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


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.

Image result for high school students after-school jobs

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.

Open houses, closed doors

Ruby Bromberg’s parents paid for a service that tells students how to get into open houses required for admission to high-performing public schools. Photo: Monica Disare/Chalkbeat

Applying to some highly regarded New York City public schools, requires insider knowledge, writes Monica Disare on Chalkbeat. Scoring a seat at the open house isn’t easy. Many schools give admissions preferences to students who came to an open house or information session.

One day last fall, Ruby Bromberg rushed to her computer and frantically began refreshing the page to see when Bard High School Early College — a high-performing public school in Manhattan — would post its open house registration. When the site went live, she clicked through as fast as she could and snagged a coveted seat.

Slots filled up in less than 15 minutes, the principal told open-house attendees.

Ruby knew to be at her computer to sign up at precisely the right time because her family paid $150 for a service called High School 411. The service sends email updates with information and reminders about coveted open house slots. Without it, the website says, “families are left in the dark and on their own.”

In theory, students can show interest — essential for admission — by signing up at a high school fair, but not all schools participate, writes Disare, “and there is no way to track whether those sign-ups count.”

Yahayra Colon, a top student at her Washington Heights middle school, didn’t visit any potential high schools. She disliked her first high school, transferred to another that was “scary,” tried Catholic school (her mother took a second job to pay for it), then tried a fourth and a fifth public school. She’s starting at SUNY Oneonta this fall.

By contrast, savvy parents begin visiting potential high schools when their children are in seventh grade, writes Disare.

Update the classics with a PC subtitle

Image result for tom sawyer whitewashing the fenceSuggested title is Tom Sawyer: Lessons in Whitewashing Credit: Norman Rockwell

Add a politically correct subtitle to the book of the week in the National Association of Scholars’ contest.

It’s possible to find up-to-date political lessons in classic literature, NAS argues.

Subtitle a Jane Austen novel to fit modern sensibilities.

Subtitle a Jane Austen novel to fit modern sensibilities.

For example, Crime and Punishment can be seen as the story of a debt-stressed student, driven to mental illness, who kills his lender. Fahrenheit 451 might be subtitled “Projected Earth Surface Temperature in the 22nd Century.”

This week, contestants may pick any novel by Jane Austen and write a new subtitle. NAS suggests: Pride and Prejudice:  Finding Safe Spaces for Queer Folks Under Heteronormative Tyranny. #PCSubtitle @NASorg

I like Sense and Sensibility: The Intersectionality of Internalized Cis Privilege and Frailty.

Higher math: Who needs it?

Stop requiring all students to learn advanced algebra, geometry and trigonometry, argues David Edwards, who teaches math at the University of Georgia.

It’s a myth that the economy needs everyone to master higher math, he argues in the Foundation for Economic Education blog.

Even “the vast majority of scientists, engineers and actuaries” use only Excel and eighth-grade math, defined as “arithmetic, and a little bit of algebra, statistics and programming,” writes Edwards.

When Accenture was recruiting math and computer science majors at UGA, Edwards invited them to speak to his Math for Computer Science class.

After they finished, I asked the consultants: So, what mathematics do you actually use? They sheepishly responded: None. So, I asked them: What computer science do you actually use? Again the answer was: None. They were only interested in math or computer science majors as a convenient filter!

“Higher mathematics is central to a serious higher education,” Edwards believes. However, this applies only a “minute fraction” of students:  He envisions a Harvard philosophy major.

The argument — popular in math departments — that math helps students “think clearly” is “self-serving nonsense,” Edwards writes. “In sports there is the concept of the specificity of skills: if you want to improve your racquetball game, don’t practice squash! I believe the same holds true for intellectual skills.”

What do you think? If students were competent in arithmetic, with a bit of algebra, statistics and programming — and Excel — would they be good enough?

‘Free’ plan will boost unselective colleges

Hillary Clinton’s plan to eliminate public college tuition for families with incomes up to $125,000 would raise enrollment by 9 to 22 percent at community colleges and unselective state universities while reducing private-college enrollment by 15 percent, predicts a Georgetown study.

The Tennessee Promise program, which made public community and technical colleges free in the state, “resulted in enrollment increases of about 20-25 percent in the first year,” noted Georgetown.

Graduation rates are low at unselective colleges and universities. If the plan encourages those who could qualify for a more selective private college to choose a “free” public option, it could lower the odds of college success.

