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.”

Career tech ed vs. bureaucracy

Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bipartisan update on the Perkins Act, is moving through Congress. Among other things, the bill is supposed to give states more flexibility and less paperwork.

Bureaucracy isn’t just a federal program, writes Monica Disare on Chalkbeat. In New York, it takes four to six years for schools to get state approval for a multi-year career-focused curriculum.

Students design products at Urban Assembly Maker Academy in New York City.

Students design products at Urban Assembly Maker Academy in New York City.

The delay turns off business partners and makes it hard to match career courses to new job markets. “If schools choose to forgo the certification process, they may have a tougher time securing federal funding and cannot provide their students with a CTE-endorsed diploma,” reports Disare.

At New York City’s Urban Assembly Maker Academy, Principal Luke Bauer wanted to start a program in “interaction design,” which focuses on how users interact with technology, writes Disare. Industry partners hoped it would lead some of his students to full-time jobs. But “the idea didn’t fit into any of the typical categories approved by New York state,” and getting approval was too difficult.

State certification requirements also make it hard to find CTE teachers — especially in emerging fields.

Group work in school isn’t ‘real world’

On “Ask a Manager,” Alison Green responds to someone who’s starting a business graduate program. Administrators say there will be lots of group work “just like the real business world!” He’s dreading it.

Group work in school is really, really different than working on a group project at work,” Green responds.

. . . at work you have totally different types of accountability. If someone is slacking off and not pulling their weight, you have recourse — you can talk to their boss and there’s the specter of consequences.

. . . In school, everyone working on a project is usually bringing similar skills and background to the project. At work, group projects are often made up of people with very different skill sets, because that’s the point of bringing them together to each handle different parts of the project.

And at work, there’s typically someone in the group who’s charge of the overall project and who has the power to make decisions and hold people accountable — whereas school group work often relies on consensus.

In school,  “group projects are often chaotic and imbalanced and frequently disliked,” writes Green. And not without reason.

What I learned at McDonald’s

At Haverford College, Olivia Legaspi learned that her feelings are more important than anything. That’s the ultimate in “privilege,” she believes.

Working at McDonald’s she learned to serve others’ needs, work as a team, deal with stress — without a “safe space” — and get the job done.

Cheap college is better than ‘free’

Hillary Clinton’s “free college” proposal  — no tuition at in-state public universities for families earning up to $125,000 — is proving to be popular with middle-class voters. But it would prop up the old, expensive, unsustainable higher ed model, writes Julia Freeland Fisher on CNN.

The way to make college affordable is to encourage alternatives, writes Fisher, education research director for the Christensen Institute.

For example, short, intensive coding “bootcamps” cost students $5,000 to $15,000 — sometimes payable only after they find jobs. Employment rates are strong:  General Assembly reports “a 99% job placement rate into a student’s field of study.”

. . . Southern New Hampshire University’s College For America (CfA) has managed to offer online competency-based degrees at just $3,000 per year — a fraction of the cost of a traditional brick-and-mortar degree. CfA partners directly with employers to design their curriculum — ensuring that students graduate with skills that the labor market actually values — and allows students to move through coursework at their own pace.

These alternatives focus on workforce preparation, but “there is no reason innovations can’t usher in new offerings that allow students to explore the world and their place in it, or to study a range of humanities and the liberal arts,” writes Fisher. “But there is also no reason those experiences should be priced into behemoth traditional institutions’ broken business models.”

College degree or competence test?

udacitybillboardUdacity guarantees its “Nanodegree” will lead to a job within six months.

“Alternatives to traditional college diplomas,” such as competence tests, would let students “pursue their own best options for learning” and  “demonstrate educational mastery to prospective employers,” says a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Colleges would have to cut costs to compete.

“Even as IT and the Internet have created new ways to research, learn, and impart knowledge,” colleges have no incentive to innovate, the think tank observes. Helping students learn outside the classroom “would cut into their revenue.” Raising standards might “drive away customers.”

Students meanwhile have little incentive to push themselves harder than necessary to earn their degrees, since degrees are opaque, deriving their value from institutional brands rather than clear measures of academic achievement.

The report goes beyond “attempts by the Lumina Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Measuring College Learning project and other reform-minded players to determine the right competencies or desired learning outcomes for academic disciplines or degree tracks,” reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.

The think tank calls for the federal government to encourage “standardized assessments from outside groups, not colleges or other education providers,” to measure learning normally certified by a college degree.

And those assessments should not discriminate based on where a student achieved the necessary proficiency, whether through learning on the job, by taking MOOCs, studying on their own or by attending a four-year university or a community college.

When  hiring, federal agencies should require proof of competence, not degrees, the report said. Student aid should include alternative learning options, such as MOOCs.

Glenn Reynolds wraps up the case against college for all: Most students won’t learn much and many won’t find jobs that use their degrees, he writes. Meanwhile, tuition and debt keep rising.

