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UNIVERSITIES TEAM WITH ONLINE COURSE PROVIDER
Coursera, the California company that offers free college classes online, is forming partnerships with 10 large public university systems and public flagship universities to create courses that students can take for credit, either fully online or with classroom sessions. The move could open online classes to 1.25 million students at public institutions across the United States, and could help increase graduation rates by making introductory and required classes — often a bottleneck because of high demand — more widely available. Joining Coursera will be the State University of New York system, the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee systems, the University of Colorado system, the University of Houston system, the University of Kentucky, the University of Nebraska, the University of New Mexico, the University System of Georgia and West Virginia University. The article is in The New York Times.
LEARNING 'TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY' SKILLS LINKED TO WORK SUCCESS
A study released today by the polling firm Gallup Inc. finds that students' exposure to so-called 21st-century skills in school correlates positively with "perceived quality of work" later in life. For the study, which was commissioned by Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation, Gallup asked 1,014 individuals aged 18 to 35 how much experience they had with certain advanced learning skills during their last year of school, including college or graduate school, if applicable. (Cognitive testing conducted by Gallup prior to the survey determined that individuals at the upper end of the age range would have comparable recall of their last school year.) The skills in question—often dubbed 21st-century skills because of their reputed connection to present-day workplace demands—included collaboration, knowledge construction, global awareness, use of technology for learning, real-world problem solving, and skilled communication. The post is from Education Week’s Teaching Now blog.
IN RAISING SCORES, MATH IS EASIER THAN READING
Educators, policy makers and business leaders often fret about the state of math education, particularly in comparison with other countries. But reading comprehension may be a larger stumbling block. At Troy Prep Middle School, a charter school near Albany that caters mostly to low-income students, teachers are finding it easier to help students hit academic targets in math than in reading, an experience repeated in schools across the country. Students entering the fifth grade here are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards. The results are similar across the 31 other schools in the Uncommon Schools network, which enrolls low-income students in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Newark. After attending an Uncommon school for two years, said Brett Peiser, the network’s chief executive, 86 percent of students score at a proficient or advanced level in math, while only about two thirds reach those levels in reading over the same period. The article is in The New York Times.
NUMBER OF HIGH POVERTY SCHOOLS INCREASES BY 60 PERCENT
Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools! The article is in the Hechinger Report.
STATE ROLLS OUT TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM
West Virginia lawmakers have singled out a teacher evaluation pilot project for statewide adoption. When the new system is put into place this fall, it will mean that all teachers will be evaluated annually. The system provides for a number of observations and conferences between teachers and principals; it also uses data and test scores to gauge student achievement and, by proxy, teachers' effectiveness. The article is in the Charleston Daily Mail.
SOME STATES PUSH BACK AGAINST NEW SCHOOL STANDARDS
The Common Core standards continue to receive pushback from some policymakers. Lawmakers and governors are reviewing the standards in at least nine states. Meanwhile, some U.S. senators have signed a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the Education Department from linking adoption of the standards to eligibility for other federal dollars. And the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling the standards an "inappropriate overreach." The article is in The Boston Globe.
STATE CHIEFS: COMMON CORE REQUIRES FLEXIBILITY
The Council of Chief State School Officers is rejecting calls for a moratorium on any high stakes tied to the Common Core State Standards, and is instead suggesting that states have almost all of the power they need to smooth the way for what could be a rocky transition. What the chiefs do want, however, is some flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education and from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—from No Child Left Behind itself or the waivers already granted—during these next couple of tricky years as the common core is fully implemented and common tests come on line. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
WANT TO IMPROVE TEACHING? LISTEN TO STUDENTS
NEA Foundation President Harriet Sanford writes in the Huffington Post: Good teachers have long known the importance of knowing their students, both as learners and as individuals. But building and strengthening the relationship between teachers and students has become central to efforts to improve teaching. As broad and ill-defined as the concept of "21st century learning" can be, a few consistent themes emerge. The idea of students taking more control of their learning experiences and guiding their own efforts to solve challenging problems pervades the Common Core and other initiatives. But efforts to foster this kind of complex learning will fall flat if teachers don't build the kinds of relationships with students that give them the confidence to tackle difficult work on their own.
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GEORGETOWN STUDY SAYS NOT ALL COLLEGE DEGREES CREATED EQUAL
Recent college graduates may face tough times landing jobs at first, but things tend to get easier as graduates acquire more experience and education, according to a new report being released today by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. The report, titled Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings, stresses that although college is valuable, students should also know how much it pays based on their chosen field of study, explains Dr. Anthony Carnevale, director of the center and co-author of the report. The article is in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
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OPEN LEARNING PIONEER HEADS WEST
Since long before the advent of massive open online courses, Candace Thille's project to fuse learning science with open educational delivery, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, has been heralded as one of higher education's most significant and promising developments. Friday, Thille essentially launched stage two of her research-based effort to expand the reach and improve the quality of technology-enabled education, with word that she (and at least part of her Open Learning Initiative) would move to Stanford University. Thille and Stanford officials alike believe that by merging her experience in building high-quality, data-driven, open online courses with Stanford's expertise in research on teaching and learning – notably its focus on how different types of students learn in differing environments – the university can become a center of research and practice in the efficacy of digital education. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
HARVARD PROFS PUSH BACK
Fifty-eight faculty members have called for Harvard University to create a new faculty committee to consider ethical issues related to edX, the entity created by the university and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide massive open online courses. The letter urges the creation of the committee to consider "critical questions" about edX and its impact on Harvard and also on "the higher education system as a whole." The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
WILL TEACHER PREP ACADEMIES REPLACE SCHOOLS OF EDUCATION?
