September 18, 2014

‘Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable’

by Grace

In New York, the rushed implementation of Common Core Standards combined with the new method of evaluating teachers have produced bizarre results that seem to offer no value in the effort to improve schools.

In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.

“Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable,” said Charlotte Danielson, a Princeton, New Jersey-based educational consultant who has advised state education departments around the country. Danielson’s model for evaluating teachers via classroom observations, Framework for Teaching, is one of the best-known models in the country and believed to be the basis for New York’s evaluation system.

The new method for evaluating teachers is as flawed as the old method.

The fact that 80 percent of the evaluation is based on local measures can inject a lot of subjectivity into the process, critics say. A look at the teacher evaluation data by the state Education Department shows that districts have the most leeway in the classroom observation portion of the rubric, which accounts for 60 percent of the evaluation.

“The local administrators know who they are evaluating and are often influenced by personal bias,” Danielson said. “What it also means is that they might have set the standards too low.”

Administrators feel they must game the system to protect their teachers.

Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with an overall rating of “developing.”

“It is possible under the HEDI scoring band (which categorizes teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective”) to be rated effective in all three areas and yet end up as developing,” Fox-Alter said, adding that she understood Danielson’s concern.

“Danielson has said that teachers should live in “effective” and only visit “highly effective’,” said Fox-Alter, president of the Southern Westchester Chief School Administrators.

But adhering to that philosophy might put her teachers in jeopardy, she said.

The use of tests to measure teacher effectiveness is not without controversy, but as usual our public schools have compounded the problematic aspects with their sloppy implementation.  The result is a thorny mess that falls short of achieving previously stated goals.

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Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, “Teacher evaluations: Subjective data skew state results”, lohud.com, September 15, 2014.

September 17, 2014

GoFundMe can help pay your college tuition bills

by Grace

Education is the second-most-popular category on GoFundMe.

It’s easy to do.

… GoFundMe and other sites, like Crowdrise, let individuals pursue personal fund-raising. You create a profile, including a photo and an explanation of what you’re seeking the money for, and then spread the word on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The rules are loose.

Unlike Kickstarter, which requires its users to meet a goal to get the money, GoFundMe and Crowdrise allow individuals to keep the donations whether or not the goal is met.

Crowdrise’s chief executive, Robert Wolfe, said his site had recently added an option for individuals — rather than recognized charities — to raise funds and that the educational category is growing….

Neither GoFundMe nor Crowdrise independently verifies the claims made in profiles.

Since most donors are friends and family, low-income students often find it challenging to raise substantial funds.  Another barrier is that contributions to individuals are not eligible for tax deductions.

Other similar sites, like ScholarMatch, use more stringent criteria and do not allow donations to specific individuals.

A dramatic story helps raise more money.

Heart-rending stories tend to gain the most attention and donations from beyond a student’s circle of friends. A Vanderbilt University student whose profile told of her mother’s suicide shortly before her freshman year raised $50,000, double her goal. And GoFundMe says its most successful campaign raised more than a million dollars for a child with a rare genetic disease.

For students who are willing to share their stories, crowdfunding seems like a no-brainer.  Given that young people seem eager to share many details of their personal lives online, I can see how this idea will continue to grow.

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Ann Carrnssept, “That Selfie Is So Good, It Could Help You Pay for College”, New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014.

September 16, 2014

Posse Foundation boasts a 90% graduation rate

by Grace

The Posse Foundation makes college more accessible for students who may be overlooked by top schools because they do not meet their traditional admissions measures.  Although the program does not screen based on need, many Posse Scholars come from low-income areas.  Students are chosen based on a rigorous selection method, and graduate from college at a 90% rate.

What Is Posse? Posse is a college access and youth leadership development program that identifies, recruits and selects student leaders from public high schools and sends them in groups called Posses to some of the top colleges and universities in the country. A Posse is a multicultural team made up of 10 students. It acts as a support system to ensure that each Posse Scholar succeeds and graduates from college. Posse Scholars receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities.

How Did Posse Get Its Name? In 1989, Posse Founder and President Deborah Bial was working with talented urban young people. She watched these students go off to college, only to see them return within a semester having dropped out. Knowing that these students were bright and capable, she couldn’t understand what was making them leave college. When she asked them what happened, one student replied, “If I only had my posse with me, I never would have dropped out.” That simple idea, of sending a group—or posse—of students together so they could “back each other up,” became the impetus for a program that today has sent hundreds of students to top colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Why Posse? The Posse Foundation has three goals: 1) to expand the pool from which top colleges and universities can recruit outstanding young leaders from diverse backgrounds; 2) to help these institutions build more interactive campus environments so that they can become more welcoming institutions for students from all backgrounds; 3) to ensure that Posse Scholars persist in their academic studies and graduate so that they can take on leadership positions in the workforce.

