Carnegie Pathways Mean Success for Developmental Math Students
Recognizing the grave consequences for individual opportunity and more generally for our economy and society if we do not accept our responsibility as educators to prepare mathematically literate citizens, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has engaged networks of faculty members, researchers, designers, and students in the creation of two new mathematics pathways, one in statistics (Statway™) and the other in quantitative literacy (Quantway™).
These Networked Improvement Communities (NICs), as Carnegie calls them, have embraced an audacious goal — to dramatically increase from 5 percent to 50 percent the percentage of students to achieve transferable college math credit within one year of continuous enrollment. The students Carnegie is working with have been placed into developmental mathematics classes.
These pathways are designed to replace a sequence of courses that can take as long as two years once students are placed into developmental math at entry to community college. Recent studies report that between 60 and 70 percent of students either do not successfully complete the sequence of required courses or avoid taking math altogether and therefore never graduate.
Early results from the Statway™ NIC with a largely high-risk student population are very promising. Nearly half the students in network colleges are from households with incomes below $40,000 a year. And only 10 percent have mothers with at least a bachelor’s degree (a factor with a strong relationship to student success). Yet 89 percent remained enrolled for the full fall term (the program rolled out in the network’s colleges at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year) and 68 percent finished the first semester with a grade of C or better (required for college credit). This is nearly double the success rate (36 percent) for students in the less-demanding courses taught previously in the network's schools.
The students who completed the new courses scored comparable on an independent end-of-semester exam to a national sample of community college and university students who had completed college-level statistics coursework. And 88 percent of the students earning C's or better moved on to the second half of the two-semester, college-credit-yielding sequence. That's more than triple the rate of student progress previously experienced in network colleges. Carnegie found from conducting student surveys that the program’s confidence-building components increase students’ enthusiasm for math, and make students less anxious about the subject and more likely to believe that with hard work they could master it — a complete turnaround from the typical perspectives of students in traditional developmental math classes.
Carnegie’s two pathways are not just new lessons and course materials. Carnegie provides:
Plans are to scale from 1,600 students today to a target of over 60,000 a year by 2017-18.
Associate Vice President, Public Affairs
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Why are we at Carnegie interested in improvement research? What does the work of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) have to do with education?
The answer to these questions is related. In both sectors, there is a gap between what is known and what happens daily in practice. Both sectors are made up of a dedicated workforce whose best efforts do not consistently add up to improvement. And both healthcare and education face the challenge of effectively and efficiently affecting improvement at scale. Improvement research holds promise for addressing these challenges and IHI has decades of experience of using these methodologies to foster change. We knew we could learn from them.
Improvement research is based on simple but powerful questions, coined as the Model for Improvement by Associates in Process Improvement (API): (1) What are we trying to accomplish? (2) How will we know that a change is an improvement? (3) What changes can we make that will result in an improvement? Together these questions structure an active and disciplined way of pursuing change. As we begin to apply improvement research to education, we have found it useful to begin conversations around improvement using a fourth question: (4) How do we understand the problems and systems in which they’re embedded? We have a tendency in education to jump to solutions and not think deeply about the problems we are trying to solve. A more productive approach starts with a problem and taking a careful look across the system to better understand the causes that influence current outcomes.
It is these four improvement research questions that have structured the strand of our Statway™ and Quantway™ Community College Pathways program of work that we have come to call Productive Persistence. Since we took on the problem of the extraordinarily high failure rates of community college students in developmental math, we have known that we could not get movement on the kinds of outcomes we were looking for by changing the curriculum or course structure alone. There was a common notion that it was important to attend to what can be referred to as student success factors, student motivation and engagement or non-cognitive factors. There was also a lot of activity in this area and many innovations to draw on. Lack of innovation was certainly not the problem.
Many financial and human resources are already dedicated to student success activity in community colleges. Community colleges offer students a variety and mixture of initiatives and services designed to help them succeed in college, some of them quite innovative. But if you walk from one institution to another, there is very little agreement as to what makes a good student success program. And there is a weak evidence base suggesting that these efforts are accumulating into real improvements in the college lives of students. We also know that there are a lot of exciting new research theories—particularly from social psychology—about specific practices that could be powerful levers of change. However, it is not really clear how these theories would be made to work in practice, specifically applied to developmental math and with community college students. A lot of exciting ideas, but the translation in how to make them work, reliably in real contexts is not there.
As we tried to structure this strand of work into the Pathways, we experienced a time of flailing at Carnegie as well. We knew we needed to work on it, we had people assigned to the task, everybody believed it was important, but from conversation to conversation no one could really tell you the same thing about what we were doing or what specifically we were trying to accomplish. To focus the work and halt the flailing, we launched a 90-day cycle in the fall of 2010. A 90-day cycle is an improvement research tool developed by IHI to accomplish deep-dive, quick turn-around research.