Senator Bennett from the state of Colorado has re-introduced the Growing Excellent Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals (GREAT) Act, a bill to reshape teacher preparation, drastically lowering the standards for those doing this crucial work. The bill boasts support from the New Schools Venture Fund, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand For Children, Teach For America, TNTP, NCTQ and many more "reformers." This bill reflects groundwork that has been laid by Gates Foundation-funded non-profit advocacy and policy groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has been highly critical of our nation's schools of education. The post is from Education Week Teacher Living in Dialogue blog.
WHAT WE NEED: FEWER SMALL COLLEGES
One of the more popular predictions about the future of higher education is that hundreds of colleges will go out of business in the next decade, victims of the current economic crisis and an unsustainable financial model. Perhaps there will be fewer small colleges, with some closing and others merging. More than half of American colleges and universities—some 2,500 institutions—enroll fewer than 2,000 students. While their loss would certainly be felt in their communities and among their alumni, when it comes to the grand challenges of higher education, we can’t worry so much about small colleges. What we really need are bigger public institutions willing to serve the coming generation of students who need access to a high-quality degree. The post is from the Quick and the Ed.
MINNESOTA REQUIRES FEWER CLASSROOM HOURS THAN OTHER STATES. DOES IT MATTER?
Minnesota trails many states in the amount of instructional time students receive, according to a new report by ECS and the National Center on Time & Learning. Despite states' varying definitions of a school day, a growing number of parents and educators acknowledge the benefit of more instructional time. But it's hard to show a direct link between more class time and improved achievement. The article is in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
THE SERIOUS RISKS OF RUSHING NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEMS
Morgan S. Polikoff and Matthew Di Carlo write in The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet blog: One of the primary policy levers now being employed in states and districts nationwide is teacher evaluation reform. Well-designed evaluations, which should include measures that capture both teacher practice and student learning, have great potential to inform and improve the performance of teachers and, thus, students. Furthermore, most everyone agrees that the previous systems were largely pro forma, failed to provide useful feedback, and needed replacement. The attitude among many policymakers and advocates is that we must implement these systems and begin using them rapidly for decisions about teachers, while design flaws can be fixed later. Such urgency is undoubtedly influenced by the history of slow, incremental progress in education policy. However, we believe this attitude to be imprudent. The risks of excessive haste are likely higher than whatever opportunity costs would be incurred by proceeding more cautiously. Moving too quickly gives policymakers and educators less time to devise and test the new systems, and to become familiar with how they work and the results they provide.
TEACHER EVALUATION: AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
How do we define teaching quality? How should teachers be evaluated? And how should school systems make use of the evaluations? Vivien Stewart, senior advisor to Asia Society and the author of the Summit reports, shares some of the discourse from the 2013 International Summit on the Teaching Profession, held in the Netherlands, March 2013. The article is from the Asia Society.
SAN JOSE TEACHERS, BOARD ADOPT LANDMARK TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM
Breaking new ground in California, San Jose Unified has adopted an innovative teacher evaluation process that gives teachers a role in reviewing their peers and greatly revises the current – and some say outmoded – method of measuring teacher success. The new system would deny automatic raises to unsatisfactory performers and give evaluators the option of adding another year to the probationary period for new teachers – a provision at odds with the state teachers union. Bucking a national trend, the new system will not use standardized test scores as a direct measure of performance. The article is from EdSource.
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HOW OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES ARE FALLING BEHIND
Pop quiz: What’s the biggest category of college or university in the United States? Is it big public research universities like UC Berkeley or the University of Texas at Austin? Or is it their private equivalents, like Boston University and Brigham Young? Maybe all the small liberal arts colleges, like the University of Mary Washington or St. John’s in Annapolis have, between them, the most students. Correct answer: None of the above. According to Delta Cost Project, the biggest category of schools, by full-time enrollment, is actually public community colleges. In 2010, 4.25 million students were enrolled full-time in community colleges, accounting for a third of the whole full-time student population. And that’s not even taking into account the many part-time students who rely on community colleges. The trouble is that America’s community colleges are underfunded and underperforming. While research universities are increasing spending at a rapid pace, community colleges are actually spending less. The post is in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.
PROPOSED STRATEGY FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES: COURT UPPER INCOME STUDENTS
Usually when a call is made for more diversity on campus, it entails increasing the proportion of poor students and students of color at selective institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees. But at a press conference on Thursday, a group of thought leaders called for a different type of diversity at institutions that grant associate’s degrees. Specifically, they said more should be done to attract students from middle and upper class backgrounds to community colleges. The idea is to end the racial and economic isolation and stratification that exists at many community colleges and thereby bring about improved outcomes in terms of graduation and other measures. That’s according to Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and executive director of the foundation’s Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal. The article is in Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.
The Country That Stopped Reading
By DAVID TOSCANA March 13, 2013
EARLIER this week, I spotted, among the job listings in the newspaper Reforma, an ad from a restaurant in Mexico City looking to hire dishwashers. The requirement: a secondary school diploma.
Years ago, school was not for everyone. Classrooms were places for discipline, study. Teachers were respected figures. Parents actually gave them permission to punish their children by slapping them or tugging their ears. But at least in those days, schools aimed to offer a more dignified life.
Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less. They learn almost nothing. The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.
One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”
Despite recent gains in industrial development and increasing numbers of engineering graduates, Mexico is floundering socially, politically and economically because so many of its citizens do not read. Upon taking office in December, our new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, immediately announced a program to improve education. This is typical. All presidents do this upon taking office.
The first step in his plan to improve education? Put the leader of the teachers’ union, Elba Esther Gordillo, in jail — which he did last week. Ms. Gordillo, who has led the 1.5 million-member union for 23 years, is suspected of embezzling about $200 million.
