Downsizing hits community colleges

After the recession spiked enrollment and funding, community colleges are cutting courses and faculty in response to declining enrollment.

‘College for all’ includes job training

College is the path to a good job, but that includes going to community college to train for skilled blue-collar jobs that offer a path to the middle class.

Test: Which cell plan is best?

PBS NewsHour looks at an international exam that asks students to apply their reading, math and science skills to real-life situations, reports John Merrow. “For example, they may be asked to analyze different cell phone plans to figure out which is the best deal.”

How many adults could do that?

Learning to reflect, but not to teach

Ed schools are big on reflection, but don’t teach prospective teachers how to teach, complains Peter Sipe, a Boston middle school teacher, in the Boston Herald.

While he went to ed school, his wife was in medical school. She learned how to be a doctor. He reflected.

. . . a professor would speak for a bit on some theoretical matter, then we’d break into small groups to discuss it for an extravagantly long time, then we’d get back into a big group and share our opinions some more. I remember a class one evening in which you could not speak unless you had been tossed an inflatable ball. My wife’s classes did not go like this.

The state certification exams to become a teacher “were parlor games” compared to the medical board exams his wife had to pass.

In education school he was encouraged to be a “reflective practitioner,” but got little practical training in “how to do anything.”

Pilots aren’t trained by forming small groups to discuss the atmosphere. Cadets don’t become cops by writing weekly responses to Crime and Punishment.

. . . The logic was, I believe, that we would receive our practical training on the job. And I guess I did. But it was rather in the manner one would learn by being told to find the manual after the starboard engines quit.

After 14 years as a teacher, he wishes he’d learned how to teach students to read well and “what to do when they can’t.”

But hell, I’d have settled for learning how to take attendance, or collect papers, or manage a fire drill properly.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, only a third of ed schools “do an adequate job in reading instruction, around one in five do so in math, and under 10 percent do well in both simultaneously,” writes Sipe.

‘Good apples’ need tenure

Teacher tenure is for good apples too, writes Arthur Goldstein in the New York Daily News.

A career-switching friend lost his teaching job after asking why his special-ed students weren’t getting the help they’d been promised, writes Goldstein. He didn’t have tenure.

Without tenure, I’d probably be in Harry’s place. I teach English as a second language, usually to beginners, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

One year, I had two students who spoke English but couldn’t read or write. One had been kicking around city schools for years.

He had a strategy for pushy teachers like me. He listened intently and participated orally as much as possible. But when I sat him down and wrote words like “mother” and “house,” he could not decode them at all. I contacted his mother, who knew of his problem. I sought help in the building.

Around this time, I read an article in the paper about ESL. I called the writer to comment. The story of my illiterate students came up, and he asked me if he could write about it. I wasn’t sure. He asked me whether I had tenure. I told him I did; he said it shouldn’t be a problem.

After the writer asked the city Education Department about my two students, I was immediately summoned into the principal’s office. He heartily condemned my ingratitude.

He was “scrutinized constantly,” but couldn’t be fired, writes Goldstein, a union chapter leader.

Teaching “entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it,” he writes. Without tenure, teachers who stand up for their students will take a huge risk.

Only the bad apples need tenure, responds RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.  “It’s admirable that Goldstein looks out for the kids in his care,” but “he is already covered under New York State’s civil service law, which provides rather reasonable protections against unfair dismissals.”

Charters are #1 choice in Newark

Now that Newark parents fill out a single application to district and charter schools, a majority of K-8 students ranked charters as their first choice, reports the Wall Street Journal. Eight of the 10 most-requested schools are charters. Only 45 percent of students got their first-choice school.

In the fall, district schools expect to enroll 34,800 students while charters will take 12,200. District officials predict that 40 percent of public students will attend charters by 2016.

In addition to Newark, Denver, New Orleans and Washington D.C. are experimenting with universal enrollment. Parents fill out one form, ranking their preferences.

In Newark, children with special needs and free-lunch status are are more likely to get their first choice “if such high-needs students were underrepresented in a school’s applicant pool.”


Raising brats

Parents, stop raising your kids to be brats, advises a British nanny who’s worked at home and in the U.S.

