Posts published in November, 2014

Professors Design More Effective Math Remediation Course

| By Michelle Maitre | Edsource, Oakland, CA

Boosting graduation rates of community college students who need remedial coursework has been a long-standing challenge, but a team of community college professors are gaining followers to their efforts to re-envision the basic coursework and help students get through faster.

As many as 85 percent of incoming community college freshmen need remedial courses in math, and about 70 percent need remedial courses in English, according to a 2011 brief from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Black and Latino students are especially affected. Those students are far more likely to be placed at the lowest levels of remediation, according to a 2010 EdSource report.

Research shows that most students who begin in remedial courses will never persist to graduation.

The California Acceleration Project aims to reverse those dismal success rates. Launched in 2010 by an English professor and a math professor from two community college districts, the project works with instructors to revise and shorten the traditional remedial sequence, helping increase the number of students who pass credit-bearing math and English within their first year of starting college.

California Acceleration Project co-founder Katie Hern, and English professor at Chabot College.
COURTESY CALIFORNIA ACCELERATION PROJECTCalifornia Acceleration Project co-founder Katie Hern, an English professor at Chabot College.

Remedial education “is a place where we lose a huge number of students,” said Chabot College English professor Katie Hern, co-founder the California Acceleration Project. “The vast majority don’t complete college-level English and math. They take remedial courses and then they disappear.”

Remedial courses, also called developmental education, don’t count for college or transferrable credit and are intended to provide basic or refresher skills to prepare students for credit-bearing courses.

Students are placed into the classes based on their scores on placement tests. The lowest-scoring students may find themselves in an English course reviewing basic grammar rules, for instance, with several more semesters of similar courses ahead before they progress to a college-level class. It can take two years or more before the lowest scoring students make their way to a class that counts toward graduation or transfer.

Only 7 percent of students who begin three levels below college-level coursework in math go on to complete a college-level course in three years, according to a 2014 report from the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges. In English, only 19 percent of students who place three levels down complete a college-level course in three years.

Figures like those sparked Hern and co-founder Myra Snell, a math professor at Los Medanos College, to found the California Acceleration Project. The project offers professional development and resources to community college instructors to help them create shorter remedial coursework in math and English.

Much of the work builds on Hern and Snell’s own practice.

At Los Medanos’ campus in Contra Costa County, Snell created an accelerated developmental mathematics course called Path2Stats.

The one-semester course replaces the traditional three- or four-semester algebra-based remedial sequence and focuses instead on teaching the fundamentals of statistics, along with some intermediate algebra. Students who pass Path2Stats can enroll directly into a college-level statistics class.

At Chabot College, students can enroll in a one-semester remedial course in English that blends reading and writing instruction. The course is an alternative to the campus’ traditional two-semester remedial course.

“We don’t define acceleration as doing the same thing faster,” Hern said. “We say we need to be teaching differently, we need to be expending our energies differently. … We say, ‘OK, if you offer developmental courses, they should look and feel like college courses.’”

Both the Chabot and Los Medanos programs have seen promising results.

“The vast majority (of students) don’t complete college-level English and math. They take remedial courses and then they disappear,” said California Acceleration Project co-founder Katie Hern.

Chabot students who took the accelerated course were 17 to 22 percentage points more likely to have completed English 1A – the beginning college-level class – than students who took the traditional sequence, according to a 2014 study by the Community College Research Center, which tracked the students over five years.

At Los Medanos, 82 percent of students who took Path2Stats completed a college-level statistics class within one year, whereas only 33 percent of students who took the took a traditional, algebra-based sequence had completed a college-level course within three years, according to a 2013 report by LearningWorks.

Statewide, 47 of the state’s 112 community college campuses are offering accelerated courses in math or English after participating in a year-long professional development training offered by the California Acceleration Project. The programs serve more than 10,000 students statewide, based on project estimates.

Students who participate in accelerated remedial statistics courses at City College of San Francisco said they appreciate the time they’re saving in their studies.

“No one likes to think they’re remedial,” said Darwin Zaldana, a 17-year-old freshman in a preparation for statistics class at City College. “It bummed me out. It made me think of my future here at City College. It just messes up my time here,” Zaldana said, adding, “And time is money.”

California Acceleration Project co-founder Myra Snell, a math professor at Los Medanos College.