She ought to be behind bars, but education reform with a focus on teachers instead of students is nothing new. For many years now, the job of the education secretary has been not to educate Mexicans but to deal with the teachers and their labor issues. Nobody in Mexico organizes as many strikes as the teachers’ union. And, sadly, many teachers, who often buy or inherit their jobs, are lacking in education themselves.
During a strike in 2008 in Oaxaca, I remember walking through the temporary campground in search of a teacher reading a book. Among tens of thousands, I found not one. I did find people listening to disco-decibel music, watching television, playing cards or dominoes, vegetating. I saw some gossip magazines, too.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised by the response when I spoke at a recent event for promoting reading for an audience of 300 or so 14- and 15-year-olds. “Who likes to read?” I asked. Only one hand went up in the auditorium. I picked out five of the ignorant majority and asked them to tell me why they didn’t like reading. The result was predictable: they stuttered, grumbled, grew impatient. None was able to articulate a sentence, express an idea.
Frustrated, I told the audience to just leave the auditorium and go look for a book to read. One of their teachers walked up to me, very concerned. “We still have 40 minutes left,” he said. He asked the kids to sit down again, and began to tell them a fable about a plant that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a flower or a head of cabbage.
“Sir,” I whispered, “that story is for kindergartners.”
In 2002, President Vicente Fox began a national reading plan; he chose as a spokesman Jorge Campos, a popular soccer player, ordered millions of books printed and built an immense library. Unfortunately, teachers were not properly trained and children were not given time for reading in school. The plan focused on the book instead of the reader. I have seen warehouses filled with hundreds of thousands of forgotten books, intended for schools and libraries, simply waiting for the dust and humidity to render them garbage.
A few years back, I spoke with the education secretary of my home state, Nuevo León, about reading in schools. He looked at me, not understanding what I wanted. “In school, children are taught to read,” he said. “Yes,” I replied, “but they don’t read.” I explained the difference between knowing how to read and actually reading, between deciphering street signs and accessing the literary canon. He wondered what the point of the students’ reading “Don Quixote” was. He said we needed to teach them to read the newspaper.
When my daughter was 15, her literature teacher banished all fiction from her classroom. “We’re going to read history and biology textbooks,” she said, “because that way you’ll read and learn at the same time.” In our schools, children are being taught what is easy to teach rather than what they need to learn. It is for this reason that in Mexico — and many other countries — the humanities have been pushed aside.
We have turned schools into factories that churn out employees. With no intellectual challenges, students can advance from one level to the next as long as they attend class and surrender to their teachers. In this light it is natural that in secondary school we are training chauffeurs, waiters and dishwashers.
This is not just about better funding. Mexico spends more than 5 percent of its gross domestic product on education — about the same percentage as the United States. And it’s not about pedagogical theories and new techniques that look for shortcuts. The educational machine does not need fine-tuning; it needs a complete change of direction. It needs to make students read, read and read.
But perhaps the Mexican government is not ready for its people to be truly educated. We know that books give people ambitions, expectations, a sense of dignity. If tomorrow we were to wake up as educated as the Finnish people, the streets would be filled with indignant citizens and our frightened government would be asking itself where these people got more than a dishwasher’s training.
如今，上學的孩子比以往任何時候都多，但他們學到的東西少 得多。實際上，他們幾乎什麼都學不到。在墨西哥總人口中，識字的人群百分比在上升，但從絕對人數看，墨西哥現在的文盲人數多於12年前。即使掌握基線識字 能力（看路標或新聞的能力）的人數在增加，但看書的人沒有增加。墨西哥一度是教育水平較高的國家，但幾年前，在聯合國教科文組織(Unesco)對閱讀習 慣的一項評估中，墨西哥在108個國家中名列倒數第二。
儘管近年來取得了工業發展的進步，工科畢業生人數也在增 加，但在社會、政治和經濟領域，墨西哥正陷入困境，因為有那麼多的墨西哥公民不看書。我們的新總統恩里克·培尼亞·涅托(Enrique Peña Nieto)12月上任伊始就立即宣布了改善教育的計劃。這很典型。所有總統在上任之初都會這麼做。
他改善教育計劃的第一步是什麼？把教師工會主席埃爾芭·埃斯特·戈迪略(Elba Esther Gordillo)關進監獄，他上周就這麼做了。戈迪略領導這個擁有150萬會員的工會長達23年，她涉嫌挪用約2億美元（合人民幣12.44億元人民幣）。
她理應入獄，但把焦點放在老師（而非學生）身上的教育改革 沒有任何新意。多年來，教育部長的工作不是教育墨西哥人，而是應付老師以及他們的待遇問題。在墨西哥，沒人像教師工會那樣組織那麼多的罷工。而且，令人悲 哀的是，許多教師的工作往往是買來的，或是通過繼承得到的，他們自己的教育程度也不高。
所以，在前不久一次推廣閱讀的活動上，當我面對300來名 14、15歲的孩子演講時，我本不應對他們的反饋感到驚訝。“誰喜歡看書？”我問。禮堂里只有一隻手舉了起來。我在無知的多數人群中挑出五個人，讓他們告 訴我，為什麼不喜歡看書。結果是可以預見的：他們說話結結巴巴，嘟嘟囔囔，變得不耐煩。沒有一個人能說出一個整句，表達出一個觀點。
2002年，比森特·福克斯(Vicente Fox)總統啟動了一個覆蓋全國的閱讀計劃，他選了廣受歡迎的足球運動員豪爾赫·坎波斯(Jorge Campos)擔任代言人，下令印刷了數百萬本書，造了一座巨大的圖書館。不幸的是，老師沒有得到適當的培訓，孩子們在學校里也沒有得到閱讀時間。該計劃 聚焦於書本，而不是讀者。我曾看到一些倉庫里堆放着數十萬本被遺忘的書，它們本來應該在學校或圖書館裡，但現在只是等着灰塵和潮濕把它們變成垃圾。
幾年前，我和我所居住的新萊昂州的教育部長說起學校的閱讀 情況。他看着我，不明白我想要什麼。“在學校里，老師教孩子讀書，”他說。“對，”我回答，“但他們不看書。”我解釋了知道怎麼閱讀和真正看書之間的不 同，以及看路標和閱讀文學經典之間的區別。他說他不知道學生們看《唐吉訶德》(Don Quixote)有什麼意義。他說，我們需要教他們看報紙。
我女兒15歲時，她的文學老師在課堂上全面禁止小說類作 品。“我們將要讀歷史和生物教科書，”她說，“因為這樣，你們一邊閱讀，一邊能學到知識。”在我國的學校里，老師講授容易教的內容，而不是孩子們需要學的 內容。正是因為這個原因，在墨西哥（乃至其他許多國家），人文科學受到排擠。
但也許墨西哥政府還沒有準備好應對真正有文化的人民。我們知道，書籍賦予人抱負、憧憬以及尊嚴感。如果明天我們一覺醒來變得和芬蘭人一樣教育良好，大街上將會滿是憤怒的公民，而我們充滿恐懼的政府會自問：這些人從哪裡得到了超出洗碗工的教育？大衛·托斯卡納(David Toscana)著有《最後的讀者》(The Last Reader)一書。本文最初由西班牙語撰寫，由Kristina Cordero譯成英文。
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.