Does Posse Work? Since 1989, Posse has recruited and trained 4,884 students who have won $577 million in leadership scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities. More than 70 percent of Scholars have either founded or become leaders of campus organizations. Scholars act as change agents on campus, significantly contributing to the influence and longevity of student organizations. Most important, Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90 percent. Posses help the retention of non-Posse students who are not part of the majority culture by fostering an inclusive campus community.

Posse recruits students from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C.  It works with 51 partner colleges and universities across the country.

September 15, 2014

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?

by Grace

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?  The Upshot used the percentage of students receiving Pell grants along with net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families to find the most economically diverse top colleges.

Most Economically Diverse
Vassar
Grinnell
U.N.C.-Chapel Hill
Smith
Amherst
Harvard
Pomona
St. Mary’s (Ind.)
Susquehanna
Columbia

The biggest theme to emerge from our analysis is that otherwise similar colleges often have very different levels of commitment to economic diversity….

Similarly, by looking at schools on the list like Barnard and U.N.C.-Chapel Hill, it’s clear that otherwise dissimilar colleges show similar economic diversity.

How many low-income students actually graduate?

An additional data point that would be informative is the graduation rates for Pell grant recipients at these schools.  That’s a significant measure of how well a college serves its low-income students.

Low-income families can look at these lists and search out other information to help them understand how welcoming a particular college would be for their child.  Schools that partner with the Posse Foundation, a support program for that enjoys a 90% graduation rate for its participants, should be considered.

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David Leonhardt, “Top Colleges That Enroll Rich, Middle Class and Poor, New York Times, Sept. 8, 2014.

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September 12, 2014

Are African immigrants taking up college spots intended for African-Americans?

by Grace

African immigrants are over-represented at elite colleges compared to non-immigrant African-Americans.  Colleges probably don’t care as long as they can use immigrants to show how diverse their student body is.

… A 2007 study covered by the Washington Post found that a quarter of black students admitted to elite colleges were African immigrants, though they only represented 13 percent of America’s college-age black population. The study’s authors several theories on why black immigrants do better, including “to white observers black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous and ‘easier to get along with.’ Native blacks are perceived in precisely the opposite fashion.”

Immigrants did not experience the “stigma” felt by African-American black children.

Lani Guinier, a Harvard professor, argued instead that schools were attempting to “resolve historic wrongs against native black Americans by enrolling immigrants who look like them” but had different experiences. “In part, it has to do with coming from a country … where blacks were in the majority and did not experience the stigma that black children did in the United States,” Guinier said. Either explanation creates a divide — as if Africans can only succeed at the expense of black Americans, or vice versa.

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Arit John, “Why the All-Ivy League Story Stirs Up Tensions Between African Immigrants and Black Americans”, The Wire, April 1, 2014.

September 11, 2014

Homeschool is more popular than private school in this state

by Grace

In North Carolina, the number of homeschoolers has now surpassed the number of students attending private schools.

That statistic may seem shocking if you’ve been a stranger to the growth of the homeschooling movement, which has rapidly increased in recent decades.

In 1973, there were approximately 13,000 children, ages 5 to 17, being homeschooled in the United States. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of the 2011-2012 school year, that number has grown to almost 1.8 million or approximately 3.4 percent of the school age population. Other sources report numbers well over 2 million.

Homeschooling has grown 27% over the last two years in North Carolina.

Those are pretty impressive numbers for a movement considered “fringe” not that long ago and that has only been legal in all 50 states since 1996.

The top three reasons parents give for homeschooling their children:

A concern about environment of other schools
A desire to provide moral instruction
A dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools

Dissatisfaction with Common Core may be fueling the growth in homeschooling.

And my guess is when the figures are reported related to the past two years you’ll see the number of parents citing “dissatisfaction with academic instruction” spike with the growing uprising against Common Core and national standards. Those who run local homeschooling groups in North Carolina say Common Core is a big factor.

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Genevieve Wood, “In One State, More Children Homeschool Than Attend Private Schools. Why That Shouldn’t Shock You.”, The Daily Signal, September 08, 2014.

September 10, 2014

The jobless recovery in one chart

by Grace

An illustration of our jobless recovery from economics professor Mark J. Perry

20140909.COCJoblessRecoveryChart1

 

Bottom Line: The US has been producing new record-high levels of GDP in almost every quarter since Q3 2011, and we are now producing 7.65% (and $1.14 trillion) more real GDP today than in late 2007. But we are producing that record-setting level of real output with a quarter-million fewer workers than in 2007. One explanation for America’s record-high output with 227,000 fewer workers is that the Great Recession facilitated what might be one of the greatest expansions of worker productivity in US history. The fact that we’ve been able to greatly expand national output with fewer inputs (workers) represents a huge increase in economic efficiency, but has also left us with a lingering “jobless recovery” and an economy that is struggling to create new, post-recession employment opportunities for millions of Americans.

Labor force participation remains low.

Perry explains that he is using the “more comprehensive measure of total civilian employment” instead of the total payroll number, which recently climbed up to pre-recession levels  However, his bigger point is supported by the troubling increase in the working age population during that time.

As good as that might sound, surpassing the previous high-water mark in terms of payroll employment is cold comfort for recent graduates and other new entrants into the work force, as well as for the legions of Americans who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. While payrolls may be back to where they were before the downturn, the working age population has risen by roughly 15 million over the same period.

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Mark J. Perry, “The current state of the US economy in one chart”, Carpe Diem, September 5, 2014.

September 9, 2014

Look at this chart before enrolling in college

by Grace

The bottom quarter of earners with a college degree don’t make more money than the average high school graduate. And this hasn’t really changed much in 40 years.

20140908.COCBottomQuarterCollegeGrads1


This chart may explain why “college isn’t for everyone”, but additional considerations are important.

… First, we don’t know for sure how much money this bottom quarter of degree-holding earners would have made without their college education. Furthermore, much of this could boil down to career choice: there are many jobs that require a degree but don’t pay very well. If someone earns a degree for reasons beyond making more money, it could be that the upfront investment is worthwhile regardless.

“On ‘average’, it’s still worth going to college”, but be careful about making personal decisions on the “average” case.

Here’s some good advice:

In the meantime, students who are unsure of what they want to study or do are probably best advised to be very cost-conscious when choosing a college, and to be unafraid to wait until they are sure how they will use their degree before they start to pursue one.

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Chris Matthews, “Why college isn’t for everyone, explained in a single chart”, Fortune, September 5, 2014.

September 8, 2014

Freelancing may be ideal for college students

by Grace

Freelance jobs can be a good way for college students to earn money and enhance a resume.

… Getting a stable job is tough because classes and studying will take up an unpredictable amount of time. Thus, one of the best ways to survive college is to find freelance work….

Some ideas include IT support, graphic design, tutoring, and almost any other type of freelancing.  Baby-sitting and home improvement services are often in demand in college towns.  Check out the complete list of 15 freelance jobs for students to get more ideas.

September 5, 2014

Claims of a college campus rape epidemic are overblown

by Grace

Professor Mark Perry has done the math, illustrating the hyperbole in claims of a college rape epidemic.

We keep hearing in the news about a general “rape epidemic” in America and more specifically about a “campus rape epidemic.” A White House task force headed by Vice-President Biden tells us that “one in five female college students has been assaulted, but that just 12 percent of such attacks are reported.” I’ve demonstrated statistically using actual crime reports from various universities that if the 12 percent under-reporting White House claim is true, then the 1-in-5 claim can’t possibly be true – it’s more like 1-in-20 or 1-in-30. So there’s a little bit of statistical hijinx, misreporting, and hyperbole going on at the White House on this issue.

But before generating hysteria by reporting that there’s a rape “epidemic” (defined generally as “a rapid spread, growth, or development”), has anybody at the White House or elsewhere bothered to actually check the crime data on rapes in the US? Because if they had, they would find that there’s been a steady decline, not an increase, in the frequency of rapes in America for the last 20 years.

20140904.COCRapeChart1

Rape victims are not helped by exaggerated claims about sexual assault.

Rape is a horrific crime and even one is too many, but victims of crimes are much better served by the truth and accurate reporting about the situation than by exaggerated and false claims of a “rape epidemic.” FBI crime statistics reveal that far from an “epidemic” of an increasing frequency in rape in America, we’ve fortunately experienced exactly the opposite – the frequency of rape has been declining for more than two decades, and fell to a 41-year low in 2013.

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Mark J. Perry, “Before declaring that there’s a ‘rape epidemic’ in the US, has anybody bothered to check the actual data? Apparently not”, Carpe Diem, May 17, 2014.

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