Many paths lead upward

 From Fordham’s EduWatch 2016: 6 Themes For Education

Job skills can be first step to college

Students in the Jewish Homes’s geriatric career development program take summer classes taught by registered nurses at Hostos Community College.
New York City students in the Jewish Homes’s geriatric career development program take summer classes at Hostos Community College. Photo: Meredith Kolodner

Training to care for the elderly is helping low-income New York City students qualify for jobs — and go to college, reports Meredith Kolodner in the Washington Monthly. Jewish Homes, which needs aides and nurses, offers help finishing high school and applying to college and paid internships.

Mercedez Vargas was struggling to complete her high school diploma at a last-chance night school, when she learned about the Jewish Homes’ program. “As I started interacting with the elderly, I actually found it was something I would like,” said Vargas, who is 20. “Now I actually love it.”

Participants come after school for four hours twice a week to get academic, job and college prep, as well as a free meal. Juniors go on college visits and rising seniors take a 10-week summer course aimed at passing the state nursing assistant exam.

While their high schools have an average graduation rate of 61 percent, nearly 100 percent of students in the program graduate.

The Jewish Home hires program graduates as nursing assistants for $15 an hour. Registered nurses, who need a college degree, average more than $36 an hour. Eighty percent of participants since 2009 have earned a degree or are pursuing one, writes Koldner. But it’s a challenge.

These students often come from high schools where they got good grades for simply showing up and turning in their work on time, said program director Toni Sexton.

. . . “We’ve coined the phrase ‘gentle dream crushing and gentle dream redirection,’ because our students going pre-med is a waste of their financial aid,” said Sexton. “Not because they’re not bright — we have lots of bright, very intelligent young people who are incredibly underprepared, and at this point it’s nearly impossible for them catch up.”

Vargas works evenings and weekends as a home health care aide, while taking full-time community college courses to prepare for the nursing assistant exam. Once she passes that hurdle, her mentors are encourging her to go for a nursing degree.

Job training, BA — or a third way

Our higher-ed system, which puts general courses at the front end, doesn’t work for many students, writes Mary Alice McCarthy, a senior policy analyst at New America Foundation, in Rethinking the Bachelor’s Degree.

She has two nephews who weren’t academically motivated.

Allen completed a political science degree in six expensive years. He’s unemployed and living with his parents.

Jeffrey apprenticed at a restaurant while taking community college classes and works as a chef. But the pay is low and he needs a bachelor’s degree to move up to a more lucrative restaurant management job. His credits and experience don’t count toward that four-year degree.

In Washington state, Evergreen State College offers an “upside-down bachelor’s degree, with the technical education coming first, followed by two years of broader, general education,” she writes.

Other community colleges in Washington offer a bachelor’s of applied science, designed to build on a two-year technical degree, she writes. For example, the BAS in manufacturing operations at Clover Park Technical College adds business and management skills to a two-year machinery repair program.

McCarthy worries about “the notion that everyone must earn a bachelor’s degree to be successful.” Some schools are offering a bachelor’s of applied science in dental hygiene, while many dental hygienists qualify with a one-year certificate.

Nearly two-thirds of job postings for executive assistants require a bachelor’s degree, even though only a fifth of people in the job now are college graduates, reports Burning Glass Technologies.

High school welcomes ‘Scolars’ 

North High in Worcester, Massachusetts welcomed back its “scolars” on the eve of the first day of school.

“For a school that was routinely on the front pages earlier this year for fights, arrests, bomb threats, assaults, and an email from the principal to the entire staff accusing a teacher of causing possible race relation problems, this is probably not the way North wanted to start the new school year,” reports GoLocal Worcester.

Laptops in, textbooks out

Students will get laptops rather than textbooks at Houston schools, reports the Houston Chronicle.  All high school students in the district will receive laptops.

All math and social studies materials will be digital this year. Printed science books were scrapped last year. English books will be next. The new model is “electronic text with features like hyperlinks, videos and interactive maps,” reports the Chronicle.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

 Superintendent Terry Grier hopes to raise stagnant test scores by using savings from not buying books to “fund the technology and online resources that can be updated more easily,” reports the Chronicle.

“It’s called a digital transformation,” Grier said. “And every teacher is to make that transformation.”

“There are so many things wrong with doing this,” writes Darren, a math teacher who blogs at Right on the Left Coast.Books make it easier to read, find things, study and highlight.  Screens are hard on the eyes and “use a color of light that is known to screw up your circadian rhythms. That means that it’s harder to fall and stay asleep if you study near bedtime.”

There are other problems.

Is the infrastructure strong enough to support the laptops?  (How often does the power go out?  How often does the internet go out?  How often does the wireless go out?  Can the district handle all those kids logged on at once?) Do I have stable desks, and carpeting?

How am I, the teacher, supposed to handle a kid who forgot to charge his laptop, and it goes out during the quiz?

How will the district/schools handle those kids who just cannot be trusted on computers?  (Yes, they exist, and sometimes they find a way to access porn sites and send hundreds of pictures to the school secretary’s printer. Just saying.)

“Two years ago our prior superintendent pushed a mandate to give every single kid an iPad,” writes Ellen K, who blogs at The Sum of All Things, in a comment. Results:

-Less focus on writing-both content and the skill.

-Fewer research skills as students resort to plagiarism on an exponential scale.

-Inability to read — especially scary when you consider that young kids are being taught to read on devices over printed material. Five year olds don’t know the phrase “eye strain” but they do know when something hurts. . . .

-The inability of teachers to remove or even control distractions created by devices has resulted in classroom chaos. Fights and events are formulated on social media and it is literally us against them.

Other than that, it’s been great.

