Archive for ‘quick takes’

September 26, 2012

Quick Takes – New York test scores may drop next year, mining jobs pay better than Ivy League degree, girls still avoid shop class, and more

by Grace

—   Changes in New York’s standardized tests next year may cause scores to drop.

That is because the state is moving quickly to put in place new curriculum standards, called Common Core, which stress more critical thinking to help prepare students for college and careers. The state’s math and English exams, therefore, will for the first time be testing students on elements of the Common Core.

Students taking the English exams next year, for instance, will be asked to analyze and compare passages, rather than summarize them. In math, fractions, rather than probability or statistics, will be stressed.

“I would not be surprised if the test scores next year would drop, because it will be a whole new test based on much higher standards,” said one state education official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The Common Core is a much more rigorous set of standards.”

Aaron Pallas, professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is an expert on city schools data, also predicted there may be a drop in scores next year.

“It’s almost always the case when there’s a fundamental change in a test format that scores go down,” Dr. Pallas said. “So there’s going to be discontinuity. That’s one reason why it’s hard to make judgments from one year to the next when there’s several moving pieces.”

He added: “It will take some time and next year will be a new baseline from which we can look forward to see how things are happening over the next three or four years.”

—  Forget Harvard.  Go for the big bucks in mining careers.

Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after a decade-long commodity bull market created shortages of workers as well as minerals.

Those leaving the college of 2,300 students this year got paid a median salary of $56,700, according to PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data from surveys. At Harvard, where tuition fees are almost four times higher, they got $54,100. Those scheduled to leave the campus in Rapid City, South Dakota, in May are already getting offers, at a time when about one in 10 recent U.S. college graduates is out of work.
Harvard Losing Out to South Dakota in Graduate Pay: Commodities (Bloomberg)

—  Why don’t more girls enroll in shop class?  “Stigma”, according to NPR

The Shop Class Stigma: What Title IX Didn’t Change (NPR)

Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, which said no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from any education program or activity. Vocational education courses that barred girls — such as auto mechanics, carpentry and plumbing — became available for everyone. But it’s still hard to find girls in classes once viewed as “for boys only.”…

Now, for the most part, schools don’t discriminate or deny girls educational opportunities. Yet, the conclusion by a National Women’s Law Center study a few years ago raised a different point.

Boys are still routinely steered toward courses that lead to higher-paying careers in technology and trades. Meanwhile, 90 percent of students in courses that lead to lower-wage jobs, like child care and cosmetology, are female.

I don’t accept that a male/female imbalance for a particular occupation is necessarily a problem that must be fixed by legislation.  But if there is a problem of pushing girls towards lower-wage jobs, the NPR story used a poor example to show this since the girl in the story was steered away from auto mechanics toward engineering.   Her family encouraged her to aim for a higher paying job in a field dominated by men, not exactly a fit with the NPR’s narrative.

—  Reading the classics may improve executive function and other attention-related abilities.

Reading a classic novel such as “Pride and Prejudice” can be entertaining, but, according to new research by a Michigan State University professor, it also can provide many other benefits beyond that….

… blood flow was increased in areas of the brain far beyond those responsible for what cognitive scientists call “executive function,” regions normally associated with tasks that require close attention, such as studying, doing complex math problems or reading intensely….

“It’s early, but what this research suggests so far is that core skills in the liberal arts have immense cognitive complexity,” she said. “It’s not only the books we read, but also the act of thinking rigorously about them that’s of value, exercising the brain in critical ways.”

The work also brings together scientists and literary scholars to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction.

Imagine that.  Assigning students books with higher levels of text complexity is good for learning.

Related:  High school students are assigned too many FIFTH-GRADE books (Cost of College)

September 19, 2012

Quick Takes – Teens not worried about retirement saving, MOOCs accepted for college credit, most students not ready for college, and more

by Grace

—  Nearly 40% of Generation Z (ages 13 to 22) expect to receive an inheritance and don’t believe they need to save for retirement.

Yikes!  Teens: Mom and Dad Will Leave Me Enough to Retire (USA Today)

—  ‘Colorado State Becomes the First American University to Accept MOOCs for Credit’

Udacity and EdX have set up a system for proctored final exams for their Massive Open Online Courses. The NYT reports that Colorado State University has become the first institution to accept such a proctored courses for university credit.  The NYT reports that several European universities have already done so. Given that hundreds of thousands of people are taking MOOCs, expect more to follow.
Jay P. Greene’s Blog

—  ‘ACT Reports Only 1 in 4 High School Students Ready for College’

Once again, the results showed that only one in four students are meeting all college readiness benchmarks in English, Reading, Math and Science, which is on par with The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 results….