Higer Education Policies Not Aligned With New Types Of Skills Needed By Students

‘BEYOND THE SKILLS GAP’: A new report from New America’s Mary Alice McCarthy explores the skills gap from a new perspective: as a gap between the policies governing higher education and the need among students, employers, and communities for new types of skills. Read more at EdCentral and check out the full report

Bad Measures Cause Too Much College Remediation

Ready or Not: How Multiple Measures of College Readiness Can Help Reduce Unnecessary Remediation
by Judith Scott-Clayton  for Teachers College Record
While the prevalence of remediation has generated widespread concern about the college readiness of our nation’s high school graduates, comparatively little attention has been paid to how “readiness” is actually determined. At most community colleges and at many nonselective four-year colleges, readiness is determined by scores on short standardized math and English placement tests. This commentary describes research finding that assignment to remedial or college-level courses based on standardized placement exams results in large numbers of placement errors, and that incorporating high school transcript information would lead to fewer assignments to remediation while maintaining or increasing success rates in college-level Math and English.


Long Term Tuition Outlook Is Grim With Increases Likely

by Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute

Last week the College Board released the 2014 Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid reports. As a former co-author of these reports, I remain critically interested in tuition and cost of attendance trends.

Each year, I update our annual projection of the future tuition and fee costs at US institutions of higher education. This is an imperfect science, given that there is no way to forecast what happens at the congressional, legislative, or institutional levels. Similarly, it is somewhat useless to speculate what will happen with global economic and societal trends. We just “don’t know.”

With that, I make certain predictions based on “what is.” My calculations utilize historical data and assume that recent history (as defined as previous 25 years) will be somewhat useful in extrapolating data for the next 25 years. Again, the caveats abound and I would advise people not to do this at home without a certified technician and pulmonary surgeon at your disposal.

The exhibit below illustrates the actual tuition and fee charges from 1978-79 to 2014-15, from historical College Board data. The College Board, by the way, collects these data via their Annual Survey of Colleges, which is completed by a majority of US institutions of higher education. The data released last week by the College Board indicate that the tuition and fee costs for the current academic year averages $3,347 for two-year public institutions, $9,139 for four-year public institutions, and $32,231 for four-year private institutions. To give you some sense of comparability, these are, after controlling for inflation, 27.5, 41.2, and 23.4 percent higher, respectively, than in 2004-05. Remember, that’s the increase beyond  inflationary pressures. Over the past 20 years, tuition and fees have increased 59 percent at two-year publics, 110.2 percent at four-year publics, and 65.8 percent at four-year private institutions. In scientific terminology, “that’s a lot.”


The College Board was quick to add that the most recent increases in college prices have been lower than at any point in the last 30 years. Statistically, this is true. However, the data give me little solace that higher education, writ large, is acting in good faith. Rather, these results are only a blimp in what we will see in the next several years. As state governments continue to squeeze public higher education institutions, the institutions will continue to act more like private higher education, engaging business and industry for more grants and contracts while simultaneously increasing the tuition, fee, and room and board charges for students. Just this week I spoke with one administrator from Colorado who said their public system of higher education will essentially be fully private within the decade due to declining subsidies.

As the data illustrate, the last few years have seem somewhat nominal increases in college pricing, regardless of type or sector. The average cost increase for four-year public institutions above inflation has been 1.3, 1.1, and 1.5 percent. However, even as recent as 2011-12, the increase was 6.3 percent, with a 6.8 percent increase the year before and 5.7 percent the year before that. The level of increase is dependent on (a) the economy and (b) what institutions are forced and try and get away with. There is very little to gain from being prudent and keeping costs low. Even for public institutions, there is always the chase of profit margin. The recent changes are more an outcome of the economy, which has been close to zero inflation for the past several years.

Using a multiplier equal to the average tuition and fee charges from the past 25 years, my chart suggests that tuition and fee charges for four-year public institutions will double, in real dollars, within 17 years to $18,586. Let me again put this in perspective. If we could fast forward to the year 2031, sending your child or grandchild to college would be akin to shelling out $18,586 from your pocket, your savings, your IRA, or your PLUS loan today. And I need only say that this is only tuition and fees. Typically, room and board costs about as much as tuition and fees at four-year public institutions. In fact, it costs more on average.

Two-year public institutions will double to $6,660 in 23 years, or by 2037-38. Four-year private institutions increase at the slowest rate and will double in 27 years to $62,039. The privates get a lot of flack for their high prices, which is sometimes justified. But they historically have the lowest increases annually and I expect that trend to continue.

Of course, this is sticker price we are discussing and not net price, as some critics will surely argue. If it was the latter, one had better have a psychologist on hand with the pulmonary surgeon to play that game. Net prices are very pliable and depend on many factors to determine what is real for everyone. They are an important and useful tool, but gross sticker price is better for some level of analysis, even when we know there are grants and loans, including the ever important institutional aid, that impact the true cost of attending college. So I remain guilty and unapologetic for these limitations.