If the child says, “I want the pink sippy cup, not the blue!” yet the mum has already poured the milk into the blue sippy cup . . . more often than not, the mum’s face whitens and she rushes to get the preferred sippy cup before the child has a tantrum.

. . . Who is in charge here? Let her have a tantrum, and remove yourself so you don’t have to hear it.

Don’t teach your kids they’ll get what they want by throwing a fit, Emma Jenner advises.

My policy: If you feel the need to scream, do it in your room. I’ll be running the washing machine or the dishwasher and working in the other side of the house.

Also, parents don’t expect enough of their children and they get upset if anyone else tells their kids to behave, Jenner writes.  (My husband will tell kids to behave in a public place.)

Children expect instant gratification, she writes. Parents exhaust themselves providing it.

So often I see mums get up from bed again and again to fulfill the whims of their child. Or dads drop everything to run across the zoo to get their daughter a drink because she’s thirsty. . . . There is nothing wrong with using the word “No” on occasion, nothing wrong with asking your child to entertain herself for a few minutes because mummy would like to use the toilet in private or flick through a magazine for that matter.

Indulgent parents raise their children to be “entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults,” writes Jenner.  “We never wanted them to feel any discomfort, and so when they inevitably do, they are woefully unprepared for it.”

After college, parents still pay

Most college graduates aren’t financially independent — at least not right away — reports a survey by Sallie Mae. Nearly 85 percent of parents plan to offer their children monetary aid after graduation.

Almost one-in-three parents plan to provide their grad with financial assistance for up to six months, and around 50 percent plan to foot bills anywhere from six months to more than five years.

Tough love will help young adults grow up — and protect Mom and Dad’s retirement, advises Dennis Miller on MarketWatch.

Nothing can screw up retirement plans like supporting adult children after you’ve shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition, shuttled them back and forth for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and maybe purchased a new computer for all that research and writing they did (or maybe didn’t do) over four-plus years.

It’s not just the lousy job market, writes Miller. “Social norms have shifted so that accepting help from Mom and Dad well into your 20s is ‘OK’.”

Parents, do not borrow to pay for your child’s college education, advises Robert Farrington on Forbes. If it’s necessary to take out loans, the student should do the borrowing.

Via Cost of College.

Coaching parents to close the word gap

Digital word counters and coaching for parents on toddler talk could help close the “word gap,” hope researchers in Providence, Rhode Island.

Fifty-five toddlers in welfare families, including 2.5-year-old Nylasia Jordan, are part of the pilot, reports John Tulenko for PBS.

Social worker Courtney Soules shows Nylasia’s father that she’s heard 5,000 words on the day she was recorded.  An average child will hear about 16,000 words a day.

There was almost no conversation from 10 am to 4 pm — and lots of TV time. The graphs are helpful, says Freddie Jordan. “Everybody wants their kids to learn more, talk more, full words.”

Soules is encouraging the father to talk more.

Modeling conversation, so, asking her questions, and giving her choices.

And have her point. And as she’s pointing at, say…

And also labeling, whether you’re taking a walk and that you’re pointing out birds and trees, and animals to when you are sitting in the house and that you’re reading a book together.

So far, the pilot has raised the daily word count by 300 to 500 words, not enough to make a difference.

Educators see parents as problems

“In my experience, most administrators and many teachers hold parents in low regard, and their behavior and policies reflect that,” writes John Merrow on Taking Note.

Educators won’t admit it in public. Parents are “our greatest asset,” they’ll say. They’re “invaluable partners.”

But they don’t treat parents as part of the solution, writes Merrow. Middle-class parents are asked to run bake sales. Little is expected of low-income parents.

Some educators feel that low-income parents do not have the time or energy to get deeply involved in their children’s schooling.  . . . plenty of administrators and teachers are genuinely disdainful of parents and apt to dismiss them as uncaring, uninvolved or ignorant.  “Just leave the education to us” is how I would characterize their attitude.

When low-income students are out of school for the summer, they lose reading and math skills to the “summer slide.” They’re not visiting the museum, traveling or going to sports or music camps.

Educators propose more schooling. But what if they asked parents to do more over the summer?

PBS NewsHour is working on a story about Springboard, a Philadelphia nonproft that teaches low-income parents how to coach their children in reading. Reading skills don’t slide over the summer, according to the group’s data. Children improve.