—  ‘Ten Reasons to Ignore the U.S. News Rankings’

But the compiled data can be useful.

10. Who’s your Daddy? U.S. News actually does two separate things. First, it presents a huge amount of data about lots of schools, much of which can be quite useful. For example, it allows you to compare the SAT ranges or relative selectivity of a handful of schools in which you are interested. But the editors then go on to make judgments about the relative importance of each of these numbers and build these judgments into a formula.  But why should you accept the value judgments of a bunch of editors sitting in Washington, DC? You can take the numbers and devise your own rankings.
MInding The Campus

—  Head Start doesn’t work according to recently released report and as reported by Joe Klein.

We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.
Via Meadia

Walt Gardner thinks ” it would be a big mistake to dismiss the value of Head Start out of hand”.

September 12, 2012

Quick Takes – States are graded on public education; college students voting in November

by Grace

—  The Center for Education Reform has an interactive map of the United States that “shows how the states are doing in providing the critical policy ingredients necessary for effective schools to serve all children”.

The CER supports charter schools, school choice, and performance pay.

…  Each state has been given a grade for each of several components, and those grades collectively factor into an overall grade and general education weather forecast for that state. As states adopt new policies and programs, the grades may change.

The overall grades are based on these components:
—  Governors
—  Media Reliability
—  Charter School Law
—  Teacher Quality
—  Digital Learning (Coming Soon)
—  Parent Power Index (Coming Soon)

In New York, the “forecast is cloudy”with the following grades:
—  Governors:  F
—  Media Reliability:  C+
—  Charter School Law:  B
—  Teacher Quality:  C

—  Will college students show up for this presidential election?

The question has ramifications for college campuses around the country in the two months that remain before Election Day: this year, will young people — especially college students, a group that backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2008 — show up?

Has enthusiasm for Obama among college students waned?

Della Volpe, who has polled young voters 22 times since 2000, said that Democrats shouldn’t count on college students to support them in such large numbers this year. Republicans have worked hard to win over disaffected 2008 Obama voters who, since graduating college, have struggled to find jobs and repay student loans. (Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for the vice presidency, made the pitch in one of the most memorable lines of his convention speech last week: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”)

But Della Volpe said his polling data suggest that Obama’s college student base from 2008, voters now in their early to mid-20s, still support him. It’s the younger voters — college students too young to vote the last time around — who should concern Democrats.

“It’s a myth that people turn 18 and automatically become Democrats,” Della Volpe said. In Wisconsin, Obama dominated among voters aged 18 to 24 in 2008. But last fall, in the election to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, the governor won 18- to 24-year-olds by 3 points, helping him retain his post.

One college student I know tells me that while young people still overwhelmingly support Obama, their diminished fervor for his presidency may cause fewer of them to show up at the voting booth in November.

Here’s the “faded Obama poster” video.

August 22, 2012

Quick Takes — 2012 college diversity fly-ins, reading is good for leaders, robots replace factory workers

by Grace

—  Fall 2012 Diversity College Fly-In List (Getmetocollege)

My post from last year  gives a brief description of college diversity fly-ins.

 For Those Who Want to Lead, Read (Harvard Business Review)

The leadership benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. Some studies have shown, for example, that reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading — whether Wikipedia, Michael Lewis, or Aristotle — is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information. Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper.

Reading can also make you more effective in leading others. Reading increases verbal intelligence (PDF), making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others — traits that author Anne Kreamer persuasively linked to increased organizational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities. And any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve his or her leadership and management ability.

Finally, an active literary life can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed and improving health. For stressed executives, reading is the best way to relax, as reading for six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, and some studies suggest reading may even fend off Alzheimer’s, extending the longevity of the mind.

—  Robots replace factory workers

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.
Skilled Work, Without the Worker (New York Times)

August 15, 2012

Quick Takes — Bernanke ‘predicts’ student loan bailout, female authors dominate YA fiction, ineffective reading programs used for 40 years, & more

by Grace

—  Bernanke just guaranteed that the student loan bubble will be the next “Financial Stability Issue”

Apparently we can rely on things turning out just the opposite of what Bernanke predicts.

