Remediation first, then college

Tennessee community colleges are running remedial math labs in local high schools to prepare students for college math.

In Colorado, “early remediation” starts in eighth grade. Students who pass remedial college courses in English and math can enroll in college-level courses as early as 10th grade.

College is free for 5th-year students

Oregon and Colorado students can spend a “fifth year” in high school taking free community college courses leading to an associate degree.

Teachers, profs disagree on college readiness

College readiness is in the eye of the beholder: 89 percent of high school teachers think their students are “well” or “very well” prepared for college in their subject, but only 26 percent of professors say first-year students are well prepared for entry-level courses, according to the 2012 ACT National Curriculum Survey.

Two-thirds of teachers who were aware of the Common Core State Standards said they will need to change their current curriculum no more than slightly in response to the standards, the survey found.

In Colorado, 40 percent of first-year college students required at least one remedial course in 2012, including 66 percent of students who enrolled in community colleges and 24 percent at four-year institutions.  Among unprepared students, 51 percent required remediation in mathematics, 31 percent in writing and 18 percent in reading.

Universities fight 4-year CC degrees

Colorado university leaders are fighting a bill that would let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational  and technical fields, charging “mission creep.”  Supporters say rural students could earn workforce credentials without relocating. It’s a growing trend with Florida community colleges leading the way.

Colorado: Graduates’ skills don’t match jobs

Four-year college graduates’ skills don’t match available jobs, complained employers in Fort Collins, Colorado. A local liquor company employs three people with masters’ degrees, including a beer stocker with a physics degree.

A college degree is a valuable investment, but the first four to five years after college are “tougher than they’ve ever been,” said Martin Shields, a Colorado State economics professor.

In Massachusetts, community colleges are working with employers to design job training programs in high-demand fields.

Too many (would-be) elementary teachers

State Output

Some states produce enough elementary teachers to fill anticipated openings, but others produce twice as many as needed—or more.

Supply Demand Percent Difference
Colorado 1,169 1,099 106%
Connecticut 701 600 117
Delaware 373 122 306
Illinois 9,982 1,073 930
Kentucky 1,275 730 175
Louisiana 1,033 650 159
Maryland 1,011 723 140
Massachusetts 1,175 1,051 112
Michigan 2,903 1,227 236
Minnesota 1,179 709 166
Mississippi 751 660 114
New York 6,498 2,800 232
Pennsylvania 6,048 1,420 426
Tennessee 1,970 1,380 143

In many states, colleges are churning out too many would-be elementary teachers, reports Education Week.

New York and Michigan prepared twice as many elementary teachers as needed in 2011-12. Pennsylvania turned out four new graduates for every job opening. Illinois issued nine new elementary-teacher certificates in 2009 for every one first-time teacher hired in 2010.

By contrast, Colorado and Michigan produce just enough new elementary teachers to meet demand. (That’s assuming nobody moves from Illinois and Pennsylvania.)

Colleges should be more selective about admitting teacher candidates and train them more intensively, argues the National Council on Teacher Quality.

“We could improve, enhance, and extend the quality of teacher preparation, and therefore produce better-qualified new teacher graduates, but probably fewer in number,” agrees Arthur E. Wise, former president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Prospective elementary teachers have lower academic qualifications than other college graduates, concludes a 2007 Educational Testing Service report. (Secondary teachers have higher-than-average test scores.)

“We could raise the bar and get teachers with higher aptitudes in classrooms and still have plenty of elementary teachers,” (NCTQ’s Arthur) McKee said.

More choices, more lawsuits

If 2011 was the year of school choice – including tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, charters and vouchers — 2012 was the year of school choice lawsuits, notes Education Next.

Many of the laws, including Indiana’s voucher program, Arizona’s savings accounts, and a new voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado, were challenged in court shortly after passage. These legal challenges stalled reform and kept the school choice movement fighting for a clear identity. Is school choice just for certain student groups, like low-income children, or can it actually change the public school system?

For some laws, such as Indiana’s, a legal challenge did not prevent thousands of students from participating in the program’s first year. In other cases, as with Colorado’s voucher initiative, courts shut down the program just as the school year began, leaving hundreds of students uncertain as to whether they could remain at their new schools.

“Legal challenges to school-choice programs have become as inevitable and painful as death and taxes,” says Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.

Can technology replace teachers?

Can Technology Replace Teachers?  As part of a series of layoffs and salary cuts, Eagle County, Colorado’s school district  replaced three French and German teachers with online instruction, reports Ed Week. Nobody’s arguing the online courses are just as good, but enrollments were high enough to justify keeping the teachers.

Technology can help teachers do more, not serve as a replacement, writes Coach G.

Colorado’s 2-year colleges claim $3 billion impact

Colorado’s community colleges provide $3 billion in economic benefits to the state, a new study estimates.

Erie, Pennsylvania hoped to revive a depressed economy by building a community college to provide affordable job training. But it didn’t happen.

Four-day school week raises achievement

When rural schools move to a four-day week, test scores go up, along with student and teacher attendance, reports a study by Georgia State and Montana State researchers. And schools save money on transportation and utility bills, notes Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

The study looked at fourth-grade scores in Colorado, where more than a third of districts — typically small, poor and rural — have moved to a longer day and a shorter week.

Overall, districts with a four-day week started out with lower average scores than schools on traditional schedules, but saw a significant increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on both reading and math tests after they switched to the four-day week. Specifically, the researchers found that the shortened week was associated with a 7 percentage point gain in math scores and a 3 percentage point gain in reading. In reading, the improvement took place the year after the schedule was switched; in math, the improvement took place during the year the schedule was switched. In both cases, the improvements seem to have stuck for multiple years after the shift.

The report suggests a number of potential explanations, including improved attendance, increased teacher job satisfaction, and better teaching methods. (The longer school day might allow for longer lessons, for instance.)

A four-day week creates child-care problems for parents, the researchers warned. It could give unsupervised children more time to get into trouble. Or it could make it easier for teens to hold part-time jobs, possibly decreasing the dropout rate.

Of course, what’s true in rural areas with long bus rides to school may not apply to urban and suburban schools.