Posts published in March, 2014

States Lack Strategy To Improve Post Secondary Education And Workforce

Helping more people get a postsecondary education is a national challenge that many large states are failing to accomplish because these states have no plan for improvement, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE). The unique and wide-ranging study takes more than ten years’ of often fragmented state higher education data, augmented by extensive interviews with state policymakers, and synthesizes a series of policy recommendations relevant to all states.

 The report, Renewing the Promise: State Policies to Improve Higher Education, finds that states are largely failing to meet the challenge of creating a more educated workforce because they lack a cohesive long-term strategy. The study also finds that some states have abandoned their efforts in the face of changing political climates and the economic downturn. It notes that all states are at a crucial turning point as they begin to allocate financial resources within a rebounding economy.

“This report highlights the critical role states play in defining higher education opportunity for its citizens,” said Joni E. Finney, one of the authors of the report.  “Governors, legislators and higher education leaders need to work together on a public agenda for higher education or fewer people will participate in and graduate with workforce certificates or college degrees.”

Penn GSE’s Institute of Research on Higher Education (IRHE) embarked on its ambitious comparison of higher education policies by examining five states (Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington) that have similar challenges as other states, such as the need to increase educational attainment and close persistent gaps in opportunity by race, ethnicity, income and geography. Examining performance and policies from the early 1990s through 2010, Renewing the Promise: State Policies to Improve Higher Education Performance offers insights into how states deal with higher education in difficult financial times, as well as how historical policies set the context for higher education performance over time.

The research team, led by Penn GSE professors Joni E. Finney and Laura W. Perna along with Higher Education Policy Institute president Patrick M. Callan, made several policy recommendations in the report, including:

Make equity a top priority. The growing gaps in educational opportunity and attainment are one of the most serious issues facing higher education. According to the report, “no state can successfully meet their higher education challenges without creating a level playing field for low-income, minority, and first-generation college students.” Examples of needed policy change include:

  • Texas and Washington deregulated tuition policy from the states to colleges and universities during the Great Recession. These policy actions resulted in high spikes in tuition and the inability of state financial aid programs to keep up with tuition increases.
  • Washington had a robust, nationally recognized, need-based financial aid program, however this program can no longer keep up with increases in tuition.
  • In Georgia, state leaders, as well as some institutional leaders, have failed to come to grips with the reality that the state’s future success is linked to opportunities for African Americans and Latinos and policies for increasing their educational success are lacking.

Develop political consensus. States must “develop political consensus for clear goals related to educational opportunity and attainment, as well as mechanisms to monitor and publicly report on those goals.” The report also finds that state leadership must work together to establish goals for increased certificate and degree attainment.

While all five case study states articulated some goal related to improved educational attainment, the report states that little political consensus was found to advance these goals and implement policies.

College Grades: A Long Term Analysis

Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940-2009
by Stuart Rojstaczer & Christopher Healy
College grades can influence a student’s graduation prospects, academic motivation, postgraduate job choice, professional and graduate school selection, and access to loans and scholarships. Despite the importance of grades, national trends in grading practices have not been examined in over a decade, and there has been a limited effort to examine the historical evolution of college grading. This article looks at the evolution of grading over time and space at American colleges and universities over the last 70 years. The data provide a means to examine how instructors’ assessments of excellence, mediocrity, and failure have changed in higher education.


Post Secondary Data Problems: Analysis And Solutions

The million-dollar question facing all higher education constituencies involves the concept of “value:” Which institutions provide it to which students in what quantities? Although existing data serve as important signals in the higher education marketplace, they do not adequately address the myriad concerns of the postsecondary community. For students, better data are needed to inform college choice and decision-making; for institutional leaders, better data are needed to improve programs and services; and for policymakers, better data are needed to drive funding decisions.

Through its work with the “Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery” (RADD) project, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) released today a new report, Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities, outlining how existing national data sets can be amended, added to, or linked together. In an attempt to fill the gaps in our data infrastructure, the paper reviews recent efforts in the field to identify a common set of measures aimed at answering key questions, such as:

  • Which students have access to which colleges?
  • How many—and which—students complete college?
  • How much does college cost, and how do students pay?
  • What outcomes do students experience after college in the workplace and society?

The paper, along with its accompanying technical report, then maps these measures against current data systems like the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the National Student Loan Data System, and moves forward with identifying gaps in knowledge about postsecondary institutions, and proposing improvements that would fill those gaps. Recommendations include details that could inform the development of the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), complementing IHEP’s written comments on the PIRS that were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in January 2014.*

“Our current postsecondary data systems were not designed with today’s needs in mind. They have many limitations, leaving them unable to answer core questions facing students, policymakers, or, even more, colleges and universities,” said IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. “We can no longer afford to leave vital questions unanswered.”

SAT Major Changes Announced By College Board

Please visit to read about the eight major changes to the SAT, and to find resources for higher education professionals and K–12 educators.

