Colleges compete on ‘leisure pools’

best-college-pools-Oklahoma State UniversityOklahoma State’s $20 million Colvin Rec Center includes an indoor/outdoor pool, a gym, rock climbing, basketball and racquetball courts, putting greens and golf simulators and a wellness center.

Two-thirds of the “30 best college leisure pools” are located at state universities, notes Rick Hess. What does this say about higher education?

College Rank‘s list includes “institutions that routinely insist they desperately need more state funds, including two University of California campuses and two Cal State campuses,” he writes.

When legislatures trim public spending, universities don’t cut back on the pools; instead, they resort to the old “close the Washington Monument strategy” and wring their hands while explaining they’re going to have to shutter the chemistry department. In fact, outside of Purdue under President Mitch Daniels, in recent years, it’s hard to think of a major university that has really made cutting costs and trimming fat a point of public pride.

“Having an incredible pool on campus (often with lazy rivers!) gives colleges a leg up on competition,” according to College Rank. As tuition rises, students are pickier about the amenities that “complete the collegiate experience.”

 

Parents don’t choose diversity

Parent choice is making San Francisco schools more segregated, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mural at San Francisco's Cleveland Elementary School.

Mural at San Francisco’s Cleveland Elementary School.

One third of the city’s public schools are “racially isolated,” which means 60+ percent of students are of the same racial or ethnic group.

Overall, 41 percent of the city’s public school students are Asian-American, 27 percent are Latino, 13 percent are white, 10 percent black and the rest “other.” About 30 percent of the city’s young people attend private or parochial schools.

Here’s a non-surprise:

Diversity and integration are rarely cited as top factors in choosing a public school. Instead, district surveys of parents show the safety of a school’s neighborhood, the quality of its staff and its reputation are paramount.

Clarendon, the high-achieving school in the story is about one third Asian, one third white and the rest Latino, black and mixed. It offers a Japanese bilingual program for some students; the rest learn Italian.

At the low-achieving school, Cleveland, 82 percent of students come from low-income and working-class Latino families. Parents choose the school because it’s close to home. It offers a Spanish bilingual program.

Cleveland receives $360,000 more than Clarendon from the state each year — $1,000 per student — because its students are so poor and so many of them don’t speak English. The idea is to direct more resources to the neediest schools, but Clarendon more than offsets that through avid parent fundraising and donations from the Japanese and Italian consulates.

(Cleveland Principal March)Sanchez uses the extra state money for basic support, including separate Spanish and English literacy coaches, a technology teacher, tablet computers and laptops.

After being trained by a nonprofit to be an activist, mother Ana Hodgson is “done with public schools,” reports the Chronicle. She got her son into a summer program for low-income achievers that helped him get a scholarship at a private middle school.

New tests take longer, but are they better?

You are a congresswoman’s aide. Using the articles, videos and charts provided, write an essay advising her whether to support or oppose a nuclear power plant in her district.

New Common Core tests include “performance tasks” like this example from the Smarter Balanced Consortium, writes Emmanuel Felton on the Hechinger Report. Is it worth the time, cost and unreliability it adds to testing?

. . . in addition to the multiple-choice-heavy parts of the tests, which can take up to almost five hours (depending on the test and grade level), the performance tasks add up to 4 ½ hours to the Smarter Balanced tests and 6 ½ hours to the PARCC tests.

Smarter Balanced performance tasks include 30-minute classroom activities — one for the math section and one for the English section — in which students, for example, learn about and discuss nuclear power before they start the writing assignment.

The 30-minute activities are supposed to eliminate the benefits of prior knowledge of the subject. But some students will get better teaching or a fuller discussion of the subject, concedes Andrew Latham,  director of Assessment & Standards Development Services at WestEd, a nonprofit that worked with Smarter Balanced and PARCC on the new tests. 

“It’s asking students to think evaluatively and analytically about the texts they are given,” said Justin McGehee, who teaches English at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, California. “But with all of that writing, the scoring is very wide open.”

Performance tasks “are tremendously difficult to score, you get better statistics without open-ended questions so there are always trade-offs,” Latham says.

School Day

Head Start is 50 years old

Head Start got its start 50 years ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program. What’s its legacy? asks PBS NewsHour.

The story quotes the head of the Ford Foundation, who was a Head Start kid, but it also includes Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies preschool programs. Federal studies have found Head Start graduates do no better than a control group by third grade, he points out.

They were not better readers. They were not doing math better. They didn’t have better social development. They didn’t have better health outcomes.

It costs $8 billion a year and makes no difference in anything we can measure.

Schools sued for not being ‘trauma sensitive’

Beaten and sexually abused by his addict mother’s boyfriends, Peter P. did poorly in school. When he was kicked out of a foster home, the 11th grader slept on the roof of his high school till he was discovered — and suspended.

Kimberly Cervantes, 18, is suing Compton Unified for failing to provide "trauma-sensitive services."

Kimberly Cervantes, 18, is suing Compton Unified for failing to provide “trauma-sensitive services.”

Peter P., four other students and three teachers have filed a lawsuit against Compton Unified, which serves a low-income, high-crime city near Los Angeles. Students who’ve experienced violence, abuse, homelessness, foster care and other “adverse childhood experiences” need “trauma-sensitive services” in school, the suit argues. It calls for “complex trauma” to be considered a learning disability.

“The lawsuit is seeking training for staff to recognize trauma, mental health support for students to cope with their condition and a shift from punitive disciplinary practices to those based on reconciliation and healing,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Traumatized students are kicked out of school rather than helped, according to the suit.