The U.S. Education Department’s College Scorecard has been updated with information on college completion rates, debt statistics, and post-college earnings of alumni.

 Colleges with the highest graduation rates include Golf Academy of America, Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

‘Dual’ grads find credits won’t transfer

Dual-enrollment programs are soaring in popularity, writes Catherine Gewertz in Education Week. Students hope earning college credits in high school will save them time and money in college. But some are discovering their colleges won’t accept dual-enrollment credits.

Are dual-enrollment students headed for disappointment?

Are dual-enrollment students headed for disappointment?

While in high school in Dallas, Sabrina Villanueva earned 12 credits at a local community college by taking speech, government, psychology and sociology. The credits counted toward her high school diploma — but the University of Rochester rejected them all. That ended her plans to minor in psychology or sociology while majoring in engineering.

“Dual enrollment is like the Wild West,” Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center, told Gewertz. “No one seems to know what credits students are earning and whether those credits are applicable toward any sort of degree.”

Only half the states have agreements that require public colleges and universities to accept dual-enrollment credits, according to the Education Commission of the States, and those agreements don’t require the compliance of private institutions.

More than 11 percent of high school students take dual-enrollment courses. Under a new federal pilot program, low-income students can “use Pell grants to cover costs at 44 institutions,” writes Gewertz.

Community college students also have trouble transferring credits to four-year institutions. Some states now require public universities to work with community colleges to agree on which courses are rigorous enough to generate transfer credits.

Many colleges and universities won’t award credit for a grade of 3 (supposedly a C equivalent) on an Advanced Placement exam; some give no credit for a 4 (B) or 5 (A).

Colleges should be required to accept AP credits, argues the Progressive Policy Institute.  However, Nat Malkus is dubious about the idea.

Fierce feminists — or Indian-identity thieves?

nativeA girls’ high school basketball team in Iowa is under fire for a poster honoring the school’s Indian mascot, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. The Clarke High basketball team stands accused of appropriating Native American culture by dressing up as Indians. (They dance at the bottom of the poster, above the basketball schedule.)

“Several people pointed out on Facebook that the headdress is sacred in Native American tradition, and only men were allowed to wear it,” writes Soave. “But in that case, aren’t the girls actually striking a blow against the patriarchy?”

“Kudos to the Arbiters of Femininity for cyberbullying these girls,” writes The College Fix‘s Greg Piper.

“The girls look fierce as hell,” writes Soave

Clarke High asked photographer Ben Shirk to shoot a poster incorporating the mascot, writes Nick Martin. He calls the result “high-quality racism.”

When I started at Stanford, we were the “Indians.” Home football games started with a dance by “Prince Lightfoot.” My roommate, who was Native American, didn’t mind the Indian name, but hated the dance, which she said was pure Hollywood hoke. By sophomore, we were the Stanford Cardinal — a color, not a bird. I wonder what she’d think of the poster.

Patriotism: Are we in this together?

Most Woodrow Wilson High football players in Camden, N.J., knelt during the national anthem last Saturday. Photo:Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer, via Associated Press

High school football players across the country are refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Rejecting the rituals of patriotism is a mistake, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks.

The idea of America is that we’re supposed to “create a good and just society,” he writes. And that we’re always “screwing it up.”

“This fusion of radical hope and radical self-criticism” is America’s “civic religion,” he writes. It’s “fired a fervent desire for change.”

When we sing the national anthem, we’re not commenting on the state of America. . . . We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled. If we don’t transmit that creed through shared displays of reverence we will have lost the idea system that has always motivated reform. We will lose the sense that we’re all in this together. We’ll lose the sense of shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives. If these common rituals are insulted, other people won’t be motivated to right your injustices because they’ll be less likely to feel that you are part of their story.

In short, it’s “we the people” or every man, woman and being for him-, her- or zir- self.

At many schools, “a globalist mentality teaches students they are citizens of the world rather than citizens of America,” Brooks complains. “The multiculturalist mind-set values racial, gender and ethnic identities and regards national identities as reactionary and exclusive.”

Since the post-911 peak in patriotism, Americans are less likely to say they’re “extremely proud” of their country, reports Gallup. The decline is sharpest for those 18 to 29 years old. However, only 1 percent say they’re not proud at all.

Trend: How proud are you to be an American -- extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud or not at all proud?