Posts published in February, 2014

AP Course Taking And Passage Soars


Form College Board:

Today we are releasing the College Board’s 10th Annual AP® Report to the Nation, which shows that state leaders and educators are making significant progress in expanding both access to and success in Advanced Placement®, and, by doing so, are providing opportunity to more students every year.

Our new data show that, over the past decade, the number of students who took AP Exams in high school has doubled and the number of low-income students taking AP has more than quadrupled. We are delighted to see that this expansion in AP participation has also resulted in a significant increase in the number of AP Exam scores of 3 or higher, which is the score typically required for college credit or placement. This is a tribute to the hard work of educators and students, and it underlines our conviction that all students who are academically prepared — no matter their location, background, or socioeconomic status — deserve the opportunity to access the rigor and benefits of AP.
 Though challenges remain, progress is being made to close equity gaps in AP participation and success among underrepresented minority students. Over the past school year:


Thirty states made progress in African American representation among AP Exam takers and those scoring 3 or higher.


Twenty-eight states made progress in Hispanic/Latino representation among AP Exam takers and those scoring 3 or higher.


Data from the report also show that nearly 300,000 academically prepared students in this country either did not take a course in an available AP subject for which they had potential, or attended a school that did not offer an AP course in that subject.

Surprising Findings On College Dropouts

What Might Happen if College Dropouts Made Different Choices?

If students who dropped out from four-year institutions started college at a two-year school, their chances of earning a degree would be much higher, finds a new paper written by AIR and published by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER). America’s Drop-Out Epidemic also found that policies seeking to increase degree attainment by encouraging enrollment don’t always work: Those not in college have very low predicted rates of completion because they aren’t academically well-prepared.


New Report Explores Staffing And Compensation in Higher Education

Colleges and universities increasingly rely on part-time faculty to meet instructional demands and rein in costs, but rising benefit costs and increased hiring for other types of positions have undercut those savings, a new report by the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research (AIR) finds.

Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education shows that part-time faculty and graduate assistants account for at least half of instructional staff at many colleges and universities. Institutions continue to hire full-time faculty, but the pace typically lags behind student enrollment at public colleges, and the new faculty often fill nontenure track positions.

“The most striking change in higher education staffing over the past two decades has been the continuing increase in the use of part-time instructors,” says AIR researcher Donna Desrochers. “But even with these cost-saving staffing changes, total compensation costs per employee continued to rise steadily for most of the past decade.”

Researchers Desrochers and Rita Kirshstein found widespread increases in the number of administrative jobs—with midlevel professional positions such as business analysts, human resource staff, counselors, and health workers driving the growth. Professional staff increased twice as fast as executive and managerial positions and account for nearly 20 percent to 25 percent of all campus jobs. However, the authors found colleges and universities are investing in professional jobs that provide noninstructional student services—such as counseling, admissions, and financial aid and athletics—rather than just business-related services.

“Contrary to some public perceptions, faculty salaries are not the leading cause of rising spending or tuition increases in higher education. The average salary for full-time faculty has stayed flat from 2002 to 2010,” says Desrochers. “Additional hiring and benefits—including medical plans, Social Security taxes, and retirement contributions—are driving much of the increase in overall compensation costs.”

Other notable findings include the following:

  • Between 2000 and 2012, the public and private nonprofit higher education workforce grew by 28 percent, 50 percent faster than in the previous decade. Much of this growth was due to rising enrollment as the millennial generation entered college.
  • By 2012, public research universities and community colleges averaged 16 fewer employees per 1,000 full-time students than in 2000. All private colleges, on the other hand, experienced increases during this same period that ranged from an average of 15 additional employees in private bachelor’s colleges to 26 in private master’s institutions.
  • Part-time faculty and graduate assistants provided additional capacity at well-funded research universities and private colleges, but they replaced new full-time positions at broadly accessible public institutions.
  • The average number of faculty and nonprofessional staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent in most types of four-year colleges and universities between 1990 and 2012, and now averages 2.5 or fewer faculty and staff per administrator.

Read Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staff and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education.