What do these data mean in the end? Not good, to be sure. And every year I calculate these data the message will remain largely the same because the system is not changing and may not change by the time we get into the 2030s. The problem is that we are utilizing an expensive, outmoded system of education to educate a broader spectrum of society, at a time when both the economy is down and states are relinquishing their responsibility to their citizens. The formula is for economic disaster in a private and public scale.

I have never been a fan of free tuition, because that tends to be awfully regressive public policy that favors the affluent. However, if higher education is so critically important to this nation as our policymakers, policy wonks, researchers, business and industry experts, and educators say it is, why are we forcing people to empty their retirement funds to pay for their child’s higher education? Why are we forcing students to take on incredible debt burdens to help pay for their college (I say “help,” because they have already paid through other means for much of the non-borrowed sum)? Because higher education is a state concern in the US and a provincial one in Canada, it is difficult to come up with federal policy that could help redefine the system of accessibility and affordability. Some states (e.g., Oregon) have talked about creating a low-cost or even free system, but the discussion gets mired in issues of upfront costs (if you make college free, where does the immediate funding come before future-to-be-taxpayers help make up the difference) and the worry of brain drain (e.g., students living in Oregon get free tuition but then move to Washington state). If policy could be created on a national level, these issues would be somewhat ameliorated.

Until we find some future solutions, whether in efficiencies, changes in the length of degree (see Steve Trachtenberg’s piece on this), or changes in our credential requirements (e.g., short term certificates and competency-based badges), the chart will remain about the same. The only changes will come from either the items I just mentioned, or because of some massive change in legislation or a critical change at the global, economic level. That’s it.

While we herald colleges and universities for helping keep prices down over the past few years, we know they would raise tuition and fee charges higher if they could. The incentive for keeping prices in lock is insignificant. Everyone wants a little more. It’s the nature of the beast.

About Educational Policy Institute

The Educational Policy Institute is a Washington, DC-based research think tank on education and the social sciences. EPI conducts evaluation and policy studies on various educational issues from Pre-K to workforce outcomes in the United States, Canada, and beyond. Visit us at

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Students : Stop Procrastinating! Block the Internet


Blogger’s Note:

I have not reviewed the empirical basis of this survey or app, but the ideas are in it are thought provoking:

A study of 1500 undergraduate students in the USA has found that 74% have suffered significant procrastination because of online distraction.

The survey undertaken by the productivity and web blocking software Stop Procrastinating ( because the app has been downloaded by students at USA universities more than 12,000 times in the last three weeks in what appeared to be a final bid to fight what the students saw as a losing battle with online distraction.

Many claimed that the constant distraction from the internet through social media and websites, such as YouTube and many others, were playing havoc with their ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

74% of respondents claimed the level at which the internet distracted them from study was significant and worrying.

Some 61% said they had tried to concentrate on writing an essay for more than a week only to be distracted at some point by the internet.

64% said they had lost their chain of thought because they checked and responded to an email or social media alert while they were trying to study.

Some 51% said visiting distracting websites or social media cost them at least an hour a day in lost productivity or study.

44% said they were worried that the quality of their work was being affected by rushing work due to procrastination caused by the internet. They believe that distraction caused by the internet had caused them to hand in lower quality work which was reflect in a reduction in their grades.

79% of students realised that procrastination was a problem for students in the past, but believed that the internet was more invasive then anything students had to cope with before. The respondents said it could directly distract students while they were working, ie the internet existed on the computer on which they wrote or worked so it was much easier to be distracted by it.

The survey found that only 14% said they had been distracted by the television, some claiming that because it was in a different room to where they studied it didn’t distracted them. 15% said a hangover had distracted from study.61% of respondents claimed the internet and social media was pernicious as it directly affected their impulse control. Unlike the TV which is passive, the internet, email and social media required attention, which could lead to hours being lost.

71% of the students in the study claimed that the app Stop Procrastinating was the only software that had helped them kick the internet habit in order to study. Most responded that the key reason for their increase in productivity was because the software could block them away from the internet for a set amount of time even if they rebooted the computer. They had no other option than to study.

About Stop Procrastinating:

Stop Procrastinating is an internet blocking and productivity application. It is compatible with Mac OS and Windows. It allows users the option to block the internet for a period of time in three ways, depending on how much self discipline they have.

Option 1 allows users to block the internet for a set amount of time, but they can get back online if they reboot their computer.

Option 2 allows users to block the internet for a set amount of time, but prevents access to the internet even if they restart their computer. They have to wait until their chosen time is up to reconnect.

