OECD: U.S. lags in college completion

Fifty-two percent of U.S. students who start postsecondary education go on to graduate, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Education at a Glance 2013. The OECD average graduation rate is 70 percent with Japan leading the pack at 90 percent.

On average, OECD countries employ one teacher for every 14 students in upper-secondary school. Portugal hires one teacher for every eight students, while “Mexico breaks the scales at 28″ students per teacher, notes Education Gadfly.

College completion rises as enrollment dips

Colleges and universities awarded 5.1 percent more degrees in 2011-12, despite a 1.6 percent dip in enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Community colleges lost 250,000 students, but granted 8 percent more associate degrees. The number of bachelor’s degrees rose by 4.3 percent.

Diploma gap widens between rich, poor

Fifty-four percent of high-income students and 9 percent of low-income students complete a college degree, concludes a new study. The diploma gap has widened in 20 years, primarily because the daughters of affluent families are doing very, very well in school.

“No excuses’ students struggle in college

“No excuses” charter schools send most or all of their low-income, minority students to college. But do “no excuses” students graduate from college? In Education Next, Robert Pondiscio looks at what charter schools are doing to improve their graduates’ college graduation rates.

KIPP is the largest and best known of a class of charter-management organizations (CMOs) that includes Achievement First, YES Prep, Uncommon Schools, Mastery, Aspire, and others. This group shares a set of familiar characteristics: more and longer school days, with a college preparatory curriculum for all students; strict behavioral and disciplinary codes; and a strong focus on building a common, high-intensity school culture. Classrooms and halls are awash in motivational quotations and college banners, typically from the alma maters of the inevitably young, hard-charging teachers who staff the schools. The signature feature is high behavioral and academic expectations for all students, the vast majority of whom are low-income, urban black and Hispanic kids.

Both KIPP and YES Prep track their graduates and report on how well they’re doing. One third of former KIPP middle schoolers have graduated college within six years — four times the average for disadvantaged students, but way below KIPP’s goals.

Black graduates of YES Prep average 1556 in reading, writing and math on the SAT, “far above the national average of 1273 for African Americans, and significantly higher than the 1500 national average for all students.” All graduates have passed at least one AP class. Less than 5 percent of YES Prep grads require remediation in college. Yet the six-year graduation rate is only 41 percent .

 “It wasn’t the academic piece that was holding our kids back,” notes senior director of college initiatives at YES Prep Donald Kamentz. “What we found hands down was it was the noncognitive piece—that tenacity, that grit—that allowed kids to harness those skills and persist when they faced difficulty.”

“What we’ve found with the ‘whatever it takes’ or ‘no excuses’ mentality is that it was very teacher-driven and less student-driven,” says Kametz, acknowledging this is a controversial line of thought in his own halls. A typical No Excuses approach might involve giving demerits or detention for missed assignments or turning in work that’s not “neat and complete.” Kamentz questions whether this tough-love approach helps create the self-advocacy in students they will need to be successful in college. “It’s the largest gaping hole with our kids in college,” he says. “They will constantly say, ‘You structured my life so much that I had to do very little thinking and structuring myself.’”

The no-excuses charters are trying to develop ways to strengthen students’ perseverance, “growth mindset” and grit. Some send  ”posses” of students to “right-match” colleges that provide mentoring to first-generation-to-college students. (I love Pondiscio’s phrase: “in helicopter parentis.”)

KIPP, which started with middle schools, is adding elementary and high schools to strengthen academic preparation. The network also is following its alumni through college to help them cope with academic and social challenges. Now there are 1,000 KIPP graduates in college. In a few years, there will be 10,000. KIPP hopes to raise the college graduation rate to 75 percent, as high as students from upper-income families. The short-term goal is a 50 percent graduation rate.

Study: Parent aid lowers college grades

When parents pay their children’s college costs, students earn lower grades but are more likely to graduate, concludes a new study by Laura T. Hamilton, a sociology professor at University of California at Merced.

As parental aid increased, students’ GPAs decreased. “Students with parental support are best described as staying out of serious academic trouble, but dialing down their academic efforts,” Hamilton wrote.

Today’s college students spend an average of 28 hours a week on classes and studying — and 41 hours a week on social and recreational events, another study found.

According to Hamilton’s study, students with no parental aid in their first year of college had a 56.4 percent chance of graduating in five years, compared with 65.2 percent for students who received $12,000 in aid from their parents.

