibit Florida’s community and state colleges from granting tenure to faculty passed a key legislative committee. New employees as well as those who have not yet earned tenure – including faculty and administrators – would work on annual contracts. House Bill 7193 also requires colleges, when facing layoffs, to let go of their poorest performing employees first. (Orlando Sentinel, 03/29/11)

New Blog on College Developmental Education For Math

Jack Rotman, a professor of mathematics at Lansing Community College and chair of the developmental mathematics committee of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges,  has started a blog reflecting the challenges of ensuring student success in developmental math. He writes: “Those of us who specialize in developmental mathematics have been especially challenged over the past few years and it is easy to become discouraged and cynical.  I have started a blog as a means to provide both encouragement and practical assistance, consistent with the goals of a professional reformulation of developmental mathematics.”  The blog is Developmental Mathematics Revival.