Another student at age 8 first witnessed someone being shot and killed and has seen more than 20 other shootings since then — one of them resulting in the death of a close friend, according to the lawsuit.

Another student, Kimberly Cervantes, 18, a senior at Cesar Chavez Continuation School, said she stopped attending school for weeks at a time after multiple traumas, including being told by teachers at a different school that her bisexuality was “wrong.”

Los Angeles Unified provides counseling for traumatized students. One Guatemalan boy had witnessed rebel soldiers killing villagers, then saw gang violence in Los Angeles, said Marleen Wong, a USC social work professor who designed the program.

. . . Martin learned about trauma, how to calm himself and how to apply the relaxation techniques in his daily life, she said. Techniques included walking to school with others so as not to be alone and seeking teachers to support him.

. . . “He was able to go back to school, calmed down, had fewer fights and better attendance.”

There’s no question that some students have been through hell — and that it may affect their ability to behave and learn. But do we want to consider them disabled?

Family stress is their students’ greatest barrier to school success, say state Teachers of the Year in a new survey. Next came poverty, and learning and psychological problems.

I’m back

Thanks to Darren of Right on the Left Coast for blogging up a storm while I was traveling.

I had a moment in St. Petersburg that reminded me that comprehension depends on knowledge. We were walking along Nevsky Prospect, the main drag, when police cars blocked the road. We saw several jeeps with elderly women leading thousands of young, jovial rollerbladers in red T-shirts with a word in Russian. (Not being able to read Cyrillic was very, very frustrating for me.) Some were carrying the old Soviet flag with the hammer and sickle.  Pro-Communist demonstrators? They seemed too young. Then I saw the shirts said “1945.”

I knew the city — then Leningrad — had survived a 2 1/2-year siege during World War II. The Soviet flag had been the country’s flag in 1945, the flag of victory. When I got a wi-fi connection, I asked an app to translate “victory” to Russian. Yep. It was the word on the shirt.

I’m now in Kentucky for a family wedding. I believe the reception is at a bourbon distillery.

Pell Grants For Prisoners

What conditions are different from 1994 such that this program would now be considered?

The U.S. Department of Education is poised to announce a limited exemption to the federal ban on prisoners receiving Pell Grants to attend college while they are incarcerated.

Correctional education experts and other sources said they expect the department to issue a waiver under the experimental sites program, which allows the feds to lift certain rules that govern aid programs in the spirit of experimentation. If the project is successful, it would add to momentum for the U.S. Congress to consider overturning the ban it passed on the use of Pell for prisoners in 1994…

Even a limited experiment will provoke controversy. Spending government money on college programs for convicted criminals is an easy target for conservative pundits and for some lawmakers from both political parties…

The administration estimated that roughly 4,000 of the 60,000 incarcerated juvenile offenders would be eligible for federal aid. That investment makes sense, they said, given that it costs an average of $88,000 per year to lock up a juvenile offender. And inmates of all ages are half as likely to go back to jail if they take college courses.

When Should AP Tests Count At College?

AP tests have been around for quite some time, so you’d think there might be some consistency by now about how they’re used to allow students to validate college classes.  In Illinois the concerns about consistency are both academic and financial:

A proposed change to state law that has advanced in Springfield could expand high school students’ access to college credit through AP testing — but could also have a financial impact on state colleges and universities in Illinois, which could lose out on tuition revenue.

The AP testing program awards students whose knowledge has surpassed the high school level, and can save them time and money in college because they don’t have to pay to take the equivalent courses.

But college standards for granting credit for AP tests vary widely. The tests are scored on a 5-point scale, but while some colleges and universities will award credit for scores as low as 2, others require the top score of 5 in certain subjects, according to the College Board, which administers the program. At some schools, the standards vary by subject, while the University of Illinois has different thresholds for different campuses.

To standardize the criteria, lawmakers are considering passing a law to require public universities and colleges in Illinois to give course credit for scores of 3 or better…

Last year in Illinois, nearly 116,000 AP tests were awarded scores of 3 or better, according to a coalition backing the legislation that includes state education groups and the College Board. At an average cost of $426 per credit hour, that would add up to $148 million in savings overall, proponents say.

AP credit could cost colleges and universities lost tuition from those students who can skip over classes, but officials say many AP students simply take other classes instead, to add depth or breadth to their education. Or they can use the lightened course load to improve their chances of graduating on time.

And They Say There’s No Inflation

70%, 20%, 10%–add that up and it’s a pretty big increase.  I’d say that’s some inflation:

The bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System enacted last year requires a 70 percent increase in pension contributions from school districts, a 20 percent increase from the state general fund and a 10 percent increase in teacher contributions. When the phased-in increases are complete in 2020-21, CalSTRS will get about $5 billion more a year than it now does, putting it on much firmer ground.

But even at a time when school funding has reached an all-time high, districts are apprehensive at having to spend so much more on pensions. This month, their strategy has become clear: establish separate, specific state funding for districts to cover their increased contributions.

If districts have to spend more on pensions there will be less available for raises.

[T]he education establishment expects to use the flexibility and extra dollars provided by the Local Control Funding Formula to pay for the higher pension costs. But that’s not what the change in how schools are funded was supposed to be about, according to its champion, Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor’s website contains a 800-word account of the signing of the LCFF law on July 1, 2013. It depicts the funding change as being solely about getting more help to struggling English-learners, the state’s “neediest students.”

Money doesn’t grow on trees.  If you had to bet who would get extra money,  students who don’t vote or teachers backed by powerful unions, on whom would you bet?