$2 billion for remedial ed — and it doesn’t work

Remedial education costs community colleges $2 billion a year – and only a quarter of students go on to earn a credential. Colleges know it’s broke, but not how to fix it.

Colorado community colleges have improved success rates for remedial students. Unfortunately, more high school graduates require remediation.


Online students fall behind, transfer

Colorado’s online K-12 students fall behind their former classmates and often quit virtual schools to go back to brick-and-mortar classrooms, reports EdNews Colorado. The state compensates schools based on enrollment in the fall, so students bring no funding to their old schools if they give up on virtual schooling after a few months.

According to an I-News/EdNews analysis, half of Colorado’s online students quit within a year. Most lose ground on reading and math scores.  (See snapshots of the state’s five largest online programs.)

Online schools produce three times as many dropouts as they do graduates. One of every eight online students drops out of school permanently – a rate four times the state average.

. . . most are not struggling academically when they leave their traditional schools. Among the 2,400 online students who had taken a state standardized reading test in a brick-and-motor school the year before, the analysis showed that more than half had scored proficient or better.

At Branson Online School, one of the state’s oldest online programs, students beat the statewide average in proficiency in reading and were six percentage points short in math.

(Assistant Superintendent Judith) Stokes said growth slowed when the school focused on ensuring families understood the online program before enrolling because, “If you’re looking for easy, it’s not us.”

Full-time online students are exceptionally mobile in Ohio, as well, writes Bill Tucker on Education Next. He worries if teen-agers understand what they’re getting into when they sign up for a virtual school.


Act up in class, end up in court

Campus police officers — not principals — are enforcing discipline these days, reports the Washington Post.

Texas police issue thousands of misdemeanor tickets for offensive language, class disruption, schoolyard fights and misbehavior on the school bus. A parent must appear with the child in court. Students may be ordered to perform community service or take a behavior-management class. Fines can total $500.

Six in 10 Texas students were suspended or expelled at least once from seventh grade on, according to a new study. Federal officials say suspensions, expulsions and arrests create a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“That is something that clearly has to stop,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

It’s not just Texas. In many states, principals are turning to the police to enforce order.

Connecticut is rethinking discipline after students faced court charges for drinking soda, running in the hall and dressing improperly.

A Colorado task force is analyzing school ticketing and law enforcement referrals.

Texas schools adopted ticketing in the 1990′s, the Post reports. As more police officers have been assigned to schools, the number of tickets has soared.

In one highly publicized case a middle school student in Austin was ticketed for class disruption after she sprayed herself with perfume when classmates said she smelled.

In Houston one recent day, a 17-year-old was in court after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other. “She was mad at me because I broke up with her,” he said.

Ticketing rates vary from 1 percent of students in Pasadena to 11 percent in Galveston, concluded a report by Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center. Children as young as five have been ticketed.

Not surprisingly, students who’ve been suspended, expelled or ticketed are more likely to drop out of high school and get into trouble as adults. But that raises a chicken-and-egg question: Was it the punishment or the crime?


Judge halts vouchers in Colorado

Days before the start of school, a Colorado judge has blocked a voucher plan. Denver District Judge Michael A. Martinez issued a permanent injunction of the Douglas County district’s pilot Choice Scholarship Program.

“The prospect of having millions of dollars of public school funding diverted to private schools, many of which are religious and lie outside of the Douglas County School District, creates a sufficient basis to establish standing for taxpayers seeking to ensure lawful spending of these funds,” Martinez wrote in his ruling.

The pilot program allows up to 500 students already enrolled in Douglas County public schools to receive up to $4,575 toward tuition at a private school.  The district already had made the first payment to parents of 265 of 304 students who’d applied.


Racially diverse dolls in day care

Colorado day-care providers would be required to provide dolls representing at least three races, under a proposal being considered by the Department of Human Services.

In other rule changes: Children over age two must not be served whole milk without a note from a doctor, kids over age one can’t drink more than six ounces of juice per day, TV and computer time will be capped at twenty minutes daily, and staffers must wear clothing that covers the lap and shoulders. (What’s so bad about bare shoulders? Search me.)

That’s why they call it the nanny state.

I’m not sure children that young are conscious of race unless adults work hard to make them think it’s important. We’re visiting the grandkids today in Maryland.  Julia, who’s two, is very fond of Elmo on Sesame Street. He’s red.  Grover is blue. Are they different races? Who cares?

Colorado: Tell parents of teacher’s arrest?

