Some of the News Fit to Print
DEPARTMENT OF ED RELEASES ‘CONDITION OF EDUCATION 2013’
The U.S. Education Department today published its annual compendium of all the data you'd want to know about American education: "The Condition of Education 2013." The report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics, includes special focus sections on the employment rates of young adults (noting that those with bachelor's degree are far likelier than high school graduates to be employed) and on various aspects of student debt. The information is from Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes.
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IT’S TIME TO GO BEYOND THE CREDIT HOUR
At a time when students and families are seeking value in higher education, programs cost too much and too often fail to deliver on their promise of a better, more productive life. This doesn’t surprise me, considering we’re working with a higher education model that hasn’t changed dramatically in hundreds of years: Academic years are divvied up into semesters, which are made up of courses, for which students earn credits. When students have slogged through enough semesters to earn plenty of credits, they are granted a degree or some sort of credential. Once upon a time, this highly-structured academic system conformed to the rhythms of a student’s life. But that was back when people had to squeeze studies in between the fall harvest and the spring planting. And, frankly, higher education enjoyed the accompanying view that college was a cloistered place for contemplation and higher learning. The article is in the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog.
CREDITS AND CREDIT HOURS
In response to the growing wave of enthusiasm for “competency-based” degrees, as opposed to credit hour-based, why couldn’t we achieve most of the good that “competency-based” would achieve just by dropping the “hours” from “credit hours.” Since the standard objection to credit hours is that they’re denominated in units of time, and are therefore impervious to productivity improvements, why not just drop the “time” part, keep the “credit” part, and call it good? This post is from Inside Higher Ed’s Confessions of a Community College Dean.
COMMUNITY COLLEGES GET LESS OF FEDERAL PIE
WASHINGTON — Community colleges have received a declining share of government spending on higher education over the last decade even as their student bodies have become poorer and more heavily African-American and Latino, according to a report to be released today.“Many community colleges end up receiving minimal federal support,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, which is publishing the report. “The kids with the greatest needs receive the fewest resources.”The report argues that colleges have become increasingly separate and unequal, evoking the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, which barred racial segregation in elementary and secondary schools. Higher education today, the report says, is stratified between four-year colleges with high graduation rates that serve largely affluent students and community colleges with often dismal graduation rates that serve mostly low-income students. The article is in The New York Times.
TOUGH LOVE FOR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
An unusual organization of policy leaders has joined the chorus for higher education reform. Chief state budget officers rarely speak collectively or publicly about higher education—instead focusing on state revenue issues, adjusting budgets in light of revenue surpluses (a rare event of late) or shortfalls, and enacting a budget. But in a recent report, these state officials spoke out on higher education. In it, they explore the realities of increased enrollment demands, limited state funding, slower growth in tuition, concerns about institutional spending patterns, performance-based funding, and a changed federal-state partnership. These realities led the state budget heads to a set of recommendations that are not unexpected. They include funding performance, restricting tuition increases, expanding access, improving information about higher education spending, and increasing cost-efficiency. In other words, the call for reform on higher education is now squarely on the minds of state fiscal officers. The post is from Education Sector’s The Quick and the Ed.
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COLLEGE ENROLLMENT DIPS, BUT COMPLETION RISES
New numbers out from the U.S. Department of Education show a slight drop in college enrollment last year, but an increase in degree attainment. In 2011-12, there were 1.6 percent fewer students attending the nation's colleges and universities than the year before, a decline from 29.5 million to 29 million, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics. In the same period, the number of degrees granted by those institutions was up 5.1 percent. Last week, the National Student Clearinghouse reported 2.3 percent fewer students enrolled on campuses this spring compared with 2012. The clearinghouse showed a decline of 1.8 percent in the fall of 2012 over the fall of 2011. The article is in Education Week’s College Bound blog.
MOOC PROVIDER MORE THAN DOUBLES ITS UNIVERSITY PARTNERS
Fifteen more universities have agreed to offer free massive open online courses through edX, a nonprofit provider of MOOCs founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, more than doubling its membership, from 12 to 27. Tuesday’s announcement came as the group celebrated its first anniversary and as its leaders said it was bringing in revenue and was on track to financial sustainability.The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog.
THE EFFORT TO REFORM TEACHER EVALUATION
In a new paper by Democrats for Education Reform, Culture to Countenance: Teachers, Observers, and the Efforts to Reform Teacher Evaluations, the authors write that “Despite a concerted effort to change systems of evaluation, the new policies continue to deliver the same results and send a message that teachers are all more or less the same. Excellent teachers are not always recognized for their work. Teachers working to improve their practice are not effectively assisted. Teachers who fail to support student learning are rarely dismissed on that basis. Given that these are broadly supported and uncontroversial goals, why are most reformed evaluation systems still unable to convey meaningful information about the performance of teachers?
AP COURSES VS. DUAL CREDIT: WHAT’S BEST FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS?
Dual credit and Advanced Placement (AP) offer competing schools of thought on helping high school students earn college credits. Experts say both approaches can work, when done the right way, but they also have pitfalls. In Missouri, a push is building behind AP after years of popularity for dual enrollment. For the first time, the percentage of students passing an AP exam will factor into a district's report card. The article is in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
ED SCHOOLS LAG BEHIND DIGITAL CONTENT TRENDS
As more districts make the digital shift, many education schools are grappling with how best to prepare the next generation of teachers. In recent years, some programs have struggled to adapt quickly enough to meet the changing needs of both districts and educators. "Education schools are in the process of trying to figure out what it all means, with everyone in the teacher-preparation front playing catch-up," said Pam Grossman, a professor of education at Stanford University's graduate school of education and the director of the university's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching. The article is in Education Week.