Some of the News Fit to Print
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CALIFORNIA STRUGGLES TO ASSESS TEACHER TRAINING PROGRAMS
In California, there are various routes to becoming a teacher, all requiring attainment of a bachelor’s degree, passing several competency exams, and spending time in a classroom. Yet nearly 10 years after the reforms, there is little more than anecdotal evidence—and no hard data—to show whether programs, and graduating teachers, are better than those who graduated before the reforms. Student test scores, which are increasingly used to assess teacher performance, have shown little improvement. By 2011, the number of California students proficient on the national reading exam had increased only five percentage points, to 25 percent from 20 percent. David Rattray, senior vice president of education and workforce development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, co-chaired a transition committee in the wake of the reforms, and says that there is still a need for changes throughout the arc of the process, from recruiting students to continuously developing experienced teachers. The article is in The Hechinger Report.
ENROLLMENT DECLINE PICKS UP SPEED
The decline in college enrollments appears to be accelerating, with 2.3 percent fewer students enrolled on campuses this spring than there were in spring 2012, according to data published Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse. The 2.3 percent dip is steeper than the 1.8 percent decline that the clearinghouse reported in December when it compared fall 2012 numbers to those from fall 2011. These reports represent the clearinghouse's first such twice-yearly analyses of fall and spring enrollments, which the Virginia-based organization says will be annual going forward. The clearinghouse collects data from institutions that represent about 95 percent of all enrollments at colleges that grant degrees and are eligible to award federal financial aid. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
REPORT EXPLORES DIVERSITY GAP
The pool of college graduates who earned degrees in the 2007-8 academic year was considerably less diverse than the overall student body, and that finding presents challenges for colleges because more and more individuals seeking a higher education do not fit the prototype of a traditional student, concludes a broad analysis of student outcomes released on Thursday by the American Council on Education. The report, “With College Degree in Hand: Analysis of Racial Minority Graduates and Their Lives After College,” is the third in a series of ACE reports on diversity and inclusion in higher education. It explores a range of student outcomes broken down by racial and ethnic categories, and also examines recent graduates’ performance in the job market and pursuit of advanced degrees. The report says that graduates were predominantly white students who tended to be young, unmarried, childless, and dependent on their parents while in college. The information is from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Ticker.
Independent School Administrator Peter Gow writes in Education Week’s Common Perspectives blog:The most effective and successful schools understand deeply that developing outstanding teachers and faculties of lifelong professional learners is every bit as important as their work with students. I see more schools thinking ever more intentionally about the training and support of newer teachers and the ongoing professional learning of veterans. If we are to claim to be schools that have a broader and higher purpose than churning out happy graduates, attending to the skills and professionalism of our teachers must be at the center of our work.
MATH SKILLS AT AGE 7 PREDICT HOW MUCH MONEY YOU WILL MAKE
A recent study found that how much money people make at midlife can be predicted by math ability at age seven, and, for girls only, by early reading ability. Other factors may have helped them on the path to success, but even when those were controlled for, the association between basic math and reading skills and future socioeconomic status remained, and remained significant: one jump in reading level, for example, was associated with an increased midlife salary of about $7,750. The article was in The Atlantic.
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JERRY BROWN URGES UC TO STRESS GRADUATING STUDENTS IN FOUR YEARS
SACRAMENTO — The graduation rates of UC students came under more scrutiny Wednesday as Gov. Jerry Brown urged administrators and faculty to prod more undergraduates to earn a degree in four years, not six. Brown recently proposed giving UC and Cal State more funds if they increase their graduation rates by 10% by 2017. UC leaders have said that is an admirable but unreasonable goal and that such issues as students' outside employment and their desire to take double majors slow them down. The article is in the LA Times.
TEXAS LAUNCHES ONLINE TOOL TO COMPARE STATE’S HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launched Compare College TX, an online interactive tool designed to make the most relevant data about public higher education. The online comparison tool allows users to access and interact with information for every public university and community college, including tuition and fees, graduation rates, and salaries for graduates by major. The article is from the Houston Chronicle.