Colorado parents  must be told if a school staffer is arrested on felony charges or for any sex or drug offense, under a regulation passed by the State Board of Education.

The law calls for notifying parents if the DA drops charges but — a puzzling omission — not if the teacher is acquitted.

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is challenging the regulation in court.

As the union points out, not everyone arrested for a crime is guilty.

My niece’s sixth-grade teacher, a man, left a few months before the end of the school year. Parents weren’t told why and nobody’s produced a shred of informtion. The rumors have gone wild. The teacher’s name is mud.

A new company now publishes arrests that have been posted online — but will supress the arrest record and clear the arrest from search engines for a $99 fee, writes Clayton Cramer on Pajamas Media.  It’s very close to extortion, but legal.  Career criminals won’t care, but the  person arrested once by mistake risks a potential employer, a landlord — even a googling girlfriend — finding the arrest record online with no explanation about dropped charges or acquittal.

Colorado students provide free tax help

Colorado community college students can take a class, earn IRS certification in tax preparation, then provide free tax assistance to low- and moderate-income families.

Also on Community College Spotlight: A rural Illinois college is a good return on the taxpayers’ investment, college leaders argue.

Testing, testing, testing

In The Test Generation, Dana Goldstein looks at a Colorado Springs district that tests all students in all subjects — including music, art and P.E. — multiple times during the year.  Their progress will determine whether their teachers  earn a lot more or a lot less.  First graders are supposed to evaluate Picasso’s use of colors and shapes to show emotion in ”Weeping Woman, “ a cubist portrait; later, they’re told to write a paragraph on a Matisse painting. (The test will be made easier next year.)

In order to assess (Sabina) Trombetta, the district will require her Chamberlin Elementary School first-graders to sit for seven pencil-and-paper tests in art this school year. To prepare them for those exams, Trombetta lectures her students on art elements such as color, line, and shape — bullet points on Colorado’s new fine-art curriculum standards.

If a teache in Harrison District 2 ”grows” students’ test scores over the course of the year, she could earn up to $90,000 — more than double the average for a Colorado teacher, Goldstein writes. “ But if her students score poorly two years in a row, her salary could drop by as much as $20,000, and she could eventually lose tenure.”

In addition to all the testing, Harrison has adopted “intense professional-development efforts of the sort promoted by education experts from across the political spectrum.”

Harrison teachers are told to expect up to 16 on-the-spot classroom observations per semester from administrators and instructional consultants; after these visits, teachers receive feedback on everything from classroom layout to lesson plans to whether they are spending too much or too little time explaining assignments to students before letting them try a hands-on activity.

Soon Colorado will require all schools to evaluate teachers’ effect on students’ academic growth in all subjects.

Colorado county OKs vouchers

Up to 500 students will receive $4,575 vouchers to attend private schools in Douglas County, Colorado this fall. The school board voted 7-0 Tuesday for the plan, which is not restricted to low-income students. A private philanthropy has promised to provide additional aid to low-income families who want to enroll their children in private schools that charge more than the voucher amount.

Participating private schools must monitor attendance and give  state exams to voucher students. Religious schools can take voucher students, as long as they’re not required to participate in religious activities.

The county will retain one-quarter of the state funding per student, an estimated $1,525. If all 500 vouchers are used, the district will have $762,500 to administer the voucher program, pay legal expenses and potentially fund other needs.

Surprisingly, the Douglas County teachers union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, did not oppose the plan.

“We applaud the district and teachers for working collaboratively … to ensure money will not leave a budget with scarce resources, holds all participating schools accountable and provides an equal opportunity for all our students,” teachers union President Brenda Smith said in a written statement. “We will continue to monitor its implementation.”

School board members said the pilot “will save the district money, encourage healthy competition and vest school choice where it belongs – with families,” reports Education News Colorado.

“The system isn’t broken but we want to make it better,” (Board President John) Carson said of the high-performing district. “It’s time for more choice, competition and innovation in our public education system.”

A legal challenge is certain. The board’s lawyer points out that a statewide voucher plan was ruled unconstitutional because it infringed on local school boards’ authority. That argument wouldn’t apply to the Douglas County pilot.

‘I’ve earned my way to the top’

I’ve earned my way to the top,” says Rita Romero, a former jewelry designer who was certified as a utility lineman by Los Angeles Trade Technical College, which offered an all-female class. Linemen — and linewomen — start at $30 an hour in Southern California.

Also, thanks to Colorado’s dual enrollment law, a ninth grader can take a college class in anthropology.

It’s all on Community College Spotlight.