Udacity’s online Nanodegree comes with a job guarantee: Find work within six months or get your money back. Students pay $299 a month to qualify as an “Android Developer,” “iOS Developer,” “Machine Learning Engineer” or “Senior Web Developer.”

Backlash: Diversity training boosts bias

Here’s a non-surprise: Mandatory diversity training leads to less diversity and more hostility, concludes a study published in the Harvard Business Review.

. . . five years after instituting required training for managers, companies saw no improvement in the proportion of white women, black men, and Hispanics in management, and the share of black women actually decreased by 9%, on average, while the ranks of Asian-American men and women shrank by 4% to 5%.

Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance—and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.

Voluntary training led to better results, researchers found.

Research from the University of Toronto reinforces our findings: In one study white subjects read a brochure critiquing prejudice toward blacks. When people felt pressure to agree with it, the reading strengthened their bias against blacks. When they felt the choice was theirs, the reading reduced bias.

Stressing the benefits of a multicultural workforce, rather than the risk of lawsuits, college recruitment aimed at women and minorities, mentoring new hires and creating in-house diversity efforts led to a more diverse managerial workforce over time. Bringing in outside consultants backfired.

I went through this sort of mandatory training in my newspaper days. One Power Point presentation featured purple hippos, because nobody employed by Knight-Ridder Newspapers was a purple hippo.

School administrators might benefit from a look at the research.

Jobs are back, but not the same jobs

Nearly all the jobs created since the Great Recession have gone to workers with some college education, according to America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Divided Recovery Infographics

Managerial and professional workers are doing well. Workers with a high school diploma or less, such as clerical and blue-collar workers, are struggling to find work.

Production industries, such as manufacturing, construction and natural resources, employed nearly half of the workforce in 1947; that’s fallen to 19 percent in 2016.

Now, nearly half the workforce is in healthcare, business, financial, education and government services, which primarily employ managerial and professional workers with college degrees.

In 2016, for the first time, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are a larger proportion of the workforce (36 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less (34 percent), the report noted. Thirty percent are “middle-skill” workers with more than a high school diploma — often a vocational certificate — but less than a bachelor’s degree.

Explaining why a Texas gas station chain pays workers well while competitors do not, Kevin D. Williamson includes a fun fact: “The median salary for a women’s-studies professor is more than a hundred grand a year. The average hourly earnings for a graduate with a women’s-studies degree? Eleven bucks an hour, well less than you’d make working the car wash at Buc-ee’s.”

In prison — and in college

Some prison inmates will receive federal college aid under the $30 million Second Chance Pell Grant program.

Under a pilot program, 12,000 inmates at 141 state and federal institutions will receive grants worth up to $5,815 to pursue a two- or four-year degree from an approved college or university,  reports USA Today.

The 1994 crime bill explicitly banned giving Pell aid to prisoners. Secretary of Education John King is using “experimentation authority under the Higher Education Act” to evade the ban.

Donald Daniels, who spent the last 29 years in and out of prison, is now an A student at his California prison's school. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Pro Photography Network

Donald Daniels, who spent the last 29 years in and out of prison, is now an A student at his California prison’s school. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Pro Photography Network

The program is focused on prisoners likely to be released — and job hunting — within five years, reports Inside Higher Ed.  “Most of the colleges chosen will offer classes in person at the correctional facilities, while some will offer online classes.” In addition,  many “plan to offer a range of support services and tailor their instruction to local labor markets.”

Many of the 67 participating colleges are community colleges with expertise in job training, but others are universities such as Rutgers and Ashland University (Ohio) with experience in correctional education.

“Inmates who participate in any kind of educational program behind bars—from remedial math to vocational auto shop to college-level courses—are up to 43 percent less likely to reoffend and return to prison,” according to a 2013 RAND study. “They also appear to be far more likely to find a job after their release, and the social stability that comes with it.”

Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five dollars, RAND concluded, by keeping former inmates out of prison.

Two-thirds of prison inmates are high school dropouts and many are illiterate. But they’ve got plenty of time to study. Online education makes it more feasible to educate prisoners.

Know before you go

Colorado universities aren’t happy about a new web site,  launchmycareercolorado.org, which helps potential students estimate the return of investment on college based on their major, school and degree.

For example, a dental hygienist with a two-year degree can expect to earn considerably more than a sociologist with a four-year degree.

Dental hygienists with a certificate or two-year degree earn more than many non-technical college graduates.

Dental hygienists with a certificate or two-year degree earn more than many non-technical college graduates.

The site includes survey of graduates’ satisfaction with their jobs (often low) and with their lives (typically quite high).

A graph shows graduates’ earnings vs. a high school graduate with no college credential. Some college grads take many years to equal and then surpass the earnings of less-educated workers.

“There are many degrees that don’t have a return on investment, and you should know before you go,” said Mark Schneider president of College Measures, which helped launch the site.