Best college books of 2011

The best books on higher education of 2011, as chosen by a panel picked by Minding the Campus, are Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa; and Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College by Andrew Ferguson.

Academically Adrift, which Richard Vedder called “devastating:” and “the most significant book on higher education written in recent years,” tracks the academic gains (or non-gains) of 2,300 students at a range of four-year colleges and universities. The students took the Collegiate Learning Assessment (which is designed to measure gains in critical thinking, analytic reasoning and other “higher level” skills taught at college).

Among the results: 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college. A total of 36 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college. And those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest ones.

Four books drew three votes from the 10-member panel: In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic by Professor X; The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg; The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For by Naomi Schaefer Riley; and The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring.

Mandarin pulls new students to LA school

Mandarin immersion program is drawing white and Asian students to what was a heavily Latino, under-enrolled elementary school, reports the Los Angeles Times. Enrollment is up:  Dual-language students may outnumber students in regular classes in a few years.

In 2009, 81% of Broadway’s students were Latino, 15% were black, six were white and none were Asian, reports the Times. “The next year, the new classes of Mandarin immersion students were almost exclusively white and Asian,” though a handful of black and Latino students have chosen the program. Few students are native Mandarin speakers.

Students spend half the day learning exclusively in Mandarin, half the day in English with a different teacher.

“These programs have had very good results for the English speakers, sometimes not quite as great for the other language speakers,” said Sacramento-based bilingual consultant Norm Gold. “But it all depends on doing a quality implementation.”

Even excluding the students in the Mandarin program, Broadway has boosted its standardized test scores — up more than 100 points to 869 on the Academic Performance Index from 2008 when (Principal Susan) Wang arrived. Mandarin immersion students were too young to be tested last spring, but the school’s scores could rise again next year.

Mandarin immersion attracts the children of ambitious, educated parents, most of whom are Asian or white and middle or upper-middle class. No wonder it’s popular with parents.

Via Alexander Russo.

‘Race’ states go off reform track

Race to the Top winners are veering off the reform track, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on states to make good on their commitments under its Race to the Top competition, after all 12 winners either scaled down plans or pushed back timelines to overhaul their public-education systems.

Hawaii, which has delayed almost every part of its reform plan, could lose its $75 million grant, the Education Department warns.  The state has been unable to reach a deal with the teachers’ union.

The Education Department has approved scores of waiver requests, including allowances for Massachusetts to delay plans to develop online courses for teacher mentors and for Rhode Island to push back plans to open more charter schools. Some states, including Florida, got sidetracked by overly optimistic target dates to hire contractors for developing student data systems or to create mathematical formulas for linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

Tennessee is pushing ahead with a plan to link teacher evaluations to value-added data on their students’ progress, despite complaints that the system makes no sense for teachers in untested subjects and grades. A few “tweaks” will fix the problems, says Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

When the team wins, male GPAs lose

When the University of Oregon football team wins, male students’ grades decline, conclude economists who tracked the Ducks’ last nine seasons.

“Our estimates suggest male grades fall significantly with the success of the football team,” the research team, led by Jason Lindo, writes in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Furthermore, the economists find this effect is “larger among students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, and those of relatively low ability.”

Lindo and his colleagues . . . compared grade point averages to the winning percentage of the school’s football team, which ranged over the years from 45 to 92 percent.

“We find that the team’s success significantly reduces male grades relative to female grades,” they write. “This phenomenon is only present in fall quarters, which coincide with the football season.”

Why? Young men drink more and study less to celebrate football victories. Their female classmates also party, but not as hard, surveys indicate.

What’s true for the University of Oregon probably is true for other state universities, the researchers believe.

Oregon is playing in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

Pablo the Bilingual Reindeer

In a dress rehearsal for the winter concert, the chorus at PS22 sings Pablo The Reindeer, a New York City classic. Via Gotham Schools.

Ruling: Ethnic studies classes break Arizona law

Tucson schools must drop Mexican-American Studies or lose 10 percent of state funding, ruled an administrative law judge, who found the ethnic classes violate Arizona law. The 2010 law bans courses that are “designed for a specific ethnic group” or advocate “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” It also bans fanning “racial resentment.”