Also read “Is ‘Admin Bloat’ Behind the High Cost of College?” a blog commentary by Donna Desrochers, and follow Delta Cost on Twitter.


Gates Foundation Head On College Prep And K-12 Reform

Vicki Phillips is Director of Education, College Ready at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (a foundation that funds Bellwether).  In the timely guest post below she discusses Common Core implementation and the current debate over slowing it down:

More than 80 percent of students say they expect to go to college, but less than 40 percent of adults have an associate’s degree or higher. It’s clear that we need to do something—something big—to prepare America’s students to achieve the American dream. Fortunately, we already have. Right now, K-12 education is going through two changes that will help all students get the high-quality education they deserve.

The first has to do with academic standards. For decades, we held most students to standards that didn’t match the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed after graduation. The Common Core State Standards were designed to fix that problem, and 45 states have adopted and are in the process of implementing them.

The second big change relates to how we support and evaluate teachers. Before I set foot in the classroom as a young teacher, I received only the most generic training. Once I actually had students, I managed more or less on my own. The same is true for the overwhelming majority of teachers today, who routinely have to rely on intuition or trial and error instead of evidence-based insights about how to get better at their craft. Fortunately, states and districts are building systems to provide teachers with ongoing, personalized feedback based on multiple measures, making it possible to customize professional development.

The thing about big changes is that they can be unsettling. Some people worry that the Common Core will over-burden teachers who are already over-burdened, and I empathize. Others want to be cautious about how tests aligned to the Common Core are used to evaluate teachers, students, and schools, and I agree. But the fact is, in the vast majority of cases, these changes are being implemented carefully to avoid precisely these pitfalls.

What does appropriate implementation of new standards and evaluation systems look like?

The key principle is giving teachers and students time to adjust to new expectations before they face serious consequences for not meeting them.

Teachers should benefit from the insights that come out of the evaluation systems as soon as they’re available, but districts should ensure that there is a baseline and several years of data before using these systems to make personnel decisions.

Students who do well on new assessments aligned to the Common Core may want to use them to let colleges know they’re ready for credit-bearing courses, but test scores shouldn’t be used to make consequential decisions, such as whether students should graduate, until we are sure we understand how to interpret the results.

Schools already identified as needing improvement should continue to make improvements on behalf of their students, but no new schools should be singled out based on new assessments until teachers have had a few years to get used to the new ways of working.

What I just described is the ideal state. It is also, with the exception of a few outliers, what is actually happening across the country. We should highlight the outliers and encourage them to take a more balanced approach, but we should also recognize that most districts and states are going about this the right way.

As the Council of Chief State School Officers details in its October 2013 report, “Implementing the Common Core Standards,” states across the nation have been working to implement the new standards for the past three years. Over 500 Colorado educators representing 61 school districts, for example, participated in workshops to create 670 curriculum samples based on the standards. The Georgia State Department of Education has created numerous resources for teachers, including a video library,, with more than 1,000 videos that demonstrate effective implementation of the standards in classrooms. In the past year, I’ve attended conferences in Kentucky and Tennessee where teachers shared best practices for implementing the new standards.

Primary Sources, a national survey of teachers supported by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 73 percent of teachers who teach math, English language arts, science, or social studies in states that have adopted the Common Core are enthusiastic about implementation in their classrooms. And 75 percent feel prepared to teach the standards, up from 59 percent in 2011. Teachers acknowledge that it will be challenging to implement the standards and want more resources, professional development, and time to prepare lessons, which is exactly what we should be concentrating on giving them.

In the majority of states, teacher evaluation systems won’t have high-stakes consequences for teachers until at least 2015-16.

In the meantime, teachers are benefitting from the new evaluation systems being rolled out. In a survey of several districts where our foundation is working closely, 78 percent of teachers agreed that their professional development experiences were focused on specific elements in their district’s teacher observation rubric. And 43 percent said they received coaching to address the specific needs identified by their evaluation results.

Given the reality of what’s happening on the ground in states across the country, I cannot understand those who are calling on states and districts to pause, stop or reverse these critical changes. Such a halt could undo the progress teachers, districts, and states have already made while stopping future progress in its trac

Community College Students Who Transfer to For-Profit Colleges Earn Less

Community college students who transfer to for-profit colleges earn less than students who transfer to public or private non-profit colleges, concludes a new study from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE).

