Posts tagged ‘Joanne Jacobs’

October 16, 2012

College literacy skills in a nutshell?

by Grace

Joanne Jacobs summarized incoming College Board president David Coleman’s view on what a high school curriculum should look like.

Coleman wants students to read challenging materials and learn to answer questions by citing the text, not chatting about their personal experiences.

That seems to describe in a nutshell the literacy skills that students need for college.

Coleman sees a serious problem with how public schools are failing to prepare students for college-level work.

…  He often cites data from ACT scores, which this year showed that only one in every four American high-school graduates is ready to do college-level reading, writing, science, and computation. He also refers to research by the Minnesota College Readiness Center’s Paul Carney, who found that almost a third of college students enrolled in his college’s remedial writing courses had actually earned above-average grades in high-school English. The gap was partly due to the different types of writing valued by high schools and colleges: while high-school teachers rewarded students for the organization and wording of their essays, college professors placed greater value on strong thesis statements backed by evidence from the curriculum. This mismatch of expectations helps explain why 20 percent of incoming freshmen at four-year colleges, and about half at community colleges, are assigned to non-credit-bearing remedial courses.

High school poster projects instead of writing instruction
In related news, one local high school student I know is working on her fourth “poster” project since school started about a month ago.  So far she has been aked to create a collage, illustrate a literary theme, and make posters in her English and history classes.  This school claims they focus on college prep, and their yearly spending per pupil is about $23,000.  Meanwhile, they have been sending out advertisements to parents promoting writing and SAT prep classes taught by their high school teachers at costs of $275 and $575, respectively.  Do their students need this extra tutoring because they’re spending too much time on poster projects in school?  I wonder.

February 2, 2012

An important step in breaking higher education’s credentialing monopoly?

by Grace

On the road to the dismantling of  higher education’s expensive monopoly on credentialing comes an announcement of new online testing options for students.  

First, a review of economics.

If the price of something rises a lot, people look for substitutes. Resources (dollars) are scarce, and individuals want to make the best use of them. They “maximize their utility” by shifting away from high-priced good or service A to lower-priced good B.

Students and employers are stuck in our current system, where colleges hold credentialing monopoly.

With regards to colleges, consumers typically have believed that there are no good substitutes–the only way a person can certify to potential employers that she/he is pretty bright, well educated, good at communicating, disciplined, etc., is by presenting a bachelor’s degree diploma. College graduates typically have these positive attributes more than others, so degrees serve as an important signaling device to employers, lowering the costs of learning about the traits of the applicant. Because of the lack of good substitutes, colleges face little outside competition and can raise prices more, given their quasi-monopoly status.

As college costs rise, however, people are asking: Aren’t there cheaper ways of certifying competence and skills to employers?


New competency tests as college alternatives:

The search for alternative ways is leading to other entities offering credentials for much less than the $30,000-$60,000 per year that colleges charge.  New agreements between Burck Smith’s StraighterLine, the Education Testing Service (ETS), and the Council on Aid to Education (CAE) to offer online competency tests have just been announced.

Students can tell employers, “I did very well on the CLA and iSkills test, strong predictors of future positive work performance,” and, implicitly “you can hire me for less than you pay college graduates who score less well on these tests.”

Will it be more “fair”?
The suggestion is that employers will be a driving force in the move to alternative credentialing as a way to keep salary costs in line.  This could be true, pointing to a possible increasing class divide between high and low earners, with only graduates of elite residential colleges in the running for top salaries.  On the other hand, employers would be able to spurn the graduates of the many expensive-but-mediocre colleges in favor of alternatively credentialed employees who would be able to compete for jobs on a true merit basis.

More:  How quickly will the Higher-Ed Revolution happen?

It’s happening, almost overnight: what could be the collapse of the near-monopoly that traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities currently enjoy as respected credentialing institutions whose degrees and grades mean something to employers.

Related:  Higher education is a prisoner’s dilemma

July 29, 2011

Wikipedia co-founder says we need to memorize things, not just ‘Google it’

by Grace

Joanne Jacobs posted about a recent study that suggests “there is less need to remember” because people are outsourcing memory to the Internet.  This reminded me of the irony in Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger’s disagreement with this notion that “the instant availability of information online makes the memorization of facts unnecessary or less necessary“.  In writing this, Sanger appears to be channeling Daniel Willingham, William Klemm and other scientists who support the idea that a rich base of knowledge is the foundation for critical thinking and creative problem solving.

I like the way Jacobs explained it.

The more you know, the easier it is to seek out new information, evaluate it and do something with it.  And remember it.

Here is Sanger’s take.

Whenever I encounter yet another instance of educationists’ arguments against “memorizing,” the following rather abstract yet simple thought springs to my philosopher’s mind: Surely the only way to know something is to have memorized it. How can I be said to know something that I do not remember? So being opposed to memorizing has always sounded to me like being opposed to knowledge. I realize this argument likely seems glib. The thing educationists object to, of course, is not the remembering or even the memorizing but rather the memorizing by rote — that is, by dull repetition and often without experience or understanding.

In a December 2008 interview, Don Tapscott, a popular writer on the subject of the Internet and society, argued that the Internet is now “the fountain of knowledge” and that students need not memorize particular facts such as historical dates. …This view is common enough among the Wikipedia users I have come across; they sometimes declare that since the free online encyclopedia is so huge and easy to use, they feel less pressure to commit “trivia” to memory….

But to claim that the Internet allows us to learn less, or that it makes memorizing less important, is to belie any profound grasp of the nature of knowledge. Finding out a fact about a topic with a search in Wolfram Alpha, for example, is very different indeed from knowing about and understanding the topic. Having a well-understood fact ready to recall is far different from merely getting an unfamiliar answer to a question. Reading a few sentences in Wikipedia about some theories on the causes of the Great Depression does not mean that one thereby knows or understands this topic. Being able to read (or view) anything quickly on a topic can provide one with information, but actually having a knowledge of or understanding about the topic will always require critical study. The Internet will never change that.

Moreover, if you read an answer to a question, you usually need fairly substantial background knowledge to interpret the answer….

To possess a substantial understanding of a field requires not just memorizing the facts and figures that are used by everyone in the field but also practicing, using, and internalizing those basics. To return to my “glib” argument, surely the only way to begin to know something is to have memorized it.

(This is an update of a previous post:  Wikipedia co-founder argues for the importance of ‘memorizing facts’)

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