We began this R&D process to build a theory of change and a measurement model to go along with it. We were attempting to answer two of the improvement questions for this strand of work: what specifically are we trying to accomplish and how will we know if a change is an improvement? We put together a team with the relevant expertise in social psychology, improvement research and the on-the ground experience supporting developmental math students. We scanned the field, talked to many people that understood the problem from different angles and identified five areas that were most important to focus on to get to the outcome that we cared about. We “tested” these drivers with a diverse set of experts and built a measurement model that would enable us to refine this theory over time.
One of the unique things about improvement science that separates it from other education research approaches is that it is not about being comprehensive. The goal is not to develop a conceptual framework that tries to organize every possible influence and include everything we could work on. Instead, we asked what are the big drivers for improvement? And what measurement will we need to learn from our efforts at change and to improve our theory over time? Since this initial 90-day cycle, the Productive Persistence team has refined our measurement model to make it more practical and embedded in the daily lives of the community college students with minimal interruption. They have collected these measures in our networks and convened additional experts, improving the theory over time. And they have started to develop and test changes, focusing on the critical first three weeks of the course.
In the process, we have become increasingly convinced that improvement methodologies hold promise for productively integrating diverse kinds of expertise to solve important problems. We often talk about notions of bridging research and practice. Normally we mean just that, building a thin thing between two land masses that stay firmly planted. Research stays firmly on one side of a line, practice stays firmly on the other and we have a tiny space in which they talk to each other. Improvement research brings these two sides together in a collective process aimed at solving concrete problems of practice. It pairs action with discipline, moving some people into action more quickly than they are comfortable and requiring others to be a little more patient and disciplined. It also carries with it the excitement of bringing ideas into action, helping our best efforts lead to visible improvements in the lives of students.
This post was adapted from a presentation to the Executive Committee of the Carnegie Board of Trustees.
Some of the News Fit to Print
GAINS IN ACCESS, LESS IN SUCCESS
In 2007 -- long before President Obama pushed to make college attainment a national priority and three years before the phrase "completion agenda" first appeared in these pages -- a group of public university systems put themselves on the spot. Working with (and to some extent prodded by) Education Trust, which promotes the educational success of low-income and minority students, the 22 systems of two-year and four-year colleges and universities committed to increasing their attainment levels, in large part by closing the gaps in performance between underrepresented students and their peers within a decade. And they committed, too, to documenting their progress by collecting and publicly reporting detailed (and in some cases, previously unreported) data on student access and success. A report, released this week, provides a look mid-point. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND THE AMERICAN DREAM
Richard Kahlenberg writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the recently released AACC report, Reclaiming the American Dream. He said: The report does three important things in my view: First, the report frankly acknowledges the shortcomings of community colleges in stark language. “What we find today are student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job market needs, and disconnects in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions.” The report concedes that “developmental education as traditionally practiced is dysfunctional, that barriers to transfer inhibit student progress, that degree and certificate completion rates are too low, and that attainment gaps across groups of students are unacceptably wide.” These problems may seem obvious to the casual observer, but for a commission of the AACC, a group which describes itself as “the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges,” to openly admit such failures is remarkable.
THE CAMPUS TSUNAMI
David Brooks writes in The New York Times: What happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education: a rescrambling around the Web. Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? Will it elevate functional courses in business and marginalize subjects that are harder to digest in an online format, like philosophy? Will fast online browsing replace deep reading? If a few star professors can lecture to millions, what happens to the rest of the faculty? Will academic standards be as rigorous? What happens to the students who don’t have enough intrinsic motivation to stay glued to their laptop hour after hour? How much communication is lost — gesture, mood, eye contact — when you are not actually in a room with a passionate teacher and students?
RESEARCHERS SEE POTENTIAL FOR COMMON CORE TO BOOST LEARNING
A new research paper offers a defense of the Common Core State Standards in math, making the case that the standards are consistent with those in high-achieving countries and suggesting their faithful implementation holds considerable promise to improve student learning. The paper looked at the achievement of states whose prior math standards most closely aligned to the common core. The article is in Education Week.
WHAT ABOUT PARENT INVOLVEMENT?
Parent coordinator Taneesha Crawford writes in The New York Times: We talk constantly about teacher accountability, publicizing teacher data reports and test scores, even though they are controversial. Well, what about parent accountability? What carrot or stick are we using to encourage parent involvement? That seems to be the elephant in the room that no one is trying to move.
HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN PROMOTE INNOVATION
Carnegie Board member and Wireless Generation co- founder Larry Berger; Patrick McGuinn, associate professor of political science and education at Drew University, in Madison, N. J.; and David Stevenson, vice president for business development and government affairs at Wireless Generation, write for Education Week: The key question for federal policymakers is how to promote and sustain effective innovations and how to bring them to scale to generate systemic improvement. As federal policymakers attempt this, they face a compliance conundrum: A lack of program specificity and oversight can undermine the impact of federal efforts to force change, but too much specificity and oversight can lead to compliance-driven behavior that undermines the idiosyncratic insights and individual convictions that spark innovation. In thinking about the best orientation for the federal government regarding innovation, it is useful to recognize that innovation at the state, district, and school levels depends on various capacities: political, financial, organizational, and technical. As a result of these different capacity needs, the federal government may take a range of possible roles.
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PUBLIC POLICY AND FOUNDATION FUNDING SHOULD SUPPORT INTERSECTION OF COLLEGE COMPLETION AND QUALITY
Governors State University President Elaine Maimon blogs for the AAC&U blog, Liberal Education Nation: I support Alexander Astin’s comment: “As it happens, a thoughtful and well-informed approach to completion will clearly tend to promote quality”. He points to three barriers to completion—preparation, part-time attendance, lack of community—which are also road-blocks to quality. An example of a program designed to overcome these road-blocks is the Dual Degree Program (DDP)—not to be confused with dual enrollment—a partnership, supported by the Kresge Foundation, connecting Governors State University and eight local community colleges. The university provides substantial financial incentives for community college students to attend full-time, requires that students achieve the associate’s degree before transferring, and promotes a sense of community among DDP students and with the faculty and staff at both the community college and university.
THE NEW POLITICS OF STUDENT DEBT
To political observers, the convulsion of national concern about student debt, and by extension the cost of college, has a precedent: health care. “It’s a sector of the economy that seems to be growing inexorably in cost and much faster than the rest of the economy, and much faster than family income,” says William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “In the same way that we’ve had a huge public policy debate about health care, it doesn’t take a prophet to see that some of the same forces are generating a pretty significant political debate about college.” The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
MICHIGAN LAWMAKERS SAY TEACHER EVALUATION RECOMMENDATION IS EXPENSIVE, BUT MIGHT BE NEEDED
Some Michigan lawmakers said they might have to spend a recommended $6 million to sample teacher evaluation systems to get the job done right. The Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness is calling for a year of a pilot program that looks at several ways of evaluating teachers in rural and urban districts before settling on a plan that could be used statewide. The article is from Michiganlive.com.
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EVERYONE SHOULD LEARN STATISTICS
Kevin Carey writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education: The percentage of questions you get right on an algebra quiz and the statistical likelihood of one thing being correlated to another thing are two very different things. Carey believes that there is a "terrible statistical illiteracy in the general populace. Which is not surprising, given that statistics isn’t part of the standard curriculum schools require students to complete in order to get a high-school or college diploma. Math education is still largely interpreted as a progression through algebra and geometry to calculus."
"And I’m not against working harder to improve math education," he writes. "But in terms of things you really need in order to make your way in modern society, statistics is way, way up there, above a lot of things that are currently lodged in the curriculum."
ANDREW DELBANCO’S ‘COLLEGE’
This much we all can agree on: The past several years have been difficult ones for American higher education; in every sector, major changes are afoot -- or are already under way. After that, things start to get murky quickly. Who should go to college? What should they be taught? Who should pay the bill, and how? On these issues, among many others, the only consensus seems to be that there is no consensus. In College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be (Princeton University Press), Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco tries his hand at answering some of the most fundamental questions about college in America: What is college for? What should college -- as distinct from university -- look like? And what on earth is to be done about it? The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
HARVARD AND M.I.T. TEAM UP TO OFFER ONLINE COURSES
In what is shaping up as an academic Battle of the Titans — one that offers vast new learning opportunities for students around the world — Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities. The article is in The New York Times.
WAGING A WAR ON EDUCATION
Anthropologist Paul Stoller writes in the Huffington Post: Higher education is currently under assault in America. Even in the recent past you could count on bi-partisan support of systems of higher education that have long been considered the foundation of American prosperity. We used to think that a robust system of public education was the wellspring of social innovation and scientific invention. Recent debate in the public sphere, however, has questioned these previously taken for granted assumptions about higher education in America. Indeed, powerful politicians and influential pundits are making suggestions that could undermine higher education, especially public higher education, for years to come.
FREE INTERNET LESSONS CHALLENGE TEXTBOOK MARKET
Enterprising teachers have long scoured the Internet for ways to improve on their textbooks or local curricula. Now, though, lessons accessed via the Web are proliferating in the classroom as never before and are challenging the position of the powerful education-publishing industry in public schools. The article is in The Washington Post.