REACHING STUDENTS EARLY
College-going rates could go up significantly if students in high school received counseling as freshmen, and not just when they are juniors and seniors, a new study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling says. The impact may be greatest on those in groups less likely than others to go to college. Among high school freshmen whose parents did not hold a bachelor’s degree, the study found positive correlations between. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
YALE JOINS THE MOOC CLUB
Yale announced on Wednesday that it would soon offer MOOCs through Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based company. Yale plans to offer four courses beginning in January, focusing on constitutional law, financial markets, morality, and Roman architecture. The move was a long time coming. Yale, which in 2007 became among the first institutions to make its course content available free on the Web with its Open Yale Courses lecture series, has taken a distinctly deliberate approach to MOOCs. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
TRYING TO RESET ONLINE FIGHT
Seeking to “reset” a contentious debate about the role of technology in California public higher education, the authors of a new report argue that California policy makers need a statewide approach to end what they call years of isolated, segmented and ineffective online offerings. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
ONLY ONE TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM?
Pearson Foundation Senior Fellow John Wilson writes in his John Wilson Unleashed blog in Education Week: How much longer are we going to continue down the path of absurdity seeking the promised land of teacher evaluations? Spending millions of dollars on complicated and convoluted systems that only demoralize teachers will eventually result in backlash from taxpayers and voters. Evaluating teachers on student test scores will inevitably prove once again that low income students do not test as well as affluent students and that effective teachers who want good evaluations will move to schools with higher income students. Coupling test scores of students to the evaluations of teachers who never taught those children will never hold up in court. The irony in all this is that there is an effective system for teacher evaluations, one that has been around since the 1980's. Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs have been the exemplar for strong teacher evaluation systems. Teachers trained to evaluate their peers are able to distinguish the inexperienced from the ineffective---a significant difference from other evaluation systems---and can help teachers improve their practice.
COMMON CORE SUPPORTERS FIRING BACK
Supporters of the Common Core State Standards are moving to confront increasingly high-profile opposition to the standards at the state and national levels by rallying the private sector and initiating coordinated public relations and advertising campaigns as schools continue implementation. In states such as Michigan and Tennessee, where common-core opponents feel momentum is with them, state education officials, the business community, and allied advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to define and buttress support for the standards—and to counter what they say is misinformation. The article is in Education Week.
LAWMAKERS VOTE TO BOOST STEM EDUCATION IN IMMIGRATION BILL
Good news for STEM fans: There's even more federal resources for science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the big, comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill making its way through the U.S. Senate. The Senate Judiciary committee, which is holding a markup of the bill today, voted unanimously to take money collected on fees for labor certifications under the bill and direct the money towards STEM education at the U.S. Department of Education. That could mean an additional $100 million annually for STEM education. And those resources would come on top of the roughly $100 million to $150 million in extra funding for STEM education at the National Sciences Foundation, which was already included in the bill, according to James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition, which backs the bill. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
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ADDRESSING THE ECONOMIC DIVIDE
Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard D. Kahlenberg writes in The New York Times: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision soon curtailing the ability of universities to use race in admissions. Polls suggest the American public would support such a ruling as a strong majority do not want race to be used as a factor in who gets ahead. But Americans also do not want our institutions of higher education to resegregate — so paradoxically, a conservative ruling on race could create a unique political space in which a series of progressive public policy proposals aimed at class inequality could prevail.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CALLS FOR TUITION FREEZES, DROPS PROPOSAL FOR UNIT CAPS
Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget proposal calls for spending more on the state's colleges and universities each year through 2016-17 -- and for a 4-year tuition freeze at CSU and UC. But the plan the governor unveiled Tuesday backs away from the more sweeping changes he had proposed for California's three public college systems. Among the higher education reforms he scrapped or postponed: capping the number of units students can take while receiving state tuition subsidies, shifting adult education programs from K-12 districts to community colleges, and funding community colleges based on how many students complete a term, rather than by a count taken a few weeks into the semester. The article is in the San Jose Mercury News.
CALIFORNIA’S ROCKY PATH TO PROSPERITY
Unless California helps low-income parents learn basic skills, train for jobs and pursue higher education, the state’s prosperity is at risk, concludes Working Hard, Left Behind. The Campaign for College Opportunity, the Women’s Foundation of California and Working Poor Families project collaborated on the report. California leads the nation in low-income working adults and in poorly educated adults. More than 1 out of 10 adults over 24 years of age have less than a ninth-grade education; nearly 1 in 5 adults didn’t complete high school. The state will be 2.3 million vocational certificate, two-year and four-year degree graduates short of meeting the needs of the state economy by 2025, the report estimate. The article is in the Hechinger Report.
INVEST IN SUCCESS OF LOW-INCOME STUDENTS
Institute for Higher Education Policy President Michelle Asha Cooper writes in the Huffington Post: For several years, I have watched the higher education community engage in hand-wringing over strategies for improving the educational outcomes for low- and moderate-income students. At present, low-income students remain less likely to enroll and complete college, when compared to their higher-income peers. Given these trends, the attention being dedicated to these students is certainly warranted. However, long-standing efforts designed to improve the outcomes for low- and moderate-income students, such as the federal Pell grants and TRIO programs, are constantly being thrashed and called ineffective. This chorus of opposition is growing more and more audible. While there is a need to enhance these programs to effectively serve more deserving students, I do believe that it is not in our best interest to scrutinize the outputs of these programs, without simultaneously scrutinizing the inputs.
WHY EDUCATION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A CIVIL RIGHT
Morgan State University President David Wilson writes in The Baltimore Sun: The last several decades have seen significant increases in educational expenditures at all levels of the educational system. During this period, there have also been a variety of educational reform movements designed to raise the achievement levels of students across the board. It appears that the best that can be said of these efforts is that students in the upper middle class have been in the best position to benefit from educational improvements, and the rapid increases in their educational outcomes reflect this. Unfortunately, leaving half of the talent in the country behind is not the best way to reinvigorate our economy or to avert the many personal and social problems that result from this lack of upward mobility.