Grants and scholarships, work-study, student employment and veteran’s benefits do not have negative effects on student GPA, said Hamilton. Students may feel they’ve earned the money and take their responsibilities more seriously.

Dual enrollment boosts college success

Texas students who completed even a single college class in high school were significantly more likely to attend college and eventually graduate, compared to similar students not in dual enrollment programs, reports a Jobs for the Future study.

New York City’s P-Tech is drawing students willing to spend six years in high school to earn a diploma and an associate degree in computer information systems or engineering technology. IBM worked with city colleges to develop the program.

Few girls take shop: Is it a problem?

A “shop stigma” is keeping girls out of traditionally male vocational courses, NPR worries.

Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, which said no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from any education program or activity. Vocational education courses that barred girls — such as auto mechanics, carpentry and plumbing — became available for everyone. But it’s still hard to find girls in classes once viewed as “for boys only.”

Zoe Shipley, 15, is also the only girl in her high school’s auto tech course. Her parents are pressuring her to switch to engineering, which they see as less greasy.

Her high school’s construction management courses attract only a few girls, NPR adds.

It’s up to schools to “take extra steps” to recruit girls to “courses that lead to higher-paying careers in technology and trades,” instead of low-paying fields, such as child care and cosmetology, says Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center.

I think schools should make sure students know how much they’re likely to earn if they pursue auto mechanics, carpentry, child care or cosmetology. But the low female enrollment in auto shop isn’t really about bias — or parental pressure.

Update: In praising Title IX in a Newsweek commentary, President Obama said it’s a “great accomplishment” for America that “more women , , , now graduate from college than men.”  I know he didn’t really write it, but he should have read it before he let it be sent out. Far too many males are doing poorly in school, failing in college and — because they didn’t learn vocational skills such as auto mechanics — struggling in the workforce. This is a serious problem for America — and for the young women who’d like to marry a guy with a decent job.

Shift focus from college access to success

Community College Spotlight looks at the need to shift focus from expanding college access to improving college success.

Colleges that help students graduate

College applicants — especially minority students — should consider graduation rates, advises Education Trust, which reports on Top Gainers and Top Gap Closers among public four-year universities.  

At Georgia State, minority students now graduate at rates higher than their non-minority classmates.

Data showed “high failure rates in introductory courses to high dropout rates between the sophomore and junior years, when students transition into courses for their majors.”

Although GSU took a campuswide approach to improving outcomes for all students, when administrators disaggregated the data, they found that some programs were particularly effective for minority students. For example, first-year learning communities—where faculty members coordinate teaching two or more courses and often serve as advisers to the same group of students—were instrumental in improving retention rates between the freshman and sophomore years by five to six percentage points for all students. But for minority students, these rates rose by ten to 12 percentage points.

University of  Wisconsin at Madison also improved the minority graduation rate and narrowed the degree gap.

College success gap

Low-income and minority students lag in college enrollment and graduation at two- and four-year public colleges, concludes Charting a Necessary Path, an Education Trust report.

Two years ago, 24 public higher education systems educating 40 percent of four-year students pledged to halve the achievement gap in college access and completion by 2015. The report provides a baseline for the Access to Success Initiative.

The research found that about 45 percent of low-income and underrepresented minority students entering as freshmen in 1999 had earned bachelor’s degrees six years later at the colleges studied, compared with 57 percent of other students.

. . . The study found that fewer than one-third of all freshmen entering two-year institutions nationwide attained completion — either through a certificate, an associate’s degree or transfer to a four-year college — within four years. The success rate was lower, 24 percent, for underrepresented minorities and higher, 38 percent, for other students.

Only 7 percent of minority students who entered community colleges earned bachelor’s degrees within 10 years.

Measuring Success, Making Progress, a spiffy new California site, focuses on high school graduation, college readiness and college success. Despite the title, I saw little progress. Most students don’t take the college-prep sequence, don’t do well on the state’s optional college readiness exam and struggle to complete a degree.

The four-year graduation rate was 70.9 percent in 2008 with Asians the highest, whites next and black (58 percent) and Hispanic students (62 percent) far behind. Only 55 percent of seventh graders in five school districts received regular high school diplomas six years later.

Only 16 percent of 11th graders who took the college readiness exam were judged ready for college English; 13 percent were ready for college math. More will be ready after 12th grade, but most have a long way to go and presumably only kids with college aspirations take the exam. In math, the racial/ethnic disparities were huge: Almost one in five Asian/Pacific Islander students scored at a college-ready level, compared to one in 20 white students and about 1 percent of Hispanic and African American students.