REFORMS WITH PROMISE
Carnegie President Anthony Bryk and Senior Fellow Thomas Toch write in Inside Higher Ed: With the support of five national philanthropies, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has launched a national network of 27 community colleges and three universities dedicated to helping students at the greatest risk of failure in math. The approach uses a comprehensive strategy of support for students and faculty members in a "networked improvement community."
The network’s early results are promising, even with a largely high-risk student population. Nearly half the students in network colleges are from households with incomes below $40,000 a year. And only 10 percent have mothers with at least a bachelor’s degree. Yet 89 percent remained enrolled for the full fall term (the program rolled out in the network’s colleges at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year) and 68 percent finished the first semester with a grade of C or better (required for college credit), nearly double the 36 percent of students earning the same grades in the less-demanding courses taught previously in the network's schools.
The students who completed the new courses scored nearly as high on an independent end-of-semester exam as a national sample of community college and university students who had completed college-level statistics coursework. And 88 percent of the students earning C's or better moved on to the second half of the two-semester, credit-yielding course. That's more than triple the proportion of students in the network's colleges who successfully navigated a first term of remedial math and signed up for a second before the network's creation.
PARENTS HOLD BAKE SALES TO PAY TEACHERS
After years of cuts to public school budgets across the country, many districts are relying on parents to pay for classroom supplies, extracurricular activities and even teacher salaries. But some worry that uneven distribution of funds will widen disparities between schools and between districts. NPR’s Neal Conan, host of Talk of the Nation, talks with New York Times reporter Kyle Spencer and Susan Sweeney, executive director of California Consortium of Education Foundations.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
National school reform leader Kevin Chavous writes for the Huffington Post: When many of us attended school, standardized testing didn't bear such importance. This practice of "high stakes testing" skyrocketed after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandated annual statewide testing in 2001. Since this act passed, testing has put a burden on our students to perform under pressure. There are many valuable purposes that can be served by student testing and assessment. Kids don't get self-esteem without a sense of personal achievement, but they also don't build self-esteem by being pressured to perform for all the wrong reasons. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, said it best when he said, "too often, we celebrate movement on test scores and forget that the movement has to be for all students." We must not forget every child can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way. Alonso is a Carnegie Board member.
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TWO PARTIES FIND A WAY TO AGREE, DISAGREE ON STUDENT LOAN RATES
Iowa City — As President Obama wrapped up a barnstorming tour of college campuses in swing states on Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans agreed that they wanted to avoid a steep increase in the student loan interest rate this summer. But the chief issue remained unsettled: how to pay the cost of doing so. In a second day of campaign-style rallies, Mr. Obama pressed his attack on Republicans, depicting them as unsympathetic to college students in need. Republicans countered by accusing the president and his Democratic allies of playing politics with the issue and trying to raise taxes on small businesses to pay for the subsidized rate. Caught in the middle were seven million college students who will see the interest rate on their federally subsidized loans double to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress and the White House come together on a plan to prevent that, at a cost of $6 billion. For a typical student, the White House said the higher rate could mean as much as $1,000 in additional debt per year at a time of high unemployment among recent graduates. The article is in The New York Times.
Milwaukee — Digital natives? The idea that students are super engaged finders of online learning materials once struck Glenda Morgan, e-learning strategist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as “a load of hooey.” Students, she figured, probably stick with the textbooks and other content they’re assigned in class. Not quite. The preliminary results of a multiyear study of undergraduates’ online study habits, presented by Ms. Morgan at a conference on blended learning here this week, show that most students shop around for digital texts and videos beyond the boundaries of what professors assign them in class. The post is from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog.
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS TRY TO OFFER SOLUTIONS TO K-12 PROBLEMS
With roots in the nonprofit teaching corps Teach For America and the early charter school movement of the 1990s, social entrepreneurship in education, whether for profit or not, has been drawing more and more attention lately. Bill Drayton, the founder and chief executive officer of the Arlington, Va.-based entrepreneurs' association Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, is credited with coining the term "social entrepreneur" to describe change agents who combine a pragmatic business sense with a desire for social justice. "They want to bring about lasting change in a sector that they care deeply about, as well as build a thriving venture in its own right," said John J-H Kim, a senior lecturer and William Henry Bloomberg fellow at the Harvard Business School, who teaches a course called Entrepreneurship in Education Reform. The article is in Education Week.
IN NEW FEDERAL PROGRAM TO REWARD TEACHERS, FLAWED ASSUMPTIONS
Brooklyn teacher Stephen Lazar writes in The New York Times: Establishing a variety of advanced teacher roles, with appropriately high compensation, is a necessary move toward professionalizing teaching in America, and I applaud this move. Giving highly effective teachers more time to serve in roles other than classroom teachers is an important step toward improving our system. However, it is imperative to remember that the qualities that make me a highly effective teacher are not necessarily those that would make me an effective teacher-leader.