“At this juncture . . . the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained” – Ben Bernanke, March 28, 2007

“I don’t think student loans are a financial stability issue to the same extent that, say, mortgage debt was in the last crisis because most of it is held not by financial institutions but by the federal government” – Ben Bernanke, August 7, 2012

Uh oh.  But Tyler Durden has a catchy name for the upcoming bailout program:  CASH FOR FLUNKERS

—  Why Do Female Authors Dominate Young-Adult Fiction? (The Atlantic)

And why do male authors dominate NPR’s list of top science-fiction and fantasy books?

—  Reading Program Ineffective for Students With Learning Disabilities (Education Week)

new report from the What Works Clearinghouse questions the effectiveness of a longstanding, widely used reading program, developed by McGraw-Hill, for students with learning disabilities.

In a report this month, the WWC found that there is evidence that Reading Mastery has “no discernible effects on reading comprehension and potentially negative effects on alphabetics, reading fluency, and writing for students with learning disabilities.”

Looking at the 17 studies about about Reading Mastery Classic and Reading Mastery Signature, specifically for students with learning disabilities, the WWC found two of them met its research standards.

Reading Mastery is used in all 50 states and internationally, and more than 6,500 schools across the country use Reading Mastery Signature, McGraw-Hill said. The cost per student, the WWC said, during the first year of implementation ranges from $200 to $300 and pays for materials including storybooks, textbooks, workbooks and textbooks. Buying a full set of teaching materials costs between $650 and $1,000 per grade level.

Wrightslaw poses this question on its Facebook page:

How can a reading program with no research to support its effectiveness be used in thousands of schools for over 40 years? Just asking …

—  Upper-Middle-Income Households See Biggest Jumps in Student Loan Burden (WSJ)

Rising college costs and a sagging economy are taking the biggest toll on a surprising group: upper-middle-income families.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of recently released Federal Reserve data, households with annual incomes of $94,535 to $205,335 saw the biggest jump in the percentage with student-loan debt from 2007 to 2010, the latest figures available. That group also saw a sharp climb in the amount of debt owed on average.

The surge is leading many such families to look closer at cost and value when choosing colleges….

August 8, 2012

Quick Takes — grammar mistakes, the folly of college for all, curbing impulsivity with drugs

by Grace

 11 Most Common Grammar Gaffes On Social Media (The Brainyard)

Top 5 are:

1. It’s and Its
2. Your and You’re
3. To, Two, and Too
4. There, Their, and They’re
5. Sentence Starters and Endings

—  Another reason the college-for-all mindset should be reconsidered:  There is a ‘very poor correlation between the percent of college-degree attainment in a nation and the nation’s overall prosperity’.

 As I have pointed out several times in my Chronicle postings (see, for example, “Supersizing,” February 15, 2012), there is a very poor correlation between the percent of college-degree attainment in a nation and the nation’s overall prosperity.  Russia leads the world in college-degree attainment among 25- to 64-year-olds and among 25- to 34-year-olds, both at 54 percent. No one thinks Russia has the world’s leading economy.  Switzerland (34 percent) and Germany (25 percent) have robust economies but smaller percentages of degree holders than the U.S. (We have 41 percent among 25- to 64-year-olds, according to a 2010 OECD; 38 percent according to the older OECD study Dr. Rosenberg apparently replied on.)

Too Many College Students? Yes, Unfortunately (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

—  Drug Boosts Frontal Cortex Dopamine, Cuts Impulsiveness (FuturePundit)

This new development has many implications for shaping human behavior, but the first one that came to mind was treating adolescent children, boys in particular, whose immature frontal lobes impede optimum academic achievement.  The possibilities are both intriguing and frightening.

Raising levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the frontal cortex of the brain significantly decreased impulsivity in healthy adults, in a study conducted by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Impulsivity is a risk factor for addiction to many substances, and it has been suggested that people with lower dopamine levels in the frontal cortex tend to be more impulsive,” said lead author Andrew Kayser, PhD, an investigator at Gallo and an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF. “We wanted to see if we could decrease impulsivity by raising dopamine, and it seems as if we can.”

The study was published on July 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, 23 adult research participants were given either tolcapone, a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that inhibits a dopamine-degrading enzyme, or a placebo. The researchers then gave the participants a task that measured impulsivity, asking them to make a hypothetical choice between receiving a smaller amount of money immediately (“smaller sooner”) or a larger amount at a later time (“larger later”). Each participant was tested twice, once with tolcapone and once with placebo.

