Lost credits hurt transfer students

Lost credits make it difficult for community college transfers to earn a bachelor’s degree, concludes a new study. Fifty-eight percent of students transfer with at least 90 percent of their credits; 14 percent lose 90 percent or more of their credits.

The average full-time student completes 136.5 credits for a 120-degree bachelor’s degree, estimates Complete College America.

California’s associate degree for transfer is smoothing the path for community college graduates seeking bachelor’s degrees, but not all state universities are “saying yes” to transfer students.

Asians fight return of college preferences

“A legislative push to permit California’s public universities to once again consider race and ethnicity in admissions appears to be on life support after an intense backlash from Asian-American parents,” reports the San Jose Mercury News.  Because many Asian-Americans earn high grades and test scores, they’re “over-represented” at University of California campuses.

A planned referendum sailed through the state Senate in January without fanfare on a party-line vote, but three Asian-American Democrats who initially backed the measure are now calling for it to be “tabled” before the state Assembly has a chance to vote on it — a highly unusual move. And it seems unlikely to get the two-thirds majority in the Assembly without the support of the five Asian-Americans in the lower house.

UC reaches out to students from low-income, non-college-educated families. That helps Latinos, blacks — and students from Chinese and Vietnamese immigrant families.

Pre-K dreaming

California Democrats are pushing a bill to require districts to offer pre-K — dubbed “transitional kindergarten” — to all four-year-olds at a cost of more than $1 billion a year, writes Larry Sand in City JournalCosts won’t be offset by greater academic gains or a reduced need for special education, predicts Sand, a retired teacher, who’s president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network . Two words: Head Start.

The federal government released the last of a three-part longitudinal study of the $8 billion-a-year Great Society-era program in December 2012, and the results offered little cause for celebration. According to the report’s executive summary: “[T]here was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.”

The much-cited Perry and Abcedarian experiments involved “no more than 60 children” 40 years ago, writes Sand.

Russ Whitehurst explains how to evaluate the pre-K research on the Brown Center Chalkboard.

In general, a finding of meaningful long-term outcomes of an early childhood intervention is more likely when the program is old, or small, or a multi-year intervention, and evaluated with something other than a well-implemented RCT (randomized controlled trial).  In contrast, as the program being evaluated becomes closer to universal pre-k for four-year-olds and the evaluation design is an RCT, the outcomes beyond the pre-k year diminish to nothing.

He concludes:  “The best available evidence raises serious doubts that a large public investment in the expansion of pre-k for four-year-olds will have the long-term effects that advocates tout.”

California eyes 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

California may let community colleges offer low-cost bachelor’s degrees, if they don’t compete with state universities. Credential inflation is making it harder for two-year graduates in fields such as nursing and respiratory therapy to find jobs. But there are few places in programs at state universities. Twenty-one states now have bachelor’s programs — almost always vocational — at community colleges.

Twenty-eight percent of community college students in Indiana complete a certificate or degree in six years, the state estimates.

Suit challenges teacher tenure

Teacher tenure and seniority rules deny students equal access to an adequate education argues a California lawsuit. Testimony started yesterday in Los Angeles on Vergara vs. CaliforniaStudents Matter, a nonprofit advocacy group, filed on behalf of nine students and their families.

The lawsuit aims to protect the rights of students, teachers and school districts against a “gross disparity” in educational opportunity, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

. . . Teachers unions have vigorously defended tenure, seniority and dismissal rules, calling them crucial safeguards and essential to recruiting and retaining quality instructors. The lawsuit, they contend, is misguided and ignores the true causes of problems in education, such as drops in state funding.

Minority and low-income students are far more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers, the lawsuit argues.

Math makeover

“Math is getting a major makeover” in California classrooms because of Common Core standards, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

By fall, traditional textbooks mostly will be tossed aside in California classrooms. What’s taught in each grade will get shuffled around and, often, merged. First-graders will get tiny tastes of algebra while learning to add, and middle school students will be exposed to statistics and geometry while still solving for X.

Brooke Arroyo, who teaches Algebra I at Denman Middle School in San Francisco, will switch to Math 8 next year along with most eighth graders.

It won’t be an easier course, she says.”Eighth-grade math is going to have geometry in it and algebra. It’s just not going to be called algebra. It’s not going to be called geometry.”

Textbooks are out. Prjoects are in.

“Students might have to estimate a wildlife population using colored Goldfish crackers, an activity that uses algebraic functions, proportion and estimation, with a built-in snack at the end,” said Ann Lyon, the school’s instructional reform facilitator.

Behind the Latino graduation gap

Latinos who graduate from California’s high-scoring public high schools enroll in community college at much higher rates than their black, Asian and white classmates, according to a new study. Asian-Americans and whites typically start at four-year colleges and universities, which cost more but have much higher graduation rates than community colleges.

District schools become faux charters

Money is motivating some charter conversions in California, reports Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Report. Until this year, all California charters received the state’s average per-pupil funding. Schools in districts with below-average funding could convert to charters and move up to the average. They also could apply for federal startup grants.

That’s lead to a wave of “chinos” — charters in name only — that haven’t changed curriculum, teaching, schedules or anything else.

Several California school districts with only one school have become “charter districts.” And in at least five California districts with multiple campuses, charters now comprise nearly all of the schools. Many of these “dependent” charters retain close ties to their districts.

In San Carlos, five out of six schools are charters. Most parents don’t realize their neighborhood school is a charter. There are no lotteries, writes Butrymowicz. “The schools still have a traditional central office and school board overseeing them.”

Starting this year, district schools in California can’t boost state funding by converting to charters. Conversation applications are way down.

Nationally, conversion charters make up nearly 10 percent of all charter schools. 

Schools prepare for transgender rights

California schools are preparing for a transgender students’ rights law by “reviewing locker room layouts” and ” scheduling sensitivity training for coaches,” reports AP.  Above all, does the school have a private restroom for transgender students or will a biological boy be allowed in the girls’ room?

However the law, which lets public school children use the sex-segregated facilities of their choice, could be suspended within days of its Jan. 1 launch if a referendum to repeal it qualifies for the ballot.

Ashton Lee, 16, a junior at Manteca High School in the San Joaquin Valley, was born female but wants to be treated as male. Last year, he asked to be transferred from an all-girls aerobics class to a team sports class for boys. School officials said no. They reconsidered in the fall.

He now is allowed to use the boy’s restrooms and locker rooms and to wear the junior ROTC uniform for male cadets.

Similar adjustments have been made for five transgender classmates.

Manteca High, located in a conservative rural area, has 1,648 students of which six have declared themselves to be transgender. That seems like a very high number to me. Why has transgender status gone from incredibly rare to . . . not very unusual?

Remedial remake

High failure rates in remedial math have prompted Illinois community college teachers to develop “math literacy” courses for students in non-STEM majors.

A remedial revolution will hit Florida next fall: Most state college students will not be required to take remedial courses, regardless of their college readiness.

“Accelerated” remediation is getting more community college students to college-level math and English in California.