READY, SET, GO
A new report from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform examines the burgeoning field of college readiness, with models to help districts, schools, and other interested stakeholders prepare students for college success. The report is part of the College Readiness Indicator System initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report defines college-readiness through three dimensions -- academic preparedness, academic tenacity, and college knowledge. The report finds that common strategies to help students gain content-area knowledge and key cognitive skills for success in college include aligning standards, curricula, and assessments to college-ready expectations; using data to drive college-readiness policies; and intervening early to keep students on a college-ready track. This information is from the PEN NewsBlast.
THE ALLURE OF TEACHER QUALITY
A focus on "teacher quality" has been a dominant reform paradigm over the past few years, and its allure as the key ingredient to student success is powerful but reductive, writes Matthew Di Carlo on the Shanker Blog. Its appeal has been fueled by the availability of datasets that link teachers to students, as research on test-based effectiveness has grown in size and sophistication. And it is true, Di Carlo says: Analysis after analysis finds that all else equal, the effect of "top" versus "bottom" teachers is large. Even when some variation is attributable to confounding factors, discrepancies are still larger than with any other measured input. But the essential question, Di Carlo writes, is whether and how we can measure teacher performance at the individual level and thereby (more importantly) enhance teacher performance. This information is from the PEN NewsBlast.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST
Dean Dad blogs for Inside Higher Ed: We have a grant-funded program designed to get students with severe educational deficits into basic skills programs, and then into “contextualized” remediation that leads into short-term employable certificates. The idea is to help folks who would normally be consigned to the economic margins to become employable at higher, if still fairly modest, levels. The concept is good, broadly speaking. And it’s easy enough to measure success: did students wind up with better-paying jobs, or not? If students get jobs, the theory goes, then we’re doing something right; if they don’t, we aren’t. But we’ve hit a snag. And it’s not just the economy and the general lack of hiring, as relevant as those are. How do you measure the success of a job training program when many of the students aren’t legally eligible to work in America?
WE NEED EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
Stanford education professor Pam Grossman writes in the Huffington Post: If we want to build an education system built to last, we need to prepare teachers for the long haul and support them in staying in the classroom. By treating teaching as a revolving door occupation, we shortchange both our students and our society.
CONCERN ABOUNDS OVER TEACHERS PREPAREDNESS FOR STANDARDS
A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms. "I predict the common-core standards will fail, unless we can do massive professional development for teachers," said Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively about the common-core math standards. "There's no fast track to this." The article is in Education Week.
HOW TESTING IS HURTING TEACHING
Schools, have always been high stakes for students, particularly in fourth and seventh grades, when their scores determine whether they end up in the very awful school they are zoned for or the very attractive magnet school that draws from a larger and more competitive pool. But the stakes have recently become equally high for teachers, whose ability to teach is being determined by their ability to improve students’ test scores. Many people think it’s about time. Teachers need to be held accountable for the work they are being paid to do, and many, many teachers need to get better at teaching. But tying teacher performance to student test scores is having an opposite effect: It’s producing worse teachers. The post is from The New York Times Schoolbook blog.
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COLLEGE BOARD CASHING IN ON PUSH FOR MORE DEGREES
The national push to increase the number of Americans with college degrees is enriching at least one key beneficiary: the College Board, the nonprofit organization best known for administering the SAT. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have each agreed to pay the College Board anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million a year to test students in hopes of boosting their college-enrollment numbers, and the College Board is actively promoting its products in other states. The article is from the Hechinger Report.
REWARDING COMPLETION, STATES STEP UP
The national spotlight on improving college completion has never been stronger. The United States needs more college graduates to keep the economy healthy and expand opportunity for those struggling in America today, as nearly any educator and lawmaker will tell you. Campaigns to improve student completion are particularly concerned about the performance of our nation’s community colleges, which paradoxically serve as a major pathway to upward mobility in our society, while simultaneously generating stubbornly low graduation rates. Seeking to test policy levers that can change individual and institutional behaviors, a growing number of states are turning to the power of the purse. The article is from Jobs for the Future.