The study is the first to examine the income effects of transferring to a for-profit college from a community college. Earlier studies, including a recent study from CAPSEE, have compared earnings for students who attend community colleges and for-profit colleges and found that students who attend for-profit colleges are less likely to be employed after college and earn less on average than community college students.

For this study, CAPSEE researchers analyzed the earnings of 80,000 first-time, degree-seeking students who enrolled in community college during the 2000s and transferred to another college or university. Student incomes were tracked via state unemployment insurance data through the beginning of 2012.

The study found that there were significant differences in the community college students who chose to transfer to a for-profit institution: Black and Hispanic students, and students who performed poorly and accrued fewer credits at the community college were far more likely to transfer to a for-profit than a non-profit or public college.

Even when controlling for these differences in student characteristics, however, the study found that students who transferred to for-profit colleges earned 6-7 percent less than students who transferred to non-profit or public institutions.

The study also found that students who transferred to for-profit colleges had higher earnings whilst in college. Students who attended for-profit colleges saw a decline in income of $130-$270 per quarter; by comparison, the decline in income for students enrolled in public colleges was four times as large, and for students at non-profit colleges, the decline was ten times as large. This difference—the lower ‘opportunity cost’ of attending for-profit colleges—may explain why these colleges are attractive to low-income students.

However, the earning gains after leaving college were significantly higher for public and nonprofit college students. Over time these gains more than offset the ‘opportunity cost’ differences. Looking over ten years, for-profit students experienced net earnings gains of only $5,400, whereas public and nonprofit college students experienced gains of $12,300 and $26,700 respectively. These figures do not account for the higher tuition costs at for-profit colleges.

The wage penalty for transferring to a for-profit college was consistent across subgroups of students, although the penalty was greatest for for-profit students who did not complete a degree.

Black Males: Strategies For College Readiness

From College Board

During the high school years, teens lay the academic and social groundwork for their future. But too many of the 1.7 million young Black men, ages 14–18, spend those crucial years of schooling battling obstacles that can jeopardize their future college and career trajectories.

Steering Black male teens to success during their high school years was the topic of ETS’s 17th Addressing Achievement Gaps Symposium. You will find timely discussions about these issues in the latest edition of ETS Policy Notes: Black Male Teens: Moving to Success in the High School Years. Published by ETS’s Policy Information Center, this issue contains highlights from ETS’s Achievement Gaps Symposium with the same title. ETS Policy Notes (Vol. 21, No. 3) is available at no cost to you here.

During the 2013 symposium, policymakers, practitioners and advocates focused on the latest research, strategies and college- and career-readiness models aimed at creating high schools that provide opportunities for Black males to succeed. The purpose was to highlight the unique challenges facing these young men and to examine the most effective practices for schools and communities to adopt to help close achievement gaps and foster college and career success.

Employers Want To Know What Is In A Degree

By Jim Lanich, California Business Council

Legislators, employers, and parents are pushing colleges and universities to demonstrate whether their students can compete in the workforce before they exit. There are couple of reasons that colleges are beginning to use these exit exams. First, parents and students alike want to know that their money spent is a sound investment in their future. Second, there’s a dearth in the labor market for highly skilled and knowledgeable workers. A recent study by the American Institute of Research reported that fifty percent of graduates of four year colleges and seventy- five percent of graduates of two year colleges are below proficiency in literacy levels. These data are alarming. It tells us they don’t have the skills to perform real world tasks like comparing two different healthcare plans or analyzing two sides of an argument. Exit exams in college are catching on slowly due in large part to a existing culture at universities, especially exclusive universities, that is focused on nputs like GPA, SAT scores, resumes of incoming students rather than their outputs like graduating young adults prepared to be successful in the work force. There is an an opportunity here for the labor market to bridge the gap between higher education and the job market by starting the conversation with colleges and universities and articulating what career readiness looks like from their perspective. This will further another trend in education- alignment of the K-16 to workforce pipeline. Read More