WEINGARTEN EXPLAINS HOW SHE WOULD TEACH THE COMMON CORE
Teachers in schools across the nation are changing how they teach. It’s part of the switch to the Common Core, a new set of national standards for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten earlier this month explained how she would teach under the Common Core. Weingarten supports the Common Core, but has been calling for a pause in using the results of new Common Core tests for purposes including evaluating teachers and sanctioning low performing schools. Weingarten said teachers have not had enough time or help understanding the new standards and how to change how they teach. “Teachers are really supportive of it, but they want to get it done right,” she said. The article is from NPR’s State Impact.
ED FUNDERS GIVING MORE TO SAME FEW
As more and more foundation money floods into K-12 education, it is being channeled to fewer and fewer groups, according to new research presented at the American Educational Research Association meeting here last week. Researchers also found that foundation money is moving away from traditional public schools and toward "challengers to the system"—primarily charter schools—and that the funders in general are becoming much more active in shaping how those challengers develop. The article is in Education Week.
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FEDERAL SPENDING THAT WORKS
Most community colleges could easily put federal grant money to good use plugging up budget holes after years of slashing by states. But the U.S. Department of Labor’s $2 billion in workforce development funding for the sector was designed to encourage two-year colleges to make lasting, ambitious changes instead of just back-filling budgets. And that approach seems to be working. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
STUDENTS TRY TO BREAK TABOO AROUND SOCIAL CLASS ON CAMPUS
Spurred by growing income disparities, the aftereffects of the recession, and debates over admissions policies that consider students' ability to pay, students on many campuses are trying to ignite frank—and sometimes uncomfortable—conversations about class. They are running flash seminars, financial-literacy workshops, and surveys. They're big on "dialoguing." And many students are pushing their administrations for more support—stepped-up recruitment, more-egalitarian admissions policies, mentoring networks, resource guides—to help underprivileged students thrive. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The academic seal of Morehouse College
|Motto||"Et Facta Est Lux"
(Latin: "And there was light")
|Established||February 14, 1867|
|Type||Private, HBCU, male-only|
Obama Urges Morehouse Graduates to 'Keep Setting an Example'
By MARK LANDLER
President Obama told Morehouse College graduates that "laws, hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks like you can serve as president."
Obama Discusses Race, Fatherhood, Responsibility at Morehouse College
President Barack Obama told graduates of Morehouse College on Sunday that they have a responsibility as black men to set an example in improving their communities and the world.
Speaking at the historically black college that produced greats like Martin Luther King Jr., Obama paid tribute to the fact that “laws, hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks like you can serve as President of the United States.”
As the nation’s first black President, Obama publicly reflected on his own upbringing without a father and the challenges facing young black men. He spoke movingly of his struggles to discuss the responsibility of men as fathers and husbands, and the need for the young graduates to be role models.
“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices,” the President said. “Growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.”
“But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses,” he said. “I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness. Well, we’ve got no time for excuses — not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t.”
“Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there,” he said. “It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you haven’t earned. And moreover you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame, and if they overcame them, you can overcome them too.”
Obama also cautioned against a lifelong focus on profit, saying that “it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do.”
“So yes, go get that law degree,” he continued. “But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless. Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business, we need black businesses out there. But ask yourself what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood.”
More important than anything, Obama added, is family. “Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family,” he said.
“I still wish I had a father who was not only present but involved,” Obama said. “And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle. I want to be a better father, a better husband and a better man.”
The full transcript of Obama’s remarks:
The President: Hello, Morehouse! [Applause.] Thank you, everybody. Please be seated.
Audience member: I love you!
The President: I love you back. [Laughter.] That is why I am here.
I have to say that it is one of the great honors of my life to be able to address this gathering here today. I want to thank Dr. Wilson for his outstanding leadership and the Board of Trustees. We have Congressman Cedric Richmond and Sanford Bishop — both proud alumni of this school, as well as Congressman Hank Johnson. And one of my dear friends and a great inspiration to us all — the great John Lewis is here. [Applause.] We have your outstanding Mayor, Mr. Kasim Reed, in the house. [Applause.]
To all the members of the Morehouse family. And most of all, congratulations to this distinguished group of Morehouse Men — the class of 2013. [Applause.]
I have to say that it’s a little hard to follow — not Dr. Wilson, but a skinny guy with a funny name. [Laughter.] Betsegaw Tadele — he’s going to be doing something.
I also have to say that you all are going to get wet. [Laughter.] And I’d be out there with you if I could. [Laughter.] But Secret Service gets nervous. [Laughter.] So I’m going to have to stay here, dry. [Laughter.] But know that I’m there with you in spirit. [Laughter.]
Some of you are graduating summa cum laude. [Applause.] Some of you are graduating magna cum laude. [Applause.] I know some of you are just graduating, “Thank you, Lordy.” [Laughter and applause.] That’s appropriate because it’s a Sunday. [Laughter.]
I see some moms and grandmas here, aunts, in their Sunday best — although they are upset about their hair getting messed up. [Laughter.] Michelle would not be sitting in the rain. [Laughter.] She has taught me about hair. [Laughter.]
I want to congratulate all of you — the parents, the grandparents, the brothers and sisters, the family and friends who supported these young men in so many ways. This is your day as well. Just think about it — your sons, your brothers, your nephews — they spent the last four years far from home and close to Spelman, and yet they are still here today. [Applause.] So you’ve done something right. Graduates, give a big round of applause to your family for everything that they’ve done for you. [Applause.]