Ignoring the history of  “oppression and racism” will promote resentment, a school district witness testified. But Judge Lewis Kowal found the classes went beyond “teaching oppression objectively” to “actively presenting material in a biased, political, and emotionally charged manner.”

“Teaching in such a manner promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating pupils as individuals,” Kowal wrote. He cited a lesson that taught students that the historic treatment of Mexican-Americans was “marked by the use of force, fraud and exploitation,” and a parent’s complaint that one of her daughters, who was white, was shunned by Latino classmates after a government course was taught “in an extremely biased manner.”

A group of teachers are challenging the law in federal court, arguing it was motivated by “a racial bias and anti-Hispanic beliefs and sentiments.”

Hess: Top 10 edu-stories of 2012

Why wait for 2012, when Rick Hess has the top Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in the new year?

Among his headlines of the future: “GOP presidential nominee abandons primary season attacks on Department of Education; talks up education reform in push for moderates.” Meanwhile, Republicans will feud over Common Core standards, he predicts.

Despite doubts about Race to the Top’s implementation, “Obama campaign makes Race to the Top, push on college affordability a centerpiece in effort to woo suburban swing voters.”

Hess also foresees a backlash against aggressive anti-bullying campaigns after elementary school boys are suspended for tussling and name-calling. (Think zero tolerance.)

Rewriting No Child Left Behind will be left till 2013, he predicts.

Finally: “Mixed results for the Khan Academy‘s ‘flipped’ classroom lead some educators and policymakers to worry that the model doesn’t work for kids who don’t do the requisite work at home. One expert notes, ‘The kids who didn’t do their reading or homework before are the same kids who aren’t viewing their lessons and lectures now.’”

Carnival of Homeschooling

Passages is the theme of this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, which is hosted by Corn and Oil.  “2011 will be our family’s last full year of homeschooling,” Susan writes.

College dreamers meet reality

In 1988, 59 fifth graders in a low-income Maryland school were promised a college education by two wealthy businessmen, recounts the Washington Post. The college “dreamers” were given transportation, tutors, field trips, camps and an advisor who followed them through school.

One would become a doctor. One would become a cellist. One would become a UPS driver. One would kill herself. One would kill his father. One would become a politician. One would become a cop. One would become a drug dealer.

Forty-nine graduated from high school or earned GEDs, surpassing the graduation rate in the area, and almost half enrolled in college. But only 11 “dreamers” earned bachelor’s degrees; three of those went on to earn advanced degrees. Another 12 students completed trade school.

Most of the successful “dreamers” were motivated students before the scholarships were offered. Others, growing up in violent, drug-ridden neighborhoods, followed their peers, not the dream of college.

Many of those who made it to college failed their classes and gave up. That’s typical of similar programs. Nationally, “dream” scholarships have increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates, but have not produced many college graduates, according to the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

Success can’t be measured by a college diploma, concludes Tracy Proctor, who served as the counselor for the 59 students into adulthood. (When the drug dealer was ready to retire, Proctor got him into trade school.)

The doctor and the pharmacist are successes, for sure. But so are the UPS driver and the Prince George’s police officer. They may not have college degrees, Proctor says, but they have a sense of purpose and ambition.

Where did that drive come from? The series profiles Darone Robinson, the most surprising success story in Proctor’s eyes. Almost kicked out of high school for fighting, Robinson almost flunked out of college. But he couldn’t face telling his mother that he’d failed. So Robinson worked harder, raised his grades, earned an IT degree and now lives a middle-class life with his wife and children. Without Proctor’s help, he might not have made it through high school. Without the scholarship, he might not have started college. But what got him through was something that can’t be given.

Self-paced math lab replaces remedial classes

Frustrated by high failure rates in remedial math classes, one community college now assigns all remedial students to a math lab, where they work at their own pace, moving on when they achieve mastery.

Free e-books may be a bad deal for tech-poor students, a community college dean writes.