College prep does little to boost outcomes

Taking advanced classes in high school does little to prepare students for college success, write Gregory Ferenstein and Brad Hershbein on Brookings’ Chalkboard blog.

In 2009, a federal review found “low evidence” that increasing the rigor of college-prep courses and adding Advanced Placement options produce better college outcomes, they write.

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Their research looked at college grades for students who’d taken the same course in high school compared to those trying that subject for the first time. In physics, psychology, economics and sociology, the differences were “trivially small.” 

However, students who’d taken calculus in high school did modestly better in college calculus.

It’s likely high school students “often learn the wrong things, do not sufficiently focus on the critical thinking commonly needed in college, or simply forget much of what they learned,” they speculate.

They suggest schools “experiment with innovative and experimental courses” such as “non-cognitive skill development and technical education.”

Freshman year for free: Don’t show up

“Free college” is already here, for students who can handle online learning. Modern States Education Alliance‘s Freshman Year for Free kicked off this fall: Students can earn a year of no-cost college credit via edX classes.

With funding from philanthropist Steven B. Klinsky, Modern States has given edX the money to develop more than 30 entry-level college courses, taught by “some of the world’s leading universities and professors,” according to the New York-based nonprofit.

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In addition to online lectures, each course includes quizzes and tests. Textbooks and other learning materials will be provided online at no charge.

Courses will prepare students to pass Advanced Placement or College Level Examination Program” (CLEP) tests offered by the College Board. Courses include Sociology, Chemistry, Macroeconomics, Marketing, Business Law and more.

The Texas State University System is encouraging nontraditional (adult) students to skip freshman year by using the edX classes, reports the Texas Trib.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) tend to have very low completion rates, especially for less-educated students. However, that’s partly due to the uncertain payoff: Those who stick with the course typically don’t earn credit.

Pedal power raises math grades


Students can choose to pedal during class. Photo: Paul Cory/Wake County Public Schools

Pedal power is helping kids pay attention and learn more math at a North Carolina middle school, reports BBC News.

Bethany Lambeth’s students had trouble sitting still. She put 10 bike pedals under desks and let them try to burn off energy quietly during lessons.

Students said it improved their focus.

“They were able to recall a lot more of what I was saying and because they participated more they understood more and they did better in tests.”

As a result she says their test grades demonstrably improved from when the pedals were introduced in April compared to earlier in the school year.

The school hopes to buy bike pedals for more classrooms.

U.S. kids lag in belittling skills, vocabulary

Most U.S. students lack the language skills and vocabulary necessary to belittle classmates effectively, according to the National Center for Education Research, reports The Onion.

“Unfortunately, most of our students are finishing high school with only a fifth-grade ability to shame and deride their peers,” said report co-author and educational psychologist Joyce Marrone. “While they know how to identify a loser, they lack the semantic tools to articulate exactly why that person is so lame, ugly, or stupid.”

The average eighth-grader knows only two synonyms for “slut,” the study found.

It’s critical for students to master the ability “to subtly question a female’s competence or snidely remark on a male’s perceived lack of masculinity,” notes The Onion.

Said Marrone, “If they don’t achieve linguistic proficiency while in school, they’ll never develop the gossiping, bad-mouthing, or shit-talking skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.”

Everyone hates sex ed

Kids around the world hate sex education, concludes an analysis of 55 studies conducted in 10 countries.

In addition to the U.S., students were surveyed in UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Iran, Brazil and Sweden between 1990 and 2015, reports TIME.

Schools “don’t take into account that sex is a potentially embarrassing and anxiety provoking topic,” study author Pandora Pound, a research fellow at the University of Bristol, told TIME. “The result can be awkward, painful and unsatisfactory for all involved.”

The second major problem was that schools seemed to deny that their students were sexually active, which made the information out of touch with reality, irrelevant and overly skewed toward heterosexual intercourse, the researchers say. There was little practical information: telling students about community-health services, for example, what to do if they got pregnant or the pros and cons of different kinds of birth control. Teachers also presented the information as overly scientific, with hardly a nod to pleasure and desire; female pleasure, specifically, was rarely mentioned.

Sex ed “needs to be delivered by experts who are sex positive, who enjoy their work and who are in a position to maintain clear boundaries with students,” Pound says. Students say it’s “cringey” to hear their regular teachers discussing sex.

From zero tolerance to zero control

To replace inflexible zero-tolerance policies, schools are adopting inflexible “no student removal” policies, writes Richard Ullman a high school teacher in Allegany County, New York, in an Education Week commentary.

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Keeping “dangerous and defiant students” in the classroom makes it difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn, he argues.

If Johnny can’t read very well, the teacher gets the blame, writes Ullman. “It have more to do with the pathologically disruptive classmate who, given infinite ‘second chances’ by detached policymakers and feckless administrators, never gets removed from Johnny’s classroom.”

“Restorative justice” programs, which stress counseling, try to keep students in school, he writes. “Higher suspension and expulsion figures for minority students” are blamed for what’s known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

However, while all educators must be mindful of biases and pushing out kids considered at risk, it bears emphasizing that the biggest victims of warehousing miscreants are the large numbers of nondisruptive, genuinely teachable students who tend to come from the same home environments as their poorly behaved classmates.