Option 3 allows users to input into a black list specific websites they wish to block, such as Facebook or Twitter, and to stay connected to the internet.

Stop Procrastinating also gives users the option to write down their works goals before disconnecting from the internet. Research has shown this to be a powerful aid to motivation. It also allows users to chart their progress over time, which helps users see how much more work they are getting done.





Large Increase In Remedial College Courses And Student Debt

from the Wall Street Journal:

College students are increasingly spending federal financial aid and taking on debt for high school-level courses that don’t count toward a degree, despite mounting evidence the courses are ineffective and may contribute to higher dropout rates.The number of college students taking at least one remedial course rose to 2.7 million in the 2011-2012 academic year from 1.04 million in 1999-2000, federal data show. During the same span, the amount of federal grants spent by undergraduates enrolled in at least one remedial course rose 380%, after inflation. There was also a drastic rise in remedial students taking on student debt

College Living Expenses Often Underestimated

Tuition is not the whole story in college expenses. The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at college living expenses, an “under discussed” aspect of college affordability, according to Lumina Foundation strategy director Zakiya Smith. The average list price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges in 2014-15 is $9,139. Room and board charges for the same students come to $9,804.

College Scholarships You May Not Know Exist

By Jane Hurst

Going to college is an expensive prospect, and without the aid of student loans, bursaries, and scholarships, many students would not be able to afford to go. There are actually all kinds of great scholarships available, over and above the ones that you can apply for through your current school. In fact, you may not even have known that some of the following scholarships even existed.

  1. Jackie Robinson Foundation – The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program offers students graduating from high school and entering college up to $7,500 annually. Students must prove financial need, as well as leadership potential. Applications are due by Feb. 15.
  2. Discount Park&Ride – If you are a student with a great business idea, create a business plan, and submit it to Discount Park&Ride. Describe the company, how it will be better than the competitors, how you plan to get customers, etc. The applicant with the best business plan will receive a $2,500 scholarship. Application deadline is June 15.
  3. Exxon Mobil Corporation – Scholarships for minority students entering math and engineering studies are available through an Exxon Mobil and SECME partnership. There is also a scholarship available for those studying agriculture.
  4. Bank of America – The Joe Martin Scholarship is available for students in colleges and vocational schools who are dependents of associates who have worked for the Bank of America for a minimum of one year. Awards from $1,000 to $5,000 are available, and they are renewable. You can get application forms after Dec. 1.
  5. General Electric – US citizens and legal residents of the US, or minority students enrolled in full-time studies, are eligible for this scholarship, which is renewable for up to three years. The LULAC Scholarship is based on your academic performance, writing ability, community involvement, and extracurricular activities.
  6. Wal-Mart – This is a company that gives many associate scholarships to students in communities where there are Wal-Mart stores. These are scholarships for Wal-Mart employees and their dependents. Wal-Mart supports many scholarship organizations, and application deadlines will depend on the scholarship you are applying for.
  7. J.P. Morgan Chase – Graduating high school seniors in NYC are eligible to apply for the Thomas G. Labrecque Smart Start Scholarship. This is for students attending a four-year program in one of the five boroughs. Awards pay for full tuition, textbooks, and summer internships with JP Morgan Chase. Application deadline is Jan. 30.
  8. AT&T – The AT&T Labs Fellowship Program scholarships are for women and minorities in post-graduate studies. Applications are accepted beginning November 1, and the deadline for application is January 15. Another option is the scholarship for African American children or stepchildren of AT&T employees.
  9. Google – Google offers a few different scholarships, including the Google UNCF Scholarship for African American students planning on studying computer science or computer engineering. The deadline for application depends on the scholarship you are applying for. Other Google scholarships include the AISES Scholarship and the Google Global Community Scholarship.
  10. Best Buy – There will be $1,500 scholarships available to 1,000 US and Puerto Rican students who are graduating from high school and entering college. Students must show great academic achievements, work experience, and volunteer work.
  11. Golden Key – The Golden Key International Honour Society offers over $100,000 in scholarships every year to members. The funds are awarded annually, but you only need to apply once. Submission deadlines depend on the scholarship you are applying for.
  12. Ronald McDonald House – If there is a chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in your area, and you are younger than 21, you are eligible to apply for scholarships. To date, more than $52 million in scholarships have been awarded. Deadline for application is Jan. 20.


Jane Hurst has been working in education for over 5 years as a teacher. She loves sharing her knowledge with students, is fascinated about edtech and loves reading, a lot.

Implications Of Elections For Higher Education Policy

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is pleased to present the latest installment from its Policy Matters series.