I know that some of you had to wait in long lines to get into today’s ceremony. And I would apologize, but it did not have anything to do with security. Those graduates just wanted you to know what it’s like to register for classes here. [Laughter and applause.] And this time of year brings a different kind of stress — every senior stopping by Gloster Hall over the past week making sure your name was actually on the list of students who met all the graduation requirements. [Applause.] If it wasn’t on the list, you had to figure out why. Was it that library book you lent to that trifling roommate who didn’t return it? [Laughter.] Was it Dr. Johnson’s policy class? [Applause.] Did you get enough Crown Forum credits? [Applause.]
On that last point, I’m going to exercise my power as President to declare this speech sufficient Crown Forum credits for any otherwise eligible student to graduate. That is my graduation gift to you. [Applause.] You have a special dispensation.
Now, graduates, I am humbled to stand here with all of you as an honorary Morehouse Man. [Applause.] I finally made it. [Laughter.] And as I do, I’m mindful of an old saying: “You can always tell a Morehouse Man — [applause] – but you can’t tell him much.” [Applause.] And that makes my task a little more difficult, I suppose. But I think it also reflects the sense of pride that’s always been part of this school’s tradition.
Benjamin Mays, who served as the president of Morehouse for almost 30 years, understood that tradition better than anybody. He said — and I quote — “It will not be sufficient for Morehouse College, for any college, for that matter, to produce clever graduates … but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private life — men who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”
It was that mission — not just to educate men, but to cultivate good men, strong men, upright men — that brought community leaders together just two years after the end of the Civil War. They assembled a list of 37 men, free blacks and freed slaves, who would make up the first prospective class of what later became Morehouse College. Most of those first students had a desire to become teachers and preachers — to better themselves so they could help others do the same.
A century and a half later, times have changed. But the “Morehouse Mystique” still endures. Some of you probably came here from communities where everybody looked like you. Others may have come here in search of a community. And I suspect that some of you probably felt a little bit of culture shock the first time you came together as a class in King’s Chapel. All of a sudden, you weren’t the only high school sports captain, you weren’t the only student council president. You were suddenly in a group of high achievers, and that meant you were expected to do something more.
That’s the unique sense of purpose that this place has always infused — the conviction that this is a training ground not only for individual success, but for leadership that can change the world.
Dr. King was just 15 years old when he enrolled here at Morehouse. He was an unknown, undersized, unassuming young freshman who lived at home with his parents. And I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t the coolest kid on campus — for the suits he wore, his classmates called him “Tweed.” But his education at Morehouse helped to forge the intellect, the discipline, the compassion, the soul force that would transform America. It was here that he was introduced to the writings of Gandhi and Thoreau, and the theory of civil disobedience. It was here that professors encouraged him to look past the world as it was and fight for the world as it should be. And it was here, at Morehouse, as Dr. King later wrote, where “I realized that nobody…was afraid.”
Not even of some bad weather. I added on that part. [Laughter.] I know it’s wet out there. But Dr. Wilson told me you all had a choice and decided to do it out here anyway. [Applause.] That’s a Morehouse Man talking.
Now, think about it. For black men in the ’40s and the ’50s, the threat of violence, the constant humiliations, large and small, the uncertainty that you could support a family, the gnawing doubts born of the Jim Crow culture that told you every day that somehow you were inferior, the temptation to shrink from the world, to accept your place, to avoid risks, to be afraid — that temptation was necessarily strong.
And yet, here, under the tutelage of men like Dr. Mays, young Martin learned to be unafraid. And he, in turn, taught others to be unafraid. And over time, he taught a nation to be unafraid. And over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear and their cynicism and their despair, barriers have come tumbling down, and new doors of opportunity have swung open, and laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as President of these United States of America. [Applause.]
So the history we share should give you hope. The future we share should give you hope. You’re graduating into an improving job market. You’re living in a time when advances in technology and communication put the world at your fingertips. Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have work — because if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you’ve had here at Morehouse. In troubled neighborhoods all across this country — many of them heavily African American — too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here — they’re places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell.
My job, as President, is to advocate for policies that generate more opportunity for everybody — policies that strengthen the middle class and give more people the chance to climb their way into the middle class. Policies that create more good jobs and reduce poverty, and educate more children, and give more families the security of health care, and protect more of our children from the horrors of gun violence. That’s my job. Those are matters of public policy, and it is important for all of us — black, white and brown — to advocate for an America where everybody has got a fair shot in life. Not just some. Not just a few. [Applause.]
But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities. There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves. There are some things, as Morehouse Men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind. As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect — and that’s the power of your example.
So what I ask of you today is the same thing I ask of every graduating class I address: Use that power for something larger than yourself. Live up to President Mays’s challenge. Be “sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society.” And be “willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”
I know that some of you came to Morehouse from communities where life was about keeping your head down and looking out for yourself. Maybe you feel like you escaped, and now you can take your degree and get that fancy job and the nice house and the nice car — and never look back. And don’t get me wrong — with all those student loans you’ve had to take out, I know you’ve got to earn some money. With doors open to you that your parents and grandparents could not even imagine, no one expects you to take a vow of poverty. But I will say it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do. [Applause.]
So, yes, go get that law degree. But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and the powerful, or if you can also find some time to defend the powerless. Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business. We need black businesses out there. But ask yourselves what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood. The most successful CEOs I know didn’t start out intent just on making money — rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would change things, and the money followed. [Applause.]
Some of you may be headed to medical school to become doctors. But make sure you heal folks in underserved communities who really need it, too. For generations, certain groups in this country — especially African Americans — have been desperate in need of access to quality, affordable health care. And as a society, we’re finally beginning to change that. Those of you who are under the age of 26 already have the option to stay on your parent’s health care plan. But all of you are heading into an economy where many young people expect not only to have multiple jobs, but multiple careers.