. . .  just how many times should the student who spews obscenities be sent back to class with no reprisals? Just how much instructional time has to be sacrificed to hold yet another assembly on why yet another schoolwide brawl occurred?

Administrators and “experts” are raising the academic bar while they’re lowering or eliminating discipline standards, writes Ullman. Teachers are left to do the heavy lifting.

Rosetta Stone replaces teachers in Maine

Unable to find a French and Spanish teacher, a Maine high school will use Rosetta Stone software to teach foreign languages, reports Rachel Ohm in the Morning Sentinel. An educational technician will help students with the software.

In Madison, a small town in central Maine, 67 out of 215 high school students take French or Spanish.

Rosetta Stone is used in more than 4,000 schools nationwide, though usually to supplement rather than replace a human teacher, reports Ohm.

Paige Wong, 17, is learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone at Madison High in Maine. Photo: Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Paige Wong, 17, is learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone at Madison High in Maine. Photo: Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Students can work at their own pace, though they’re expected to finish one language level by the end of the year.

The program quizzes students and repeats lessons if they haven’t achieved mastery.

“In a regular classroom, that wouldn’t happen,” (aide Nicholas) Paradis said. “The teacher would say, ‘OK, you got an 80. You’re good forever. Bye.’ Instead, everyone that got an 80 now has to come back and take the quiz again.”

The program teaches 30 languages. Ninth grader Aidan O’Donnell decided to take German, which the school hasn’t offered before.

Madison High will try to hire a foreign language teacher next year, even if Rosetta Stone is a success, said Principal Jessica Ward. “Yes, they are learning the language with the Rosetta Stone program, but I worry that they are missing out on the cultural education and the personal touch of having a real teacher available.”

Via Education Week Teacher.

Technolgy won’t replace teachers, writes Thomas Arnett on the Christensen blog.

The truth is, in the era of artificial intelligence, the most valued and secure jobs will be those that require complex social skills—such as teaching. Good teachers do more than just convey information. They coach and mentor their students to make learning relevant and meaningful, and they foster students’ interests in tackling complex, real-world problems. And while technology can replicate teachers’ expertise in dispensing information and assessing students’ knowledge of rote facts and skills, it is far from replacing the teacher’s role in providing expert feedback on critical thinking, communication, and leadership.

Technology can handle some teaching tasks, he adds. “But the more we utilize the best recorded lectures, documentary films, and instructional technologies to replace live lectures, the more we can free up teachers to spend their time working closely with their students to foster deeper learning.”

Unready, but they don’t know it

Ninety percent of parents believe their children are performing at “grade level” or higher in their schoolwork, according to a Learning Heroes survey this spring. Yet only about a third of high school graduates are ready for college-level courses, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in Education Next.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, he argues. If students and their parents knew they weren’t on track for success, maybe they’d do something about it.

There are efforts to help parents understand their children’s test scores, writes Petrilli. However, “they all have a tendency to soft-pedal the bad news.” Parents might learn their elementary and middle school aren’t ready for “further study” or “the next grade level,” but they won’t be told they’re not on track to succeed in college, which is nearly everyone’s goal.

“Predictive analytics” can estimate a sixth-grader’s future ACT scores, he writes. Why not tell parents if their child is on track for Flagship University, Directional State U or remedial classes at Local Community College?

If parents learn early enough that their child is on the remedial track, they can do something about it.

College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free online tutoring linked to PSAT results, writes Petrilli.

When kids get their PSAT scores, they can instantaneously link to Khan Academy modules that target areas where they need additional help. More than one million teenagers have taken advantage of the offering so far. Why couldn’t states (or districts) do the same? Parents may be more likely to take bad news seriously if it accompanies resources to help their children improve.

Still, it may be that test-score results will never convince parents that their kids need to step it up, at least until schools stop handing out As and Bs to students who aren’t on track for success.

On Curmudgucation, Peter Greene doubts that test scores are more accurate than grades.

4-year degree takes 5 years

It takes 5.1 academic years for the average four-year graduate to complete a degree, reports the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Those who earned a two-year degree were enrolled for 3.3 academic years.

It’s common to switch between full-time and part-time enrollment and to transfer between multiple institutions.

Students who’d participated in dual enrollment programs in high school moved more quickly to a degree, the study found.  The advantage was greatest for students pursuing an associate degree, who gained “a full semester of enrolled time.”

Time to Degree for Bachelor’s Degree Earners

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When high school kids work

About half of high school students have after-school jobs, according to an ACT Foundation report.

Working helps students develop “self-discipline, teamwork and confidence,” researcher Sarah Blanchard Kyte tells Good Call. These skills will pay off in college and beyond.

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The most successful higher-income students work less than 15 hours a week, the study found. That’s not true for students from low-income families. “Those working the most during high school are the most likely to be academically prepared but the least sure of their chances of going to college,” Kyte says.

“The most determined and disciplined low-income students may engage more intensely with both paid work and academics as a strategy out of poverty,” she speculates.

Kyte measures academic preparation by whether students have earned an A or B in algebra by ninth grade. It’s  highly predictive of future college success.