Higher Education and the 2014 Elections

This policy brief provides a summary of the election’s outcomes and potential implications for federal and state higher education policy. Changes in Congressional and state-level political balance of power are discussed, as well as the resulting higher education policy outlook for the Obama administration and Congress. State ballot measures involving higher education are also summarized.

Authored by the AASCU Government Relations and Policy Analysis Team

College Applicants Get Information on Future Jobs And Salaries

Melissa Korn and Douglas Belkin, Wall Street Journal

Sydney Frankenberg is considering several schools and multiple majors as she prepares to apply to college. A key question at the top of her list: Which program will land her the best job at the most reasonable cost?

A few years ago, Ms. Frankenberg would have had little to go on in her quest to assess the return on investment for college. But as tuition and student debt skyrocket and many recent graduates get a slow start to their careers, North Carolina this summer joined a handful of states offering students and parents new tools to provide at least partial answers.

“You want to have a good time and learn about yourself,” said Ms. Frankenberg, a 17-year-old senior at the Cannon School in Concord, N.C. “But at the end of four years, you have to get a job and support yourself.”

Return-on-investment calculations have been used by industries such as manufacturing, technology and retail for decades. But such measurements are just now coming to higher education—“grudgingly and brutally,” said labor economist Anthony Carnevale —where they are used to compute how students do later in life. “Education has finally been invaded by 20th and 21st century management practices,” said Mr. Carnevale, who runs Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Backers of the new tools point to the $150 billion in federal student-aid funds that schools get every year, and to research that shows nearly half of recent graduates are unemployed or have jobs for which they are overqualified.

Many schools say the new calculators can be misleading and argue that higher education’s value goes beyond any dollar figure.

Neither the federal government nor the vast majority of individual schools track ROI, so some states have stepped in, albeit with differing metrics and limited data. Well below half of all college students in many states are accounted for in the data used to create the state ROI calculators, since most are limited to students who attend public institutions, remain in-state after graduation and work for a company that participates in unemployment insurance.

Nevertheless, the results can be illuminating. Indiana released a report last November that breaks down average salaries after graduation by both major and school. A high-school student could, say, compare what a business and marketing major earns on average five years after graduation if he attends Indiana State University ($46,508), Ball State University ($50,222) or Indiana University in Bloomington ($57,930).

Texas, which has more than 1.3 million students in public community colleges and universities, offers two databases with outcomes information, including one that was revamped in October to include debt-to-income ratios and information on graduate students in the University of Texas system.

In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring the California State University System and requesting the University of California system to provide undergraduate salaries by industry, among other data points.

In Minnesota, where a state-sponsored tool went live in May, Larry Pogemiller, director of the office for higher education, said he has fielded several anxious complaints from college presidents. “Nobody likes somebody looking over their shoulder to find out if they’re getting good results or not,” he said.

Some do. This fall, the University of Akron in Ohio launched a quarter-million-dollar advertising campaign centered on the tagline: “Greatest Lifetime Return on Investment” for any Northeast Ohio Public University, based on a private third-party report.

Private colleges backed a 2008 law that prohibits the federal government from creating a database tying academic records to postgraduate earnings. The ban effectively undermined the creation of a federal ROI college calculator, said Amy Laitinen of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank.

Critics of such a federal measurement argue the data collection is tantamount to an invasion of student privacy and holds schools responsible for factors beyond their control, such as students who weren’t well prepared when they started or who didn’t study in school.

“Just because you have data points and you can match them doesn’t mean it’s causal,” counters Sarah Flanagan, spokeswoman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Still, support for a federal scorecard with an ROI component has bipartisan support. President Barack Obama is expected to release a ratings system this fall to measure outcomes, among other factors, while Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) have proposed a bill that would collect more information on retention, graduation, debt and employment outcomes.

Meanwhile, 36 states have signed up to contribute to a federally coordinated database that allows state government agencies to query other participants for information about far-flung graduates. But two major destinations for graduates—New York and California—aren’t involved in the project, limiting the system’s potential.

Back in North Carolina, Ms. Frankenberg, who is considering majoring in political science, business or international relations, will take advantage of the new state ROI system—as far as it goes. The tool lets prospective students see as many as 10 years of data on postgraduation employment, wages and continuing-education enrollment for local graduates of the state’s community colleges and public universities. She can see that 48% of political-science and government majors who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—one of her targets—were employed or enrolled in graduate school in the state five years after graduation, with median annual wages of $36,520.

But she can’t compare that very easily to the ROI for poly-sci students at Tufts University, the U.S. Naval Academy or Carleton College, where she also is applying.

“The schools aren’t telling you what not to major in,” she said. “And major matters.”