So starting October 1st, because of the Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare – [applause] – you’ll be able to shop for a quality, affordable plan that’s yours and travels with you — a plan that will insure not only your health, but your dreams if you are sick or get in an accident. But we’re going to need some doctors to make sure it works, too. We’ve got to make sure everybody has good health in this country. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for this country. So you’re going to have to spread the word to your fellow young people.
Which brings me to a second point: Just as Morehouse has taught you to expect more of yourselves, inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves. We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses. [Applause.]
I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.” Well, we’ve got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned. [Applause.]
Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too. [Applause.]
You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men — men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk. You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, and George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy and Thurgood Marshall, and, yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These men were many things to many people. And they knew full well the role that racism played in their lives. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.
Every one of you have a grandma or an uncle or a parent who’s told you that at some point in life, as an African American, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by. I think President Mays put it even better: He said, “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead, and no man yet to be born can do it any better.” [Applause.]
And I promise you, what was needed in Dr. Mays’s time, that spirit of excellence, and hard work, and dedication, and no excuses is needed now more than ever. If you think you can just get over in this economy just because you have a Morehouse degree, you’re in for a rude awakening. But if you stay hungry, if you keep hustling, if you keep on your grind and get other folks to do the same — nobody can stop you. [Applause.]
And when I talk about pursuing excellence and setting an example, I’m not just talking about in your professional life. One of today’s graduates, Frederick Anderson — where’s Frederick? Frederick, right here. [Applause.] I know it’s raining, but I’m going to tell about Frederick. Frederick started his college career in Ohio, only to find out that his high school sweetheart back in Georgia was pregnant. So he came back and enrolled in Morehouse to be closer to her. Pretty soon, helping raise a newborn and working night shifts became too much, so he started taking business classes at a technical college instead — doing everything from delivering newspapers to buffing hospital floors to support his family.
And then he enrolled at Morehouse a second time. But even with a job, he couldn’t keep up with the cost of tuition. So after getting his degree from that technical school, this father of three decided to come back to Morehouse for a third time. [Applause.] As Frederick says, “God has a plan for my life, and He’s not done with me yet.”
And today, Frederick is a family man, and a working man, and a Morehouse Man. [Applause.] And that’s what I’m asking all of you to do: Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. [Applause.] Be the best husband to your wife, or you’re your boyfriend, or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important.
I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents — made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you. But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home – [applause] – where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. [Laughter.] Even now, I’m still practicing, I’m still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility. [Applause.]
I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I’ll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I’ll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I’ll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.
So be a good role model, set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know somebody who’s not on point, go back and bring that brother along — those who’ve been left behind, who haven’t had the same opportunities we have — they need to hear from you. You’ve got to be engaged on the barbershops, on the basketball court, at church, spend time and energy and presence to give people opportunities and a chance. Pull them up, expose them, support their dreams. Don’t put them down.
We’ve got to teach them just like what we have to learn, what it means to be a man — to serve your city like Maynard Jackson; to shape the culture like Spike Lee; to be like Chester Davenport, one of the first people to integrate the University of Georgia Law School. When he got there, nobody would sit next to him in class. But Chester didn’t mind. Later on, he said, “It was the thing for me to do. Someone needed to be the first.” And today, Chester is here celebrating his 50th reunion. Where is Chester Davenport? He’s here. [Applause.]
So if you’ve had role models, fathers, brothers like that — thank them today. And if you haven’t, commit yourself to being that man to somebody else.
And finally, as you do these things, do them not just for yourself, but don’t even do them just for the African American community. I want you to set your sights higher. At the turn of the last century, WE.B. DuBois spoke about the “talented tenth” — a class of highly educated, socially conscious leaders in the black community. But it’s not just the African American community that needs you. The country needs you. The world needs you.
As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work — she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in.
So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy — the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what it’s like when you’re not born on 3rd base, thinking you hit a triple. It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.
And I will tell you, class of 2013, whatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I have held have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy — the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had — because there but for the grace of God, go I — I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me. [Applause.]
So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern — to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody. Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world. To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table; that everybody, no matter what you look like or where you come from, what your last name is — it doesn’t matter, everybody gets a chance to walk through those doors of opportunity if they are willing to work hard enough.
When Leland Shelton was four years old — where’s Leland? [Applause.] Stand up, Leland. When Leland Shelton was four years old, social services took him away from his mama, put him in the care of his grandparents. By age 14, he was in the foster care system. Three years after that, Leland enrolled in Morehouse. And today he is graduating Phi Beta Kappa on his way to Harvard Law School. [Applause.] But he’s not stopping there. As a member of the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council, he plans to use his law degree to make sure kids like him don’t fall through the cracks. And it won’t matter whether they’re black kids or brown kids or white kids or Native American kids, because he’ll understand what they’re going through. And he’ll be fighting for them. He’ll be in their corner. That’s leadership. That’s a Morehouse Man right there. [Applause.]
That’s what we’ve come to expect from you, Morehouse — a legacy of leaders — not just in our black community, but for the entire American community. To recognize the burdens you carry with you, but to resist the temptation to use them as excuses. To transform the way we think about manhood, and set higher standards for ourselves and for others. To be successful, but also to understand that each of us has responsibilities not just to ourselves, but to one another and to future generations. Men who refuse to be afraid. Men who refuse to be afraid.
Members of the class of 2013, you are heirs to a great legacy. You have within you that same courage and that same strength, the same resolve as the men who came before you. That’s what being a Morehouse Man is all about. That’s what being an American is all about.
Success may not come quickly or easily. But if you strive to do what’s right, if you work harder and dream bigger, if you set an example in your own lives and do your part to help meet the challenges of our time, then I’m confident that, together, we will continue the never ending task of perfecting our union.
Congratulations, class of 2013. God bless you. God bless Morehouse. And God bless the United States of America.
Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/05/19/obama-discusses-race-responsibility-at-morehouse-college/#ixzz2Toka17U3