Performance Funding For College Completion-Version 2.0

Over the years, 32 states have implemented some form of performance funding. This brief distinguishes between PF1.0, which involves a bonus on top of regular state funding, and PF2.0, which typically retains enrollments as one funding driver. Based on studies of PF1.0 (PF2.0 is still in its early days), performance funding  led to changes intended to improve student outcomes, but those changes didn’t work. The brief reviews obstacles and unintended impacts, then offers possible solutions. (Community College Research Center)

Resources That Make You A Better Essay Writer

By Robert Morris

From the choice of a proper topic to accurate organization, writing an essay doesn’t come as easy as most people think. To make things even more difficult for students, their academic success and entire future is dependent upon the writing they complete.

In order to help you cover every step of essay writing properly, we will list some of the most useful resources that will make you a more effective writer and thinker.

Different types of essays

Before you start writing a paper, you need to understand that not all types of essays can be written with the same style, organization and techniques. For example, a college application essay requires a more personal style, contrast essays include more research and discussion, persuasive essays require an authoritative standing, descriptive essays should present a clear picture, and so on. The following resources will help you tackle every type of essay:

1. Roane State Online Writing Lab provides organized information about different types of essays. You can also read samples that will help you get a clearer picture for each specific essay you need to write.

2. College application essay writing will teach you everything there is to know about writing a creative and unique college application essay that will impress the admissions committee.

3. Writing Detective provides an online lesson on how to write contrast essays, after which you can test your understanding through the featured quiz.

4. ReadWriteThink provides interactive tools (such as the Comparison and Contrast Map and Persuasion Map) that will help you organize different types of essays properly.

5. Thesis Builder will help you write your persuasive essay, as well as get ideas on what to write.

About the topic and thesis

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of essays, you need tools that will help you come up with topics and theses.

1. Topic-O-Rama is a valuable source of ideas for topics. The tool will suggest lots of topics for your essay, and you can save the ones you like in a list of possible choices.

2. Thesis Generator 1.0 will help you complete the thesis of your essay. All you need to do is enter the topic, the main argument and a couple of reasons that support that argument; and voila- the generator will return three versions of a thesis statement for your paper.

3. Thesis Statement Generator is another tool that will turn the components you enter into a strong thesis statement.

Essay structure

The structure and organization of your essay is extremely important. In order to outline the paper properly, you need the right organizing tools.

1. The Essay Map tool at will help you organize your thoughts into a properly outlined essay.

2. Project Write MSU provides detailed graphic organizers which you can easily print and use to outline your paper.

3. The Essay Organizer from Essay Writing Wizard will enable you to organize the paper on your smartphone. The clear steps will guide you through the writing process effortlessly.

Grammar and Syntax tools

An essay cannot be great if you don’t pay attention to grammar and syntax issues and make it perfect from every aspect. MS Word’s spelling and grammar checker is cool, but you shouldn’t rely on it completely.

1. Grammarly is an instant tool that will proofread your essay and indicate the issues that require improvement.

2. UNLV Writing Center is a great source of tips that will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes students make in essay writing.

3. Purdue OWL is a well-known website that offers all information you need about general essay requirements, grammar, syntax, research, and citation.

Plagiarism checking tools

Most of your professors use advanced plagiarism checkers to verify the uniqueness of your essays, so you shouldn’t submit a paper without making sure it’s plagiarism-free.

1. Viper requires a download and installation process, which makes it slightly less convenient. The tool will check your essays quickly and indicate any signs of plagiarism.

2. PlagTracker is all you need if you’re looking for a safe and accurate plagiarism checker that doesn’t require any downloads.


Writing a stellar essay doesn’t require only ideas and writing talent. You need to learn what every type of essay requires and how you should organize its content. It will take a lot of practice before your academic writing becomes nearly perfect, but everything will be much easier now that you have the right tools to guide you through the process.


Robert Morris has worked in education for over 7 years as a teacher, school newspaper adviser, literacy consultant, curriculum writer. He provides teaching and learning materials. 


Men Of Color Left Behind In Community Colleges

AUSTIN, TX— Black males and Latinos report having higher aspirations to earn a community
college certificate or degree than their White peers, but only 5% of Black males and Latinos
attending community colleges earn certificates or degrees within three years, as opposed to
32% of White males. This fact, among many others, prompted the Center for Community
College Student Engagement to develop a special report released today: Aspirations to
Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges.

As community colleges across the country respond to mounting calls for dramatic improvements
in college completion, a necessary component of that work is to recognize and then close the
persistent and troubling attainment gaps across a diverse population of students. Page 2 of 4
The new report includes analysis of student engagement survey results for over 145,000 male
community college students and is accompanied by a video drawn from over 30 focus groups
with Black male and Latino students. It builds on a growing body of research about the
experiences of men of color in higher education and offers information community colleges can
consider as they work to create conditions that will lead to better outcomes for these students.

Despite their diverse life and educational experiences, male students of color in focus groups
agree on the importance of four factors as central to their success: building strong personal
connections on campus; being held to high expectations; encountering instructors who are
committed to their achievement; and being intensively engaged in the academic experience,
both in and out of the classroom. Although students agree on these factors, their responses
regarding the significance of race and diversity on campus are mixed across and within groups.

“Community colleges open their doors to all learners,” affirms Center Director Kay McClenney.
“However, open access is only the first step in attaining the equity ingrained in the mission of
community colleges. The more significant work is ensuring that all students have the support
needed to succeed.