PROTO-MOOCS STAYS THE COURSE
The most provocative aspect of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, is how massive they can be. Last fall, several Stanford professors drew nearly 200,000 students to a series of free computer science courses, an experiment that spawned two companies. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened its first massive online engineering course this spring to the tune of 120,000 registrations. But for Jim Groom, an instructional technologist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, open online courses are not about scale and efficiency. They are about imagination and anarchy. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
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THREE START-UP ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM EDUCATION INNOVATION SUMMIT
The theme of disrupting higher education was buzzing among hundreds of conference attendees this week at the Education Innovation Summit at Arizona State University. The event offered start-up companies a captive audience for pitching their products. For example, Altius Education introduced Helix, a “learning environment” that uses personalized narratives to engage students and explain why learning is important. OpenStudy introduced SmartScore, a measurement of “soft skills” including teamwork, problem-solving, and engagement. Sophia, a social platform for teaching and learning, was purchased this week by Capella Education Company, the parent of the for-profit Capella University. The partnership means Sophia will roll out low-cost college courses online, beginning with a college-algebra course in June. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
CALL TO STATES: REVOLUTIONIZE TEACHER PREPARATION
States must recognize that they have some heavy-duty work to do before they can put the Common Core State Standards into practice. But they hold key powers that could prove pivotal in making the necessary changes: the authority to regulate teacher preparation and licensing and the ability to collect and publicize data that show how well those programs are doing. That was the bracing message delivered today by Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, at a gathering of states that are meeting in Atlanta to share ideas on how best to implement the common standards. The post is from Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog.
CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE OFFICE: TWO-TIER TUITION IS ILLEGAL
The office of the chancellor of the California Community College has announced that its review of two-tiered tuition at community colleges in the state has found that the practice would be illegal. The office has been studying the issue since Santa Monica College announced a plan -- since abandoned -- to charge more for some high-demand courses. The chancellor's office consulted with the state attorney general's office on the issue, but a spokeswoman for the chancellor's office said that no formal opinion was requested or provided. But she said that, based on the review and the consultations, the chancellor's office is "comfortable" feeling that two-tiered tuition "is not permissible and is therefore illegal" under California's education code. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
COLLEGES TO PROVE WORTH FOR STATE FUNDS
First their budgets came under the knife. And now the nation's colleges and universities are facing new scrutiny from legislators and governors who want assurances that scarce tax dollars aren't being wasted. The message to higher education leaders is simple: "If you want more money, prove you deserve it." In the jargon of policymakers, it's called performance funding. And little by little, it's making its way into higher education budgets across the nation, with schools getting more or less money based on their graduation rates and a host of other variables. Missouri recently laid the groundwork for its version of performance funding, while Illinois is in the first year of its fledgling initiative. The article is in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
STUDY LINKS ZONING TO EDUCATION DISPARITIES
This mantra of real estate agents and their clients alike is now the target of a new report from the Brookings Institution linking housing prices and zoning practices to effectively depriving low-income students of high-quality schools. Using test scores from schools in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, senior research analyst Jonathan Rothwell found that housing costs an average of 2.4 times more—close to $11,000 more per year—near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring one. The article is in Education Week.
MICROMANAGING EDUCATORS STIFLES REFORM
Teach for America’s Wendy Kopp writes in The Atlantic: First, the good news. Over the past 10 years, our country has experienced a sea change in the way we talk about education. We've embraced the need for accountability and high expectations as the true magnitude of educational inequality and its devastating effects have become clear. To close the vast gap in achievement between rich and poor students, political leaders have called for standards, assessments, and holding educators responsible for their students' performance. For all its flaws, No Child Left Behind, which was passed in 2002, shifted the conversation about education to focus on demonstrable student achievement rather than on inputs like class size and spending on technology. Now the bad news. We've tried to hold educators accountable for student performance without addressing the morass of process requirements that prevents them from doing what it takes to get great results for kids. We're asking educators to deliver better outcomes, but we haven't given them the flexibility and authority they need to meet high standards.
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TESTING THE TEACHERS
David Brooks writes in The New York Times: At some point, parents are going to decide that $160,000 is too high a price to pay for college if all you get is an empty credential and a fancy car-window sticker. One part of the solution is found in three little words: value-added assessments. Colleges have to test more to find out how they’re doing. It’s not enough to just measure inputs, the way the U.S. News-style rankings mostly do. Colleges and universities have to be able to provide prospective parents with data that will give them some sense of how much their students learn. There has to be some way to reward schools that actually do provide learning and punish schools that don’t. There has to be a better way to get data so schools themselves can figure out how they’re doing in comparison with their peers.
A BETTER GAUGE OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE SUCCESS
Until now, the graduation rate for community colleges has been based on the proportion of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students who graduate within three or four years of enrolling. For many reasons, though, this rate has presented an incomplete and distorted picture of community college success. The majority of community-college students attend part-time, and many transfer in from other colleges. Both of these sizeable populations have been excluded in traditional graduation rate calculations. In addition, many students transfer to four-year colleges without first obtaining a community-college credential — and current measures make it appear as if these students haven’t been successful. A new approach will provide a more complete and accurate measure of community college success by including part-time students, as well as improving the reporting of transfer students and developing methods to measure the success of those who transfer in from other colleges. The post is from The Washington Post’s College Inc. blog.