 

Treat pro athletes like teachers

Key and Peele’s TeachingCenter skit inspired dreams of teachers treated  like pro athletes, but we need to treat pro athletes more like teachers, writes Matt Barnum on The 74 Million.

“After all, when you don’t count our poor kids, we have one of the best education systems in the world,” he writes.

By contrast, the average professional sports team, which wins no more than it loses, could learn from our public schools.

For example, we should stop paying athletes for performance. “Basketball star Lebron James can earn more than $20 million in a single season, while a teammate earns less than $1 million for doing the same job.”

It is well known that merit pay is an idea that “never works and never dies” according to education historian Diane Ravitch. After all it assumes that athletes only play for financial incentives rather than the love of the game. . . . Many pop psychologists have also pointed out that incentive pay will lead to a reduction in collaboration and intrinsic motivation. Instead, athletes should be compensated solely based on experience and whether they have a master’s degree in the sport that they play.

To prevent cheating, “we need to immediately stop evaluating teams and players based on narrow quantitative metrics, like wins and losses. A team is more than a score.”

Finally, it’s time to “stop the war on veteran athletes,” writes Barnum. “Our teams deserve experienced, qualified players — not young kids straight out of college or even high school who are supposedly faster and more athletic.”

Top colleges for value, mobility

University of California at Riverside tops the Washington Monthly’college rankings, which give top honors to schools that enroll and graduate “students of modest means” while “charging them a reasonable price,” write the editors.

The rankings also give credit for research — are these schools “creating the new technologies and ideas that will drive economic growth and advance human knowledge?” — and whether they encourage students to join the military or the Peace Corps or perform community service.

You’ll see it doesn’t intersect very much with U.S. News‘ college rankings.

Two years ago, President Obama pledged to rate every college and university in America by “who’s offering the best value,” note the Monthly‘s editors.

The higher ed lobby mobilized to kill the ratings plan. In June, it was canceled.

The Monthly also ranks the best bang-for-the-buck colleges.

 

College payoff is less for blacks, Hispanics

College-educated blacks and Latinos fared significantly worse in the recession than less-educated minorities, concludes a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis report.

Earning a college degree raises earnings for blacks and Latinos, but it also may add to debts. “Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concluded. “College degrees alone do not provide short-term wealth protection, nor do they guarantee long-term wealth accumulation.”

race-wealth-income“Better-educated African American and Latinos were more likely to own homes, and those homes tended to be their primary source of wealth, so when the housing market collapsed, their residences transformed from piggy banks into anchors,” writes Joseph Williams on TakePart.

Minority and low-income students “don’t attend the best possible colleges they could (based on grades, etc.),” which lowers earnings, S. Michael Gaddis, a Penn State sociology professor, told TakePart.

Black and Latino graduates earn significantly less than whites and Asian-Americans.

In a study Gaddis conducted in March, job applications with “white” names resulted in more job offers for higher pay than those with “black” names. Fictional jobseekers who claimed to be graduates of elite colleges did better than those from less-elite colleges, but race mattered. “Education apparently has its limits because even a Harvard degree cannot make DaQuan as enticing as Charlie to employers,” Gaddis wrote.

Pell costs billions, but most don’t graduate

Billions of dollars in Pell grants are going to students who never earn degrees, reports Hechinger’s Sarah Butrymowicz.

“Since 2000, taxpayers have spent $300 billion on Pell grants . . . with no way of knowing how many of the recipients ever actually earned degrees,” she writes.

The federal college-aid program is designed for low- and moderate-income students. Most come from families earning less than $40,000 a year.

A Hechinger analysis found Pell graduation rates for the largest private and public universities.

Graduation rates were higher at colleges and universities with fewer Pell-eligible students. For example, 97 percent of Harvard’s Pell recipients earn a degree, no lower than the rate for all Harvard students. But only 15 percent receive Pell aid.

At Davenport University in Michigan, 47 percent of students receive a Pell grant. Only 26 percent earn a degree.

According to an Education Department report, which included 70 percent of Pell recipients, 39 percent earned a bachelor’s degree in six years. (Congress ordered the report.)

There are many reasons students who receive Pell grants never finish. At many universities and colleges, the money doesn’t cover the full cost of tuition, fees, and other expenses, and some students don’t have the resources to pay the rest. Others arrive from low-performing public high schools less well prepared than their higher-income classmates.

The National Center for Education Statistics reviewed Pell graduation rates by institution in 2006, but didn’t distribute the results, according to Mark Schneider, who was the commissioner of NCES at the time.

Now a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, Schneider said that publishing Pell graduation rates will cause a backlash. “We’re going to be really, really sorry we have them because they’re going to be so bad.”

Study: White teachers expect less of blacks

Non-black teachers have lower expectations for black students than black teachers, concludes a recent study.

“We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two,” writes researcher Seth Gershenson. But it’s likely that teachers’ expectations “shape student outcomes.”

Two teachers for each 10th grader were asked to predict the student’s educational attainment.  “When a black student is evaluated by one black teacher and by one non-black teacher, the non-black teacher is about 30 percent less likely to expect that the student will complete a four-year college degree than the black teacher,” writes Gershenson, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at American University.

Racial mismatch in the classroom is a growing issue, reports USA Today.

The teaching force remains mostly white, while a majority of students are Latino, a fast-growing group, black, Asian and other.

“If you have a school where the student body is of color and the teaching body is entirely white, it sets up a dynamic that doesn’t foster cohesiveness and does not inspire students and can be problematic,” said Ulrich Boser, a senior researcher at the Center for American Progress.

A Florida study found that black, white or Asian students performed better when assigned to same-race teachers.

Of course, the only way to achieve that would be segregation.