KHAN ADADEMY TO FOCUS ON COMMON CORE MATH, WITH PRIVATE GRANT
Fueled by a $2.2 million grant, Khan Academy will develop online content and tools over the next two years to help teachers and students meet the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The popular producer of free online content already has a large volume of practice materials and videos that are "mapped" to the common-core math standards, a press release says, but with the grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust,it will build new diagnostic tools to help better identify gaps in student learning. In addition, the grant will enable Khan Academy—best known for its math instructional videos—to more "deeply cover" the standards. The post is from Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog.
ASPIRING TEACHERS LEARN FROM THEIR AVATARS
Started ten years ago, the so-called TeachLivE lab was developed by faculty in the education school at UCF, and at least 22 other universities across the country have opened their own labs using TeachLivE technology. Much like a flight simulator trains pilots, faculty use the virtual classroom to train teachers-to-be by helping them isolate and master strategies like higher-level questioning or behavior management. The article is from the Hechinger Report.
RECOGNIZING ‘MASTER TEACHERS’
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, announced a four-year, $60,000 stipend to high-performing science and math teachers willing to serve as mentors and coaches. Once chosen, these master teachers will work to help other secondary level science and math teachers become more effective. The article is in the Albany Times-Union.
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WOMEN EARNING MORE COLLEGE DEGREES THAN MEN
According to data from the Department of Education on college degrees by gender, the US college degree gap favoring women started back in 1978, when for the first time ever, more women than men earned Associate’s degrees. Five years later in 1982, women earned more bachelor’s degrees than men for the first time, and women have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees in every year since then. In another five years by 1987, women earned the majority of master’s degrees for the first time. Finally, within another decade, more women than men earned doctor’s degrees by 2006, and female domination of college degrees at every level was complete. For the current graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimates that women will earn 61.6% of all associate’s degrees this year, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees. Overall, 140 women will graduate with a college degree at some level this year for every 100 men. The article is from AEI Ideas.
PUSH FOR TIERED TUITION AT CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES
The California Assembly on Monday passed a bill that would authorize community colleges to charge out-of-state tuition to in-state residents for some courses during the summer and winter terms, The Sacramento Bee reported. The idea is that some students are able and willing to pay much more for courses at a time that the community college system can't create enough sections to meet student demand. But the concept -- tried and then abandoned last year by Santa Monica College -- angers many who see it as inconsistent with the mission of community colleges to offer quality education for all. The new chancellor of the state's community college system has questioned both the philosophy and legality of two tiered tuition. The information is from Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes.
COLLEGE IS GOING ONLINE, WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT
The United States has a problem: rapidly rising student debt. It also has a solution: online education. The primary reason for spiraling student debt is the soaring costs of a college education at a physical college. Online education strips away all of those expenses except for the cost of the professor's time and experience. It sounds perfect, an alignment of technology, social need and limited resources. So why do so many people believe that it is a deeply flawed solution? Because it means massive swaths of higher education is about to change. Technology has disrupted many industries; now it's about to do the same to higher ed. The article is in The Atlantic.
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Academic preparation isn’t the only factor in college readiness. Also helping to determine whether students get to graduation are social behaviors, like whether they show up for class, engage with professors and make eye contact. A new assessment from the Education Testing Service (ETS) seeks to measure those non-academic variables. The article is in Inside Higher Education.
FLORIDA PLANS INCREASED SCRUTINY FOR EDUCATION SCHOOLS
Conventional wisdom holds that many, if not most, education schools are doing a poor job at training teachers; after all, they have a history of taking in some of the lowest performing students, and student achievement in the United States has stagnated. Nationally, education schools have been criticized for being far too easy and, as a result, pumping ill-equipped teachers into the system and harming student achievement. Schools across the country are trying to mitigate the criticism by changing curriculum or increasing the amount of field experience teachers receive. Florida and several other states are also creating accountability systems so education schools will develop quantitative ways to measure their programs’ success. But for now, teacher preparation remains over-saturated with options―undergraduate degrees, master’s programs, in-school residencies and online courses―that provide little evidence of their effectiveness. And as thousands of Florida’s baby boomer teachers prepare to retire, there is little consensus about how to best train the next generation of teachers. The article is in NPR’s State Impact blog.
STUDENTS MIGHT NOT BE ‘ACADEMICALLY ADRIFT’ AFTER ALL
Students show substantial gains in learning during college, as measured by a standardized test of critical thinking, according to two studies conducted by the creator of the test. While perhaps not a direct rebuke to Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the blockbuster 2011 book that documented what its authors argued was meager learning on campuses, the studies, by the Council for Aid to Education, do offer a sunnier counternarrative. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
CREATIVE DESTRUCTION MEETS HIGHER EDUCATION
New Atlantic Ventures founder John Backus writes: Higher education is headed for “creative destruction,” a profound structural and economic shift in favor of employers, students, and parents. The future will be grim if you run one of the 4,100 colleges or universities in the United States and are unwilling to embrace dramatic change. Especially if you run one of the 1,750 private schools that lack a top ranking from U.S. News & World Report. The post is from the Washington Post’s Capital Business blog.
SCHOOLS ADD TO TEST LOAD
Students in New York State sweated their way through some of the toughest exams in state history this spring. Now hundreds of thousands of them will receive a reward only a stonyhearted statistician could appreciate: another round of exams. As school districts across the country rush to draw up tests and lesson plans that conform to more rigorous standards, they are flocking to field tests — exams that exist solely to help testing companies fine-tune future questions. The article is in The New York Times.
DIGITAL TRENDS SHIFTING THE ROLE OF TEACHERS
As increasing numbers of school districts go digital, many teachers are witnessing a simultaneous change in their roles. To be sure, some see it as simply traditional teaching in disguise, but others describe a seismic shift—from being the lone purveyor of information to assuming a new role of facilitator, coach, and guide. The article is in Education Week.