BANKING ON SUCCESS
Technical colleges in Texas are poised to up the ante on performance-based state funding, linking 45 percent of their operating budget to the employment rates and salaries of alumni. State lawmakers have provided legislative encouragement to the Texas State Technical College System as it works on the still-developing proposal; the Legislature last year mandated that the system devise a funding formula that rewards “job placement and graduate earnings projections, not time in training.” The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
PREACHING TO THE CHOIR
Scottsdale, Ariz. — Michael Crow, the ubiquitous president of Arizona State University, opened the Education Innovation Summit here this week by giving his views of what ails higher ed. He called it “filiopietism,” or the excessive veneration of tradition. Not enough students are coming into the system, he said, and not enough are completing a credential to reach national goals. Quoting his father, Crow called this a “piss-poor performance.” The post is from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Next blog.
HOW TRANSFER INCENTIVES ARE WORKING OUT
An interim report from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) looks at its Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), which offers $20,000 to high-performing teachers within certain categories if they transfer and remain for at least two years in selected low-achieving schools in a district. Teachers are recruited based on value-added measures using at least two years of student-achievement data. Teacher-applicants then must interview with and be accepted by the principal of the receiving school. The main interim findings were that filling vacancies through transfer incentives was feasible, although a large pool of candidates was needed to yield the desired number of successful transfers. The information is from PEN Newsblast.
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FROM SILICON VALLEY, A NEW APPROACH TO EDUCATION
Andrew Ng, a computer science professor at Stanford University, and Daphne Koller, a Stanford colleague, are launching a company called Coursera to bring more classes from elite universities to students around the world for free online."By providing what is a truly high-quality educational experience to so many students for free, I think we can really change many, many people's lives," Koller says. Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan will join Stanford. Two Venture capitalists are investing more than $15 million in the company. The piece ran on NPR’s All Things Considered.
REMEDIATION: BRIDGE TO NOWHERE
Developmental education is a dead end for the nearly two million students who enroll in remedial courses every year, says a report released today by Complete College America. The report, “Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere,” says that less than one in 10 students enrolled at a community college graduate within three years, and just a little more than a third complete a bachelor’s degree in six years. However, the report says, the one-third to one-half of academically unprepared students could succeed in college-level courses if their remedial coursework were provided more as a “co-requisite” rather than a prerequisite to their full-credit classes. This information is from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION: TOO BIG TO FAIL
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block writes in the Huffington Post: President Obama recently called on the nation's governors to invest more in education, including public higher education. "Countries that out-educate us today," he told the assembled governors at the White House, "will out-compete us tomorrow." The president also observed that budgets at the state and federal levels are about making tough choices. I agree. In late October 2008, for instance, when it looked as if our financial system might collapse, President Bush and the Congress made a choice: They authorized a massive infusion of federal dollars to rescue many of the largest financial institutions in the United States that were deemed to be "too big to fail."
STUDY IDENTIFIED OPPORTUNITY GAP FOR STUDENTS
Educators have long studied the achievement gap, in which black and Hispanic pupils and low-income students of all races perform at much lower levels than their white, Asian and better-off peers. A new study released on Tuesday by a group that supported efforts to attain for more money for city schools looked at the educational opportunities available to poor and minority students and found the choices lacking. The report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that poor and minority students have fewer opportunities to attend the city’s best public schools largely because of where they live. The post is in The New York Times Schoolbook blog.
LAUSD CONSIDERS LOWERING BAR FOR GRADUATION
Eight years ago, the Los Angeles Board of Education adopted an ambitious plan to have all students take college-prep classes to raise academic standards in the nation's second-largest school district. Now, that plan is about to take effect: Beginning this fall, incoming freshmen will have to pass those classes to graduate. On Tuesday, district officials backtracked, offering details of a proposal to reduce overall graduation requirements and allow students to pass those classes with a D grade. The article is in the L.A. Times.
Some of the News Fit to Print
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CONNECT THE DOTS
Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, writes in Inside Higher Ed: A plan in Connecticut to legislate the end of most remedial education courses in public higher education has once again raised questions about why so many incoming students are not prepared for college-level work and what can be done about it. To fully comprehend and effectively address the nation’s reliance on remediation, it is important to look at some basic facts surrounding the issue. We do not have a system of public education in this country. As a nation, we have yet to connect the dots between early childhood programming, kindergarten learning, elementary and secondary education coursework, and college curriculums. Until we do, the issue of remediation – and the excessive costs associated with it in every state – will carry on.
FOR-PROFIT ISN'T A MODEL FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES
Daniel LaVista provides this commentary in the Los Angeles Times: Mark Schneider and Lu Michelle Yin, proponents of for-profit higher education, go on the offensive in their April 11 Times Op-Ed article and criticize public community colleges for our graduation rates, which do need to improve. I have no quarrel with that fundamental truth. However, I do take issue with those who advocate for for-profit colleges, which have been publicly exposed for their own inadequate graduation rates. I hate to use the old cliche about glass houses, but Schneider and Yin are clearly throwing stones, particularly at those of us in the California community college system. As Schneider and Yin point out, for-profit colleges have come under much negative scrutiny in the last few years. But the authors' attempt to redirect it is not persuasive. Quite simply, it's important to consider the facts.
SCHOOL TURNAROUND PUSH STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
The federal program providing billions of dollars to help states and districts close or remake some of their worst-performing schools remains a work in progress after two years, with more than 1,200 turnaround efforts under way but still no definitive verdict on its effectiveness. The School Improvement Grant program, supercharged by a windfall of $3 billion under the federal economic-stimulus package in 2009, has jump-started aggressive moves by states and districts. To get their share of the SIG money, they had to quickly identify some of their most academically troubled schools, craft new teacher-evaluation systems, and carve out more time for instruction, among other steps. The article is in Education Week.
REFOCUS ON CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION, BROOKINGS URGES
John Thompson blogs in This Week in Education: The contemporary data-driven "reform" movement, fundamentally, is a theoretical bank shot, where in the name of "output-based" accountability non-educators' change the subject away from teaching and learning in order to somehow improve teaching and learning. "Choosing Blindly," by the Brookings Foundation's Grover Whitehurst and Matthew Chingos, is a reminder that the best way to improve classroom outcomes is to concentrate on the real interactions in the classroom and not some statistical models. The better approach, all along, would have been to target the interactions between flesh and blood students, teachers, and the learning materials that they actually use.
STUDIES GIVE NUANCED LOOK AT TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS
The massive Measures of Effective Teaching Project is finding that teacher effectiveness assessments similar to those used in some district value-added systems aren't good at showing which differences are important between the most and least effective educators, and often totally misunderstand the "messy middle" that most teachers occupy. Yet the project's latest findings suggest more nuanced teacher tests, multiple classroom observations and even student feedback can all create a better picture of what effective teaching looks like. The article is in Education Week.
NEW YORK TEACHER RATINGS RENEW EVALUATION DEBATE
How do you measure who is an effective teacher? More states are wrestling with that question, now that the Obama administration is encouraging schools to evaluate teachers with a combination of student test scores and classroom observations. The question of whether teacher evaluations are reliable indicators for teacher effectiveness has long been controversial. But New York City reignited the debate when it rated thousands of teachers with test scores alone — and then released those ratings to the public. The story is from NPR’s All Things Considered.
FEDERAL TEACHER EVALUATION REQUIREMENT HAS WIDE IMPACT
Elliott Elementary in Lincoln, Ne., struck off on its own last year when it became the only school in the city to win money through the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Winning wasn’t something to be proud of, though: It meant the school qualified as one of the worst in the nation. About a third of fifth-graders at Elliott were proficient on state reading tests when the reforms began, compared to 80 percent in Lincoln as a whole. Winning also meant a lot of work for teachers and administrators. One of the biggest tasks was overhauling the way teachers at the school are evaluated. In the Obama administration’s new push to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools nationwide, the vast majority of districts chose the reform option that seemed the least invasive: Instead of closing schools or firing at least half of the teaching staff, schools could undergo less aggressive interventions, such as overhauling how teacher performance is measured and rewarding teachers who do well. The article is in The Hechinger Report.
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OPENING UP A PATH TO FOUR-YEAR DEGREES
At the end of his first year at the Community College of Philadelphia, Christopher Thomas decided that his goal — to go back to school and get a degree — was no longer worth it. He was in debt from thousands of dollars in student loans. After class, he rode a bus an hour and a half to a suburban restaurant where he worked as a waiter. When the shift ended at midnight, it took him three buses to get home. He couldn’t afford a computer, so in the middle of the night, he walked to his aunt’s house and used hers to finish his class work. He got seven A’s and a C, but the plan was for eight. The article is in The New York Times.
RESPONSE TO TUITION PLAN VEXES SANTA MONICA COLLEGE LEADERS
Nearing midnight and with the sting of pepper spray in the air, Santa Monica College trustees wondered how their plan to offer a selection of higher cost classes this summer had come to be so misunderstood. For many on the eight-member panel, which includes a humanities professor, an ACLU board member and a college counselor, the plan was conceived as a progressive response to drastic state funding cuts and was intended to increase access and allow more students to graduate and transfer. "It's an opportunity to make a very progressive policy, an opportunity to be Robin Hood," said trustee Rob Rader, who summed up the frustrations of many of his colleagues near the end of the April 3 meeting. The frustration of Rader and other college leaders has intensified as the campus plan has become a symbol of the desperate quest to increase access for students, while sparking a national debate on the mission of public colleges. The article is in the Los Angeles Times.