Tennessee seeks college ‘stickiness’

In hopes of lowering high college dropout rates, Tennessee now links some college funding to graduation rates. State universities are trying to improve student “stickiness,” reports PBS NewsHour.

Judge confirms Vergara ruling

The judge in Vergara vs. California has finalized his June ruling that state laws on teacher employment — including seniority-based layoffs and tenure — deny disadvantaged students access to a quality public education.

In his final ruling, filed yesterday, Judge Rolf Treu, said, “plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.”

The state and its two largest teachers unions have 60 days to appeal. The unions will file, but the state of California may not.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Democrats have avoided comment while awaiting Treu’s final decision, writes Chris Reed on Fox & Hounds.

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election against a little-known opponent. He could go for a place in history by admitting that “teachers unions are bad for minorities,” writes Reed.

State Superintendent Tom Torklakson — a named defendant in the suit — is facing a tough fight against reformer Marshall Tuck, who’s been endorsed by all the major newspapers in the state.  Tuck has called on Torlakson not to appeal the ruling.

Torlakson will stick with his “greatest patron during his political rise — the California Teachers Association,” predicts Reed.

Helping can hurt

As a CityYear corps member, Amanda Dixon tutored and mentored struggling students, she writes on Chalkbeat. She learned there’s such a thing as too much support.

When Paul was reading, I asked additional questions to make sure he understood the text. When he was writing an essay, I broke down the process into manageable chunks and helped him find evidence that supported his argument.

Under my careful watch, Paul participated in class and completed most of his classwork.

But when he needed to complete an essay at home, he fell apart.

Some students specialize in getting “supporters” to “mask a lack of work and skills,” writes a commenter. But she wonders if “struggling” is the right word for Paul.  “Do you see these students really struggle? Doesn’t it seem like that’s often a polite/false way of describing them?”

Perhaps “leaning” is more accurate than “struggling.”

Helping can hurt, writes David Ginsburg. Students will require self-reliance in college and in the workplace.

He set out to teach students the link between “resourcefulness and success.”

This meant providing students access to various resources (notes, textbooks, technology, each other, etc.) and, if necessary, teaching them the skills they needed to use those resources (including alphabetizing).

But it also meant refusing to help students until and unless they had in fact used those resources. When, for example, students called me over for help, whereas I previously would have immediately obliged, I now asked, “Where are your notes?” And if they didn’t have notes, there was something else they didn’t have: my help.

He told students: “I don’t want to deny you the satisfaction you’ll feel when you figure it out yourself.”

America’s top high schools

The Preuss School, a charter affiliated with University of California at San Diego, topped the list of change-maker high schools.

The Preuss School, a charter affiliated with University of California at San Diego, topped the changemaker schools list.

The Daily Beast has ranked America’s top public high schools by rigor, graduation rates, college-going, etc.

Charter schools do very well, followed by high schools with selective admissions.

The most interesting ranking is 25 High Schools Doing the Most with the Least. Charter schools also dominate the “changemaker” list along with magnet and selective schools.

Skills are better than degrees, say workers

When it comes to career advancement, skills training is more important than a college degree, say workers who responded to Glassdoor’s Q2 2014 Employment Confidence Survey.

Conjunction Junction

Schoolhouse Rock’s Conjunction Junction:

Los Angeles dumps iPad contract

Tiannah Dizadare smiles as she and a school mate explore the possibilities with their new LAUSD provided IPads.

Los Angeles Unified won’t buy iPads for every student after all. Superintendent John Deasy has suspended the district’s contract with Apple “amid mounting scrutiny of the $1-billion-plus effort,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

The suspension comes days after disclosures that the superintendent and his top deputy had especially close ties to executives of Apple, maker of the iPad, and Pearson, the company that is providing the curriculum on the devices.

. . . Last week, a draft report of a district technology committee, obtained by The Times, was strongly critical of the bidding process.

Among the findings was that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs. The report found that key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

LA paid more than other districts for the iPads, a school board member says.

Of course, the key problem is that they bought expensive technology before figuring out how  it would be used to help students learn.

Most schools trying blended learning are buying Chromebooks, which are cheaper and come with a keyboard, rather than iPads.

Effective schools raise scores, not cognition

Effective schools — as measured by raising test scores — don’t raise students’ cognitive abilities, concludes a study of 32 Boston schools. Instead, these schools help students achieve at higher levels than their cognitive abilities predict, write the researchers in Education Next.

The study evaluated state test scores and measures of “fluid cognitive skills” for 1,300 8th graders attending traditional public schools, exam schools that admit only academically talented students and charter schools.

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Charter schools with wait lists (and lotteries) showed the strongest results. “Each year of attendance at an oversubscribed charter school increased the math test scores of students in the sample by roughly 50 percent over the progress typical students make in a school year, but had no impact on their fluid cognitive skills.”

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State tests measure “crystallized knowledge,” which “matters a great deal for success in school and beyond,” the researchers write.

But it’s possible that students who do well in these schools but falter in college suffer from limited cognitive skills. Effective schools should experiment with ways to raise students’ “processing speed, working memory, and fluid reasoning skills,” researchers conclude.

From a U to a J

California charters are more likely to be outperforming traditional public schools, concludes a report on the last five years by the California Charter Schools Association.

Two years ago, the graph of charter school scores was U-shaped: 21 percent of California charters ranked in the top 10 percent in the state and 21 percent ranked in the lowest 10 percent.

It’s now more of a J with more high-performing charters on the right and fewer low performers on the left, writes Jed Wallace, president of the CCSA.

Students at charter schools serving low-income populations are far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in a school that is among the top five or ten percent of all public schools statewide.

More than half of the students (52 percent) attending charters serving a majority high poverty population attend charter schools that are in the top quartile of all public schools statewide, compared to only 26 percent of similar students attending traditional public schools.

The only charters that underperform are those that serve predominantly advantaged students. That matches national trends. Perhaps it’s because urban charters are more likely to follow the “no excuses” model, while suburban charters are more likely to provide a progressive alternative.

California: CCs plan huge growth

California community colleges have set ambitious goals for improving completion rates and increasing the number of certificates, degrees and transfers.