August 1, 2012

Quick Takes — the purpose of college, affluent public schools are not so great, ‘fracket’ definition, & more

by Grace

—  From Bill Henderson at The Legal Whiteboard, a description of what a college education should  produce 

…  a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity.

It doesn’t seem that it should be that complicated or expensive.

—  Few affluent U.S. districts are world class (Joanne Jacobs)

This is from 2011.

America’s elite suburban districts rarely provide a world-class education, concludes When the Best is Mediocre, a study by Jay Greene and Josh McGee in Education Next. Their Global Report Card compares math and reading between 2004 and 2007 for most U.S. public school districts with the average in 25 developed countries that are “economic peers and sometime competitors.”

Well-to-do and politically connected families believe they’ve escaped mediocre schools by moving to affluent suburban districts, Greene and McGee write. But their children won’t be competing with inner-city students, when they grow up. In a global economy, they’ll be competing for top jobs with  top students from around the world.

In wealthy, white-and-Asian Beverly Hills, students score in the 76th percentile in math compared to other California students, but only in the 53rd percentile on the Global Report Card.

—  The more educated you are, the less time you spend on leisure activities.  It’s true for both men and women.

 … Men with at least some college chip in more on child care, shopping, and other chores, and are more engaged in civic and religious activities. They spend a little less time caring for other adults or repairing their houses and cars.   How the 2 Americas Spend Their Time (The Atlantic)

— ‘ Fracket ‘

One of those things parents don’t want to think about too much when their children go off to college.  Here’s a definition of fracket from the Urban Dictionary:

a jacket you wear to frats because you don’t mind if at the end of the night, it is covered in beer, frat sludge, or other unidentifiable liquids. Also, it is not a big deal if this jacket is lost during or stolen during the course of the night.

Person 1: Ah, I made the mistake of bringing my J.Crew pea coat out last night and now its covered in beer!
Person 2: You should have brought your fracket instead!

July 25, 2012

Quick takes – CEOs with liberal arts degrees, too many college students not ‘college ready’, & more

by Grace

—  Famous CEOs Who Were Liberal Arts Majors

—   Colleges admit many students who are not “college ready”.  Yeah, we knew that.

2.2 million freshmen started college in the United States last fall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if common trends are anything go by, more than a third of them will not have a diploma at the end of it, if indeed, they finish college at all, writes Jenna Ashley Robinson at the Pope Center.

The ACT and the College Board (which administers the SAT) have created benchmarks that offer very clear guidelines for determining whether students are likely to succeed in college and have found that fewer than half of college-bound seniors are prepared for the work ahead of them….

“Sending unprepared students to college only sets them up for failure.”

—  Girls Report Higher Math Anxiety Than Boys, Study Finds (Education Week)

New research from England finds that girls show higher levels of mathematics anxiety than boys, and that this distress is related to diminished performance on math tests. Even so, the study found no gender differences in math achievement, with the researchers suggesting that girls may well have outperformed boys were it not for their anxiety.

 Robbing retirees – The dirty little secret of O’s student-loan fix (New York Post)

President Obama’s much-touted plan to put a one-year freeze on student interest rates was signed into law with great fanfare this month. But the bill’s supporters hadn’t said where the money to subsidize the lower rates would come from.

Columnist Daniel Indiviglio of Reuters dug up the details this week, calling the bill financial “hocus-pocus.” The student-loan scheme was buried in a transportation bill. In it, the government raided its pension-guarantee fund to the tune of $6 billion — although the fund is already running a deficit of $26 billion.

The student-loan bill puts the pension system in jeopardy. To cover future payouts, pension contributions will need to rise by as much as $50 billion a year. The fund’s already broke; now, thanks to this reckless bill, it’s one step closer to total collapse.

—  Over two million K-12 students use online education

Did you know that 30 states allow K-12 students to learn entirely online? Across the country, more than two million K-12 students participate in some form of online education, and nearly 300,000 do so full time, according to John Watson, founder of the Evergreen Education Group, a consulting firm in Durango, Colo.

—  ‘
The U.S. now has 115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses.’  (The Daily Beast)

July 18, 2012

Quick takes – single-sex classrooms, ‘gainful employment’ rule, War on Men in science, & more

by Grace

—  Single-sex classrooms are a trend:

—  The coming War on Men in science – applying Title IX to science  

Quotas limiting the number of male students in science may be imposed by the Education Department in 2013. The White House has promised that “new guidelines will also be issued to grant-receiving universities and colleges” spelling out “Title IX rules in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.” These guidelines will likely echo existing Title IX guidelines that restrict men’s percentage of intercollegiate athletes to their percentage in overall student bodies, thus reducing the overall number of intercollegiate athletes. (Under the three-part Title IX test created by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work, colleges are allowed to temporarily comply by increasing the number of female athletes rather than cutting the number of male athletes, but the only viable permanent way to comply with its rule is to restrict men’s participation relative to women’s participation, reducing overall participation.) Thus, as Charlotte Allen notes, the Obama administration’s guidelines are likely to lead to “science quotas” based on gender.

—  The “gainful employment” rule for career-training schools has been struck down in court, but it could be a “Pyrrhic victory for the for-profit colleges”.

A federal judge in Washington has overturned a main component of the federal Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rules, which were applied to career-training programs and were hotly contested by for-profit colleges, saying that regulation was arbitrary.

—   Grinnell College dean pulls back the curtain on college admissions

A window into what goes on during the reading of applications; among the insights:

I can remember very clearly last year talking about a student who I wasn’t particularly impressed with. I felt that the application was flat; the writing wasn’t compelling to me; the recommendations, while good, they weren’t powerful, they didn’t support the student’s admission.

… And then one of the other committee members made the argument and said, look, this child is from a single-parent home, they spend a lot of time helping to support a younger sibling, they don’t have as much time for the extracurricular activities. You could tell that the school didn’t really know the student, because the student couldn’t stay after and participate in a lot of activities. And I think seeing through a different lens to some degree, slowing down and really looking at the student on her own individual merits, that made all the difference.

—  The 13 Careers Where You’re Most Likely To Commit Suicide

Two of the careers listed:

Mathematicians and scientists are 1.85 times more likely to commit suicide than average…

Dentists are 5.45 times more likely to commit suicide than average

Related:  Public schools are not diverse enough for boys (Cost of College)

July 4, 2012

Quick takes – July 4, 2012

by Grace

In Westchester County, school union workers agree to modest raises and increased contributions to health insurance premiums. 

A group of 265 custodians, teacher’s aides and office workers employed by the Bedford school district has agreed to a 5-year deal that will pay raises of between 1 and 1.5 percent while requiring members to pay more of their health insurance costs.

Members of the support staff represented by the Civil Service Employees Association will earn raises of 1 percent this year and in 2013, and raises of 1.5 percent in 2014 and 2015. In the last year of the contract, which calls for a pay raise of 1 percent, the school district agreed to reopen the negotiations to account for changes in the economy.

“In the fifth year we have that option because we are hoping for a booming economy that will allow us to get a bigger raise,” says Mary Lou Cavaliere, the president of CSEA Local 860. “None of us have a crystal ball, but we hope the economy will improve.”

Teachers and administrators are covered under separate contracts and are not part of the deal.

The austere times that started with the recession in 2008 has forced Bedford and districts across the metropolitan region to struggle to balance budgets. Earlier this year, Bedford laid off three dozen bus drivers and outsourced their routes in a cost-cutting move.

Those bus drivers used to be represented by the CSEA.

The new five-year contract, which was approved by the Board of Education on Wednesday, also calls for CSEA employees to increase their contribution to health care costs over the next five years to 12 percent.

Some top high school graduates in Westchester County are staying close to home for college.

Tuckahoe High School valedictorian will attend Fordham (probably with a merit scholarship), salutatorian will be at Iona College with Dean’s Scholarship, and another top scholar will attend  Stonybrookʼs Honors College.  Related to this story:  Families in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley adjust to rising college costs

Americans not convinced college is as valuable as it was 20 years ago

A new poll of 1,000 adults — released by Widmeyer Communications — has mixed results for those in higher education. About 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they believed college was a good investment, with only 12 percent disagreeing, and the rest saying they didn’t know. But the poll found Americans split on whether college is as valuable today as it was 20 years ago, with 46 percent agreeing, and 41 percent disagreeing — despite countless statements from educators that college is more necessary today than at previous points in American history.

I gave at the office
Finally, I wonder if colleges get much money when they solicit donations from parents who are currently paying $50,000+ per year for